Thursday 31 August 2017

Nelson Section [8]: Maps released

As I'm a bit too busy to pump out posts about the Nelson Line in general I have just published two Flickr albums with each containing a full set of maps of the line.

The maps are arranged so that they always present the route from left to right, this ensures it is very intuitive when you scroll from one tile to the next. This is achieved by constantly rotating the design view of every individual tile before it is produced. So in the previous maps where the limitation was that the top was always north, the rotation means that the direction of North is set individually for every single map, and indicated by a small arrow indicator in the bottom left corner. 

Another improvement is to show a scale bar rather than a meaningless numerical ratio measurement, this means you can measure off the scale with a ruler.

Distances as mentioned in a previous post can either be kilometres or decimal miles and you will see actual miles shown where the imperial measurement was established prior to metrication and not superseded by a metric measurement. On the Nelson line in particular the line was closed well before metrication so the imperial measurements are entirely appropriate. The scalebar is always metric however.

The idea of aerial overlays is they are maps overlaid on the current Linz aerial photos of an area. This album contains 80 tiles from Nelson to Inangahua. These are suitable for PC viewing.

These are just the basic maps without aerial photo topography, instead they have terrain relief shading imagery from Linz Data Service that helps to show the rise and fall in the terrain. They are eminently suitable for viewing on a phone or other mobile device, also ideal for individual printing out on a regular monochrome printer. 83 tiles (these tiles are smaller than the aerial tiles above which accounts for the increased number).

In addition a folder of aerial photos has been released:  Nelson Aerial Sources
Most of these tiles are from Linz, there are four from National Library which are sections of a streetmap of Nelson.

A map volume is also being assembled at present for Nelson. Since I am at this stage producing just a single volume purely for Nelson I will have to look at the relevance of my previous volume number system to see whether there was a volume number for Nelson on its own. This will be a trial of the new volume format which uses maps that are highly optimised for space efficiency by using the rotational technique mentioned above. At this stage I expect a completed volume for this particular line will have around 33 pages. This is a significant reduction from previous predictions of map volume size and will be the system used to generate all the volumes that are produced.

Finally I am investigating whether I can put my data into Open Street Maps. If it does get agreed to then the data will just be the corridors and stations. Not all of the data I have in the maps will be useful or wanted for OSM and converting some of the data to their formats would take too long. There are also possible issues with generations of data in OSM - it doesn't have the ability (as far as I know) to show different versions of maps the way I can do in Qgis with the filter feature on a layer.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Significant changes in maps unlikely as result of new aerial photography availability

In recent posts I have talked about Retrolens and their new aerial photography. One of my recent posts made the point that I don't expect the work done with the Nelson Section maps to be replicated across all the maps I am drawing.

Whilst the aerial photography has been very useful and I will be posting aerial images on the Flickr site shortly for the Otago Central Railway as well as the remaining ones I have obtained for Nelson, it is correct to say that I don't have time to get aerial photography for every single route I have drawn. Only the Linz aerial footage is being used at a base level to draw the maps, and that is because it is georeferenced, meaning it can be opened as a layer in the GIS and directly traced over. I can download the aerial images for a large section of country at once and simply open them, so it is straightforward enough to obtain and use.

Whilst I have been making significant use of aerial imagery both from Retrolens and earlier sourced scanned imagery from the Linz aerial photography contact prints collection held at Archives New Zealand, this is a time consuming and potentially costly exercise. The imagery isn't orthorectified or georeferenced, meaning Qgis can't simply load it as a layer in the way that for example Google Earth would be able to. Even if I was able to get the Qgis wizard to work in placing the images into a layer (which I haven't as yet), it would still be a time consuming process for each image in turn.

Because of this extra time and money cost to get imagery (even allowing for the fact that Retrolens content is free), it would be too slow to bring in the non-georeferenced content which requires extra steps that have to be taken for every single image. The Linz imagery has the georeferencing already done per tile (image) and loading it is all that has to be done to use it. Being orthorectified also means you don't have the time consuming process of shaping it to fit.

The Otago Central imagery I have which includes some quite sharp hi res images from the 1960s for some of the stations that I didn't have tiles of before, will be used to improve the diagrams I have already drawn for every station that was in the chainage charts. For example, the one of Omakau shows where the old turntable pit was, quite well. So it will be good for doing that. In this case it will mainly be copying rather than tracing. As I already said I won't be drawing any new track diagrams anywhere except where details can be directly traced in Qgis off the Linz imagery. That remains my present policy. Next week I'll be working on the SNL again.

Facebook presence not the be all and end all of this or any project

Earlier this year I removed the FB page for this project. Recently I have reinstated a page. But I kept up blogging on this blog and I intend to do so. I also have other web sites that I use to post content for this project. The reason I have multiple sites is that FB has proved itself not capable of supplanting or replacing all of these sites. FB has given me the most trouble out of all the sites I use for this project. Since I reinstated the FB page for NZ Rail Maps I have twice had Facebook require me to reauthenticate my account. There is no obvious reason for this occurring. It is possible that apps I am using which are forwarding posts from this blog to FB are being mistaken for malicious activity. This highlights the problem with dealing with a giant like FB: they aren't resourced for good quality customer service and don't care about a relative few people having problems with posting content on their pages. 

Every time I think FB is a great platform to promote this project they keep letting me down. To put it bluntly they don't want me using a blog or another site to forward content. They will pretend to work with third party sites whilst throwing up these bogus issues which is really an admission they will go behind your back to stop you from using an app to automatically forward content from another site.

So the page is going to get less content and will have additional people appointed to deal with any queries. I won't be posting there so much. Instead I will be using all the additional sites like this blog, like Flickr, like Scribd, to post the site content. It won't go on FB because there are all sorts of problems coming through from there. I'm not going to have some greedy global corporation dictating what I can do with compliant content that just happened to be auto forwarded from another site, using an API that Facebook claims to support, that they have flagged as "suspicious activity" because it wasn't posted by me directly through the official Facebook site or an official Facebook app. It goes without saying I have not had problems with Flickr or Scribd or Blogger for the content of this project I put on there, even where apps are used; it is just Facebook with their born to rule mentality who believe they can make it harder for people to automatically forward content to their site.

My advice to anyone following this project is subscribe to the RSS feed from this site, or you can also use Feedburner to receive emails with updates, there is a form on the bottom of the site you can use for Feedburner.

Monday 28 August 2017

Nelson Section [7]: Belgrove-Tapawera 1

Belgrove-Tapawera is where things slowed down a lot in the original railway construction plan. From Nelson to Belgrove took only five years. But Belgrove ended up being the railhead for nearly 20 years because of a number of factors. These were as follows:
  • The hilly country specifically the Spooners Range made further construction westward difficult.
  • There was difficulty in selecting a route to take the railway through the hills.
  • The first route chosen was partly constructed and then abandoned because of this indecision. The work was carried out between 1883 and 1885.
  • When the work was to be resumed, the government didn't have any money, so it decided to contract the work out. 
  • A company, the Midland Railway Co, had to be formed to take the contract for the railway that was to run from Belgrove, on the Nelson line, and Springfield, on what became known as the Midland line, through to Greymouth.
  • The MRC contract was signed in 1888. 
  • By this stage it had been decided to change the route, so the earlier work done of some 4 km of formation was abandoned.
  • It took another two years (1890) from the signing of the MRC contract before tenders were invited to carry out the work west of Belgrove including digging the summit tunnel (approximately 900 metres long at an elevation of 306 metres. Trains had to ascend 172 metres from Belgrove making for a steep climb).
  • Three years were needed to finish the tunnel and the formation works up from Belgrove but by now (1893) the MRC had run out of money. 
  • At the end of the 10 year contract period (1895) the company defaulted on the incomplete work resulting in the Government seizing its assets.
  • It was not until December 1896 that the line to the western portal of the tunnel was eventually completed.
  • Another two years were needed (until November 1898) to complete the construction to Motupiko. NZR officially took over this section in March 1899.
  • The section to Tadmor, 9 km west of Tapawera, was formally opened in 1906. Tapawera was reached some time before this, but I don't have a date, as NZR chose to wait until Tadmor was reached before formally opening the section from Motupiko. Trains were probably running into Tapawera by 1902-3 but not under the NZR.
So to advance the railway from Belgrove to Tapawera took over 20 years for a track distance of just under 25 km. This very slow rate of progress and the further delays south of Glenhope in particular (14 years from Glenhope to Kawatiri) were what eventually killed the railway. From the 1920s onwards with rapidly developing viability of road transport, it was no longer a given that all possible railways that could have been developed eventually would be. Governments were forced to prioritise which railways would be completed. During the Depression years of the early 1930s most railway construction works ground to a halt (some notable exceptions were the Stratford Okahukura Line from Taranaki to the central north island and the Tawa Flat deviation of the NIMT at Wellington). Even when Labour became the government in 1935 they were forced to choose and the Nelson line lost out to the Main North Line and the Stillwater Westport Line in the South Island. The rails from Glenhope to Gowanbridge were even lifted in 1942 for these other projects.

So enough history and here are some maps and photos, this just covers the section up to Motupiko, the rest will be covered in another part. Map drawing right now is up to Richmond, pretty soon the Nelson Section maps will be all complete.

Tapawera. The road layout was different when the railway was operating, with the deviation at the level crossing, and a different approach onto the east side of the Motueka River bridge.

A 1946 view of Tapawera showing the different roading layout as well as the station.

The site of the station today, seen from Matai Crescent.

Tapawera has a couple of local monuments to the railway seen here on either side of the former main road where it was on a curved alignment to give a right angle crossing of the slanted railway line, which crossed over at extreme right of this picture. The local interest in the railway history resulted in the formation of the Grand Tapawera Railroad Co in the mid 1980s which proposed to rebuild a section of the former railway around Tapawera as a heritage line. They were also associated with public tours of the Spooner Tunnel which at that time was generally closed to public access. In 1991 the GTRR split between Tapawera and Nelson interests with the bulk of the operation reforming as the Nelson Railway Society based at Founders Park. The Tapawera community outlook remains with the replica loading bank and shelter seen above right built in the 1980s, and the Kiwi station building seen to the left which was relocated in 2004. The actual Tapawera station site is on the other side of the present main highway, seen by looking in the opposite direction from this view.
South (east in railway terms) of Tapawera the highway swung out towards the riverbed for a short distance then came back alongside the railway.

At the south end of the highway deviation looking north, the railway carries on straight ahead.

Looking at the same section on an aerial photo. A small bridge or culvert can be seen on the ground alongside what are now sports fields.
Mararewa is the next station east of Tapawera and was just a flag station with a small shelter shed. There were never any siding tracks or other buildings there.

A small bridge just north of Mararewa.
Aerial view of Mararewa in 1946, in which the small bridge, cattle stops and the shelter shed can be seen. The level crossing of the highway was just in front of the cemetery.

The location of Mararewa station seen roadside. The kink in the road ahead is where the railway crossed the road.
 There was another crossing of the highway a bit south of Marerewa.

Motupiko was a major transshipment point taking over from Belgrove once the railway opened to there.

Motupiko seen in 1946. There was another level crossing immediately east of the station.
This section of abandoned highway to the right took the main road around the Motupiko station. The straightening of the highway subsequent to closure has cut into the edge of the Motupiko yard and is one possible explanation for the lack of remnants at the site today. At the far end of this section the highway cut back across the railway.

These three photos show small bridges or culverts alongside the road between Motupiko and the Norriss Gully corner.

 The entrance to Norriss Gully where the highway crossed over the railway yet again and both headed inland from the Motueka River valley.
Norris Gully corner seen in aerial in 1946. The highway of today has been realigned closer to where the railway ran, but there is still likely to be a bridge site hidden away in the bush at the side of the highway to be investigated in future.

Sunday 27 August 2017

The best ever maps of the Nelson Section - and why they are a one-off

For the last few years I have been drawing the best ever maps of the Otago Central Railway. Right now I am drawing the best ever maps of the Nelson Section. What have both those got in common? A lot of readily available online documentation, including the all important aerial photos.

Does this mean every closed line in New Zealand can have maps this good? Unfortunately the answer is no. Many closed branch lines are in areas with limited aerial photography coverage. It's just a fluke that we had such good coverage of the Cromwell Gorge and most of the Nelson Section. Mainly it has come about from the fact there were other features there that were of interest. In the case of Nelson, the forestry in the area, and in the case of Cromwell, the hydro development.

Simply put, I don't expect to get such good detail for a lot of other lines and I don't expect they will be able to be drawn with as much detail as the current maps of Nelson Section I am doing are. That doesn't mean I won't put in the effort for these maps - I am putting that in just because the aerial coverage is good enough to show up a lot of details that were missed when I was drawing maps in GE. But there have been on the Otago Central some features that got missed because there was next to no aerial coverage in some areas, and the same also being true of the NS.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Nelson Section [6]: Tapawera-Glenhope

So here is a new Nelson subseries, from Tapawera to Glenhope. As I have just finished drawing the maps back to Tapawera, so it is now a good time to put these maps up on the blog.

So here we are again with Glenhope, the terminus of the line from 1912-1926 and 1931-1955. There was a ballast pit at the west end of the yard, later on some locomotives were dumped there (subsequently scrapped).
 Heading due north from Glenhope (or in railway terms, east). The line was climbing at this point towards the summit which needed an ascent of 65 metres in less than 6 km  of track, so the average gradient would be steeper than 1 in 100.  At this point the highway branches away and the "main road" of the Hope valley is the Tadmor-Glenhope road, rough and unsealed, and as usual, not accurately depicted by the poor quality Linz road layer.

The river through here is the Hope River which joins the Buller River at Kawatiri. Once the railway crosses the summit it enters the valley of the Tadmor River which it follows as far as Tapawera, wherein the Tadmor River joins the Motueka River.

 Reaching the railway summit at 1485 feet. By comparison, the road crossing the Tadmor Saddle reaches 1595 feet.

Between the summit and Kaka station the road crossed the railway via an overbridge. This has been removed in the years since.

Kaka was the first station east of Glenhope and served a limeworks tramway and other industries. The tramway was in use from 1920 until late 1940s when its bridge became unsafe to use. The lime was then trucked to Kaka until the railway closed. Other sources suggest there was also a mill private siding off the railway nearby and a mill tramway, however the aerials I have are of insufficient resolution to pick these details up readily. This was the 1940s and the aerial photos were not of such good quality as today, and in any case usually the scale has to be below 1:10,000 on a contact print to be able to trace railway features readily from them. Apart from the sawmilling and lime there were also some clay quarries in the area, the clay was taken to Temuka to be made into pole insulators.

 Carrying on east and the bridge crosses Cat Creek.

 The next station east is Tui. This featured an overbridge like Kawatiri and Gowanbridge. The road on the right of the overbridge was built after the line closed but the overbridge remained in place at that time, of course it is now gone. Tui's station buildings were left in place for many years after the line closed, about 10 years ago they were sold to Founders Park Railway and shifted to Nelson.
 A bridge crossing Kakariki Creek.

Kiwi was another small station in the backblocks and had very light traffic. It is most remembered for the protests held when the line was being demolished in September 1955. Sonja Davies, a Labour activist who later became an MP, was one of the women who sat on the tracks and were arrested. The Kiwi goods shed was demolished as one of the first acts of demolition but the station building stayed on site for another 50 years until it was bought by the Tapawera Museum and moved to Tapawera in 2005.

 Tadmor was another small station, without permanent staffing.

 Rakau was a quiet little station except during the seasonal fruit and vegetable harvest.

Just west of Tapawera was the combined bridge crossing the Motueka River. It was completed in 1904 and used by trains for 51 years until the line closed, and after that by road traffic only until 1977 when the present two lane bridge was built just downstream. The roads on either side of the bridge have been realigned since the demise of the railway.

Friday 25 August 2017

Nelson Section [5]: Glenhope-Gowanbridge 2

I have a lot of articles to post since I have just finished drawing the maps all the way from Glenhope through to Tapawera. So there will be a few posted over the next few days, whilst I expect the weekend will see the Tapawera to Nelson section of the maps completed, which is a good step forward. The main change in recent years over Kawatiri to Glenhope is a major highway realignment in the early 2000s, about 15-17 years ago. The work has encroached onto railway formation in many places. I haven't attempted to document where this might have occurred, only really documenting here where the rail formation is likely to remain undisturbed.

This aerial starts at Kawatiri and shows just on the left the Kawatiri yard. These days the first bridge and tunnel east of Kawatiri are part of a walkway. The walkway bridge is built on the original abutments and piers, however what is somewhat misleadingly represented as bridge above is actually the embankment on the west side of the bridge that must have been washed out in a flood. You actually get onto the bridge with a set of steps up to it because of the missing embankment. The other feature of this photo is the cartographical representation of the river which along with the highway realignment shows that the river was diverted in order to ease the highway curve. This brought the speed of it up to 65 km/h.

Showing the level crossing where the railway went to the north side of the highway, it remains there the rest of the way to Glenhope. Logically considering that overbridges were being constructed in various other places at the time, this crossing should have been an overbridge. However there is no documentation to show there was any overbridge here at this time. 
Approaching the Boulder Creek bridge this is one of only two places in this section where the highway hasn't encroached onto the rail formation and it is likely there would be a set of bridge abutments hidden away in the bush there.
And here out to the right is probably the other location where some rail formation remains undisturbed.
 So there should be some corridor to be explored in the future.
Coming into Glenhope.

Nelson Section [4]: Gowanbridge-Murchison 3

This part was overlooked as I had forgotten I had this data available from my old Google Earth maps. When NZ Rail Maps started 10 years ago the maps were first drawn with Google Earth. This had many limitations so that is why I switched to Qgis after three years. Now with the combination of the Qgis authored maps and Linz aerial photography I can have the best of both worlds.

In 1937 surveys of the Nelson line beyond Longford were carried out. Two options were considered, basically the opposite sides of the Buller River. The true left bank option would have basically followed the same route as constructed to Mangles River, then carried on through Murchison and further west. The true right bank option would have passed Murchison on the far side of the river and a bridge would have been needed for the township to access the railway station. Both surveys finished up at Ariki Falls, which is a little west of Ariki Junction, where Highway 6 to Westport and Murchison joins Highway 65 to Springs Junction. SH65 is currently experiencing record traffic volumes due to the diversion of road freight off SH1 following the Rotherham Earthquake.

The Buller Gorge is rugged terrain and the railway from Murchison to Inangahua Junction, as was always proposed, would have been an expensive project to complete, and was thrown in doubt following the 1929 Murchison earthquake. But mostly it was the slow speed of extending the line south of Belgrove that finished it because the 1930s when construction finally stopped was a time when a lot of railway lines around the country stopped being built, or in some cases partially closed. The first section of the Nelson line was opened in 1876 to Foxhill (34 km) and Belgrove (36 km) was reached in 1881. However there was then a delay to try to work out the correct route to take the line south with the first option being to head towards Tophouse as this was supposedly easier than the route eventually taken through the Spooner range. The indecision over the route south of Belgrove slowed things down and it was not until the 1890 that the route through the Spooner range with the tunnel was started by the Midland Railway Company which had the contract to build parts of the West Coast network and link it up to the Nelson line. Belgrove actually had two railway stations with the differing alignments, that (along with the 1883 route) will be covered in more detail with the series part dealing with that section of the railway. It took 10 years to push the railway through to Motupiko partly because the Midland company went bust in 1895, and another six to get to Tapawera, then six more to Glenhope. So from Belgrove to Glenhope which was 61 km of track, it took 31 years to build. Then from Glenhope to Gowanbridge, only 13 km, took another 17 years. And after the work stopped south/west of Gowanbridge in 1931 it was not until 1949, another 18 years, that the government proposed restarting construction of the line.

Here are the two routes at 1:50000 scale (Topo50 scale) as the original was not detailed enough for a larger scale to be of any use.

Nelson Section [3]: Glenhope-Gowanbridge 1

Gowanbridge to Glenhope was an operational section although Gowanbridge was never formally opened, but the station was under construction and the PWD were running freight services in 1929. Kawatiri in the middle of this section was opened in 1929. The section from Glenhope to Kawatiri was first built between 1912 and 1917 when the first 5 km of a 7 km section was constructed but track was not laid at that time. Works resumed again in 1920 and the tunnel and double bridge construction needed just east of Kawatiri dragged out the official opening date until 1926. Following the cessation of construction works west of Gowanbridge in January 1931, the railway beyond Glenhope was formally closed in June the same year. The track was however left in place for another 11 years.

Gowanbridge is at the junction of the road into Lake Rotoroa and as such is well known to many tourists. However like practically all of the railway route west of Tapawera there was next to no population in the area. Hence it was unsurprising the line was quickly closed by NZR once construction work had stopped.
 Through this section of the route there are several places the route is well separated from the road and traces could possibly still be found today.

Kawatiri is at the junction of SH63 to Blenheim and SH6 to Nelson and Murchison. The traces of the railway such as they are today are the platform and loading bank. The shelter which has been erected on the loading bank is not an original railway feature - there was a goods shed nearby, and a small leanto on the platform, but neither of these bore any resemblance to the shelter that exists today.

Closeup of Kawatiri. By 1973 a second one lane bridge had been added next to the old truss bridge, possibly this additional bridge was a temporary replacement. The overbridge was built for the railway as level crossing elimination was taken seriously by the 1920s and similar bridges were provided at Tui station further up the line from Glenhope, and on the Tadmor valley road near Kaka, as well as at Gowanbridge. However for a crossing up the line from Kawatiri in the Hope River gorge to Glenhope, there was no bridge, which is something of an anomaly. The overbridge at Kawatiri was only for traffic via SH63; SH6 went under the bridge. Once the tracks had been lifted the overbridge was abandoned and a road was put through the railway yard instead. Eventually the overbridge was demolished once it became clear it would no longer be needed.

The existence of overbridges said that this was expected to be a major railway route, and could therefore be seen as an indication that there was every intent in the early 1900s of completing the Nelson Section as a through line to the West Coast, and we all know that if it had ever been completed, the West Coast would have found it an economic lifeline because of their lack of deepwater ports. The East Coast ports are too distant from the Coast to be a viable alternative to a lack of a railway connection to Nelson or a deepwater port at Westport.