For the majority of the 20th century, Ruapehu’s most significant land route was the Main Trunk railway. One of the country’s greatest engineering achievements, the railway runs over alpine terrain, deep ravines and through the heart of the Ruapehu District.
Surveyors made camp in the Ruapehu region around 1880, as they searched for an extensively debated route to be one of three possible connections through the North Island. Finally a submission was heard, and a decision made, to cut a railway line through the harsh terrain that eventually connected the interior of New Zealand's main trunk line.
The dense forest and steep climb up to the volcanic plateau presented major challenges that were overcome with ingenious solutions including the world famous Raurimu Spiral. The railway improved access to domestic markets, opening the district up to significant trading opportunities, giving birth to saw-milling, horticulture and agricultural industries.