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Snow on Rimutaka Hill: sightseers cause chaos - 1939

Cars amongst the snow, Rimutaka Hill Road Summit.
Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972 :Photographs of New Zealand.
Ref: 1/2-048331-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Complete gridlock at Rimutaka Hill summit as a thousand cars all attempt to enjoy the snow
Papers Past 

Evening Post, 31 July 1939


Snow on the Rimutakas! Great fun. Let's get to it! And they did, a thousand or so car parties yesterday afternoon, for it takes all sorts of foolishness to keep mankind amused, but what happened on the hill road yesterday went beyond foolishness. It was mass motoring stupidity. No one was hurt, but it is not the sort of thing that the patrol officers want to have to untangle next weekend. 
The first cars, a few hundreds, made for the top and packed the flat there to the last square yard; those who got the best places by avoiding the rush were there long after they had had enough snow. Later, cars parked on the roadside, two and three deep, and stretched half-way down on either side. For an hour there was complete confusion at the bend at the wind-break, with cars at all angles, bumpers and mudguards locked. On some bends the snow became slush, on others, where the drifts were deeper, packed ice. 
Cars slid back and into the ditch or on to the car behind, and wherever the jam was worst irrepressible idiots added their bit by pelting cars and dumping armfuls of snow through open windows. The previous heavy snow weekends went through fairly well, but yesterday, when the snow was light—not more than an inch, or so except in drifts—this mass gaiety afflicted Wellington and Wairarapa motorists. 
Two Transport Department inspectors worked on the hill, but they did not reach the worst confusion until late in the afternoon, for they were jammed up with the rest of them. 
The road was not cleared until after dark, and just how bad the confusion and congestion were is indicated by the five hours taken by one party, with an elderly lady passenger, from Featherston to Wellington. Other cars were two and three hours on the hill, neither able to move forward nor back, let alone turn to get out of the mess to which they had contributed. 
No one who was jammed up on the hill till dark yesterday is likely to whoop and pile in to it again when a warning of dangerous conditions is given, but there are lots more car parties ready to recreat the jam next Sunday afternoon if there is snow on the Rimutakas. At Christchurch the snow novelty traffic became so dangerous and unordered that none but through traffic was permitted on the Cashmere Hills roads and after yesterday's showing the same rule may be imposed on the Rimutaka Hill in the interests of safety and common sense.


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