Sunday, 23 September 2018

PNGL Maps Update [2C]

Having evaluated some diagrams and produced a full set for the Main North Line, I am expecting to produce a full set for the PNGL fairly soon. This will update the status of the line, as it is being reopened to Wairoa, with Kiwirail work trains active at present.

Watch this space for further detail about that diagram set coming out soon. This diagram set will cover the entire length of the PNGL, rather than just Napier-Gisborne as was previously published with a map volume.

MSL Branches [2G]: Methven Branch 7 / MSL Branches [3D]: Springburn Branch 4

The mosaics for the Methven Branch stations have now all been updated so the next job which will take a little bit of time tomorrow is to render out all the map tiles to be imported into Qgis to start mapping these stations.

The next job is to create the station mosaics for the Springburn Branch as well to be able to start mapping that line.

I also have to go through hundreds of diagrams that I have taken copies of at Archives New Zealand for both those branches so that I know which ones are for which station. 

So it could be a week or two before any mapping in these two areas gets under way so that I can ensure I have all the resources I need for referencing all the maps.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Otago Central Railway [63O]: Ranfurly-Alexandra 15 (Auripo-Ida Valley 2)

Here are the final maps for Ida Valley. I first wrote about Ida Valley station some five weeks ago and had hoped to complete the map quite quickly, but various other issues have meant this has not happened as soon as expected.

It is obvious by now that the maps for the Otago Central Railway will not be completed by the end of this year as I had hoped. However, the map of Oturehua which is the next station up the line shouldn't take long so I hope things will continue along at a satisfactory rate from here, whatever that should turn out to be.

These maps are combinations of a number of sources, chiefly Dangerfield/Emerson, chainage books and file materials copied from Archives New Zealand upon my visit to Dunedin last December. There are some discrepancies with the D/E diagram published on page 106 of the third edition but I am satisfied there are sufficient additional sources to be reasonably sure that the stockyards in particular were in the location shown.


Saturday, 15 September 2018

MSL Branches [3C]: Springburn Branch 3

As a result of the work undertaken at Archives New Zealand over the past couple of weeks I now have a pile of info about the Springburn Branch. The next stage is like Methven to go through it all. I have been busy with other stuff for the past week or two and still have a lot of mosaic stuff to do for both lines as well as some of the other stuff I was working on.

Today I was at Archives viewing files for the Westerfield military camps. There were five camp sites near Westerfield Station, between 1942 and 1948. Remnants still exist on the Langdon farm in Langdons Road, Westerfield.

It would appear that the track diagram I have of Westerfield for the siding that was put in is for Westerfield station rather than a specific military camp site as all diagrams obtained and copied from Archives New Zealand for camps A-E do not show any railway sidings within those camps.

Westerfield as seen in 1941. The railway station is lower centre. In the upper centre-left the plantation trees are the Langdon family farm, which was the site of Camp A. Since the establishment of the camps took place in 1942 we have no aerial photos of any of the installations. I will later on post full aerials (historic and present) of all the military camp sites as part of map drawing.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

MSL Branches [3B]: Springburn Branch 2 / Project website update

I have started researching the Springburn Branch today. This will be a quick project like the Methven one, with only three morning sessions to look at 103 files. It will take in the latter day history of the line as well as all of the technical information such as the layouts of each station yard, sidings, bridges and other structures, etc. Today I looked at the bridge and general files and got to understand a lot about the line and why it closed down. 

The line was basically closed in three stages. Firstly the section from Mount Somers to Springburn. First proposed for closure in 1930, it managed to hang on until the Second Labour Government, being shut in 1957. The section from Cavendish to Mount Somers was going to be the next section closed in the mid 1960s with Cavendish becoming the railhead. The reason for this was that the bridge over the Ashburton River was completely stuffed by that stage, it still had most of its original timber from being built 80 plus years before and needed a complete replacement. What happened instead was the line closed back to Valetta at the beginning of 1968, and then about six months later back to Tinwald. As we know the Plains Railway then purchased a section from Tinwald to Frasers Road crossing and that's all that remains today.

The Springburn Branch is one of those lines that you wonder how it was ever built in the first place. Mount Somers and Springburn were fairly small settlements and every other station was tiny. It's true that there was a lot of agricultural production and a fair bit of minerals, but the line in total was less than 50 km long. Most of these lines were built for purely political purposes because the economics certainly were never going to work out.

In other news, the project website is getting an update. I am considering whether to just put all of the content links into the Google Plus collections because people can subscribe to them and they are easier to update than the Trainweb site. Of course one option would be to have the whole website hosted on the likes of Wordpress, but that will cost more. The Trainweb site is free, and with domain cloaking I can make it look like it is hosted under my domain name, so it isn't too bad an option overall. The site becoming more of a frontend onto Google Plus is possibly what will happen however.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Main North Line [0A]: Full set of MNL diagrams

After my "field trip" up north in June I discussed the ideas for making the maps easier to use on a handheld device. The assumption being maps could either be viewed on the Google Photos site online, or downloaded to a device and browsed offline.

After considering a range of options, adding navigational arrows and labels to the existing maps was felt to be the most easy solution for making it easy for people using the maps to know which way to swipe or click to view the next map in the direction they would be travelling in. The map production template for 16:9 landscape view was then customised to add these navigational labels.

I did a little testing before I got asked to produce the maps for the Tawa Historical Society's book, and I put the nav labels onto the THS maps, as well as every other map I have produced in the last couple of months.

The nav labels have proved themselves well enough for me to roll out the first full set of maps using them. To recap, I promised to churn out all of the older map series, the ones that used to be hosted on Flickr, as diagrams (that is to say, greyscale maps without an aerial photo background) just so that people could at least use them, until all the maps are updated.

Because around the same time I received a request for maps of the Main North Line, I'm pleased to say that today I have produced a set of 168 maps of the Main North Line. They are now available online in the NZ Rail Maps Google Plus collection for Volume 10.

As time permits more of these diagrams will be added so that at least there are some maps available for people to look at. Google Photos (where the maps are hosted) will allow you to download an entire album in a single zip file so that you can save the maps onto your favourite device for offline use.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Project update

Quick update as to where things are up to right now. I was busy over the weekend doing some local transport activism so there hasn't quite been the expected progress. However I expect to have the Methven branch tiles finished today ready to begin mapping and also push on with the Otago Central Railway at Ida Valley which is where I last reached.

Friday, 31 August 2018

MSL Branches [2F]: Methven Branch 6 / MSL Branches [3A]: Springburn Branch 1

So two posts in one. The Methven Branch research is complete and I now have around 500 pages captured to go through for each station on the branch as well as Rakaia. This means I have at least one layout diagram for every station (however I think there is one station I didn't get any diagrams of) and also details of all the bridges on the line (there were actually five, surprisingly, although not all of them still existed when the line closed).

I am not able to directly publish Archives New Zealand material without authorisation so that won't be posted here but I will list some details of the bridges. Apart from the five bridges on the Methven Branch I also researched the Rakaia River bridges.

Rakaia River Bridge

This was originally Bridge 10 on the Main South Line. Today it is numbered Bridge 31, which gives rise to obvious and interesting questions about the basis of numbering of the bridges when it was first constructed. The Main South Line froom Christchurch to the north bank of the Rakaia River was contracted for construction to George Holmes in 1865 with an expected completion of two years. In 1868 the construction of a bridge across the Rakaia River was authorised. Tolls were fixed to be charged to passengers, vehicles and animals. The first estimates by engineers would have put the construction cost as high as 140,000 pounds (about $16 million in today's money). This was regarded as too expensive, but a proposal by William White was accepted and a contract entered into for 21,500 pounds (about $2.5 million) in 1869. This was to be for road traffic only but a conversion to a combined structure to also carry rail traffic was subsequently performed at an additional 13000 pounds. This required extra piles, girders and planking, and additional length of some 480 feet (4480 total). Timber for the original structure was obtained from Little River and barged across Lakes Forsyth and Ellesmere. The bridge finally opened for traffic in 1873. In 1882 the bridge was further extended in length to 5927 feet.

Bridgekeepers were appointed to control traffic and signal trains from the outset, but originally only covered the busiest part of a day's operations. During the unattended period trains were still run across the bridge and it was not unknown for a train to have to stop partway across owing to oncoming vehicles; the latter had to be reversed off as the train had priority. In later years additional bridgekeepers were employed to ensure all train operations were carried out while they were on duty. The bridge was damaged by fire on a few occasions and pipes ran along the structure carrying water for firefighting, these were kept full during the summer months but had to be drained in winter. The bridge did not have the flush decking as we would see it on the few combined bridges still used in NZ. Instead the decking consisted of transverse pieces inserted between the railway sleepers to give a continuous running surface, above which the rails stood proud. Vehicles had to straddle one rail and it was difficult for two vehicles to pass on the narrow bridge.  NZR staff were kept busy dealing with vehicle damage to the gates and other parts of the structures, and collisions, breakdowns and other causes of delay.

In the early 1930s NZR assessed that the bridge would need major rebuilding and developed proposals for a replacement. Work to construct this began about 1936 and it was built one chain upstream from the combined bridge. The Main Highways Board had earlier considered purchasing the old bridge and converting it to road only, but eventually decided that a new traffic bridge was warranted and work began on this structure two chains downstream. The highway bridge was opened to traffic in March 1939 and the old bridge simultaneously closed thereto. The overhead bridge at the north end was still under construction at the time and was not completed until some months later. The railway bridge concrete piers were let out to contract by the Rope Construction Co whilst the steel spans were constructed at Addington Railway Workshops and lifted into position by NZR steam cranes. The new rail bridge was 2 yards higher to allow increased flood flow capacity. It came into use in December 1939. In January 1940 a tablet locked siding was connected at the south end to enable the old bridge to be dismantled. It is not clear whether this was part of the original track onto the bridge, or whether there were still rails on the bridge itself. Historically a service siding existed at the north end and during the construction of the new bridge a siding there was in use for  equipment and supplies. The total cost of the two new bridges was around 150,000 pounds (about $15 million in 2018 dollars). They are each around 5720 feet long or about 200 feet shorter than their predecessor.

The combined bridge as seen in a Muir & Moodie photo of 1912 (Te Papa Collections).

Methven Branch Bridges

Bridge 4: Dry Creek 13m 62ch / 21.8049 km - replaced washout in 1884 with 5 spans of 15 feet each. The Dry Creek flood flow was diverted in the 1970s and the outline of this watercourse is now almost impossible to detect on aerial photos. The bridge piers and abutments remain in place today as shown in the Google Earth photo below. The adjacent road still dips through what was an occasional ford.

Here is the location shown on a Retrolens photo. The watercourse is clearly visible in this 1942 aerial.

Bridge 5: 18 m 60 ch / 29.8140 km

Bridge 2: 3 m 30 ch /  6.7894 km. 2 spans total 27 feet in 1908. Filled in 1909.

Bridge 1: "3 m 23 ch" (questionable, probably 3 m 2 ch) / 4.9534 km. This was the biggest structure on the line, measured at 10 spans totalling 130 feet in 1908.

Bridge 3: 18.4311 km.

Bridge 3A: 11 m 55 ch. Both 3A and 3 were small structures and I have not recorded any details of them.

The locations other than Bridge 4 which is a well known location will probably have to be estimated from the nearest station owing to the lack of chainage books in the Archives collection.

The other part of this post is about the Springburn Branch which is the other Canterbury branch I intend researching at this stage. I expect there to be considerably fewer files but I could be wrong as I have not yet looked them all up. But I intend to carry out this research in the near future, possibly as early as next week. One of the labelled Methven Branch files did in fact contain details of the two bridges that were built around 1940 to cross the Rangitata Diversion Race. I haven't done the photo mosaics yet but have enough Retrolens stuff for them.

North Island Main Trunk [5]: Johnsonville-Tawa 5 / Methven Branch / Otago Central Railway

So another set of proofs for the Tawa Historical Society below.

Meanwhile everything else is sort of progressing. A lot of map drawing time lately has been taken up on researching the Methven Branch. I haven't actually drawn anything for branch maps yet, and I just discovered I need to redo most of the aerial photo mosaics because Gimp defaulted to the lowest quality interpolation setting, so actually mapping the line is still a week or two away. The amount of time it has taken to do the research means I will probably, out of all the other branch lines in Canterbury, only be prepared to add research of the Springburn Branch. Right now hopefully it will only take one more day on the Methven line, although to be fair that also includes quite a lot of information on Rakaia Junction.

No more work on the Otago Central Railway lately but I am mindful of wanting to get going with that again and I may get something done this weekend.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

North Island Main Trunk [4]: Johnsonville-Tawa 4

Here is the latest set of proofs for the Tawa Historical Society. I am still in discussion for their exact requirement for their book.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Maps of Christchurch City

Christchurch City gets covered for rail already, of course, but soon I'll be downloading maps for the entire city, not just for areas around rail lines. The purpose of these being in order to cover my other transport interests, as I am becoming involved in transport advocacy which covers the entire range of transport networks.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

MSL Branches [2E]: Methven Branch 5 / Otago Central / Wellington-Tawa

This is really just a quick catchup as I have been busy with various things and not much actual map work has been done in the last few days.

On Friday morning I had a trip into Christchurch Archives to look at Methven Branch stuff. As they are only open half days and have been since the quakes there is only so much you can get done in 3 1/2 hours, in this case I looked at pretty well all the files for the smaller stations except either end and those two have the most files. In fact I have only seen one quarter so I am guessing at least two more half days and probably more,  the ones still to look at have the most detail. That sounds like a lot but it is not so bad to have an interest that gets one out of the house and into the community. I actually found some other things of general transport interest in the Wigram community which are also relevant so there was some additional benefit from going out there.

At any rate I have managed to get useful diagrams for a number of stations but not all of them so some of the maps will be incomplete or guesswork but we will just have to see how that works out. So actual maps of the Methven Branch are still a way off.

Of higher priority right now is finishing the Johnsonville-Tawa stuff for Tawa Historical Society. I have done some tidying work around the edges of the aerial photos and need to churn out the tiles which I was supposed to do this weekend but it will spill over into next week now but that has to be finished ASAP.

On the Otago Central I still have to do the Ida Valley maps which have not progressed since my last posting so there has not been a lot of progress and of course I have to keep at it, at present my timetable is starting to look like it is falling behind. Basically working back from Cromwell (236 km) we have so far got to Ida Valley (157 km) so have covered about 1/3 of the line and about 1/3 of the stations. Although many of the Taieri Gorge stations will not get mapped without data for them, so it could cut the number of stations. But as of now it does look like the Otago Central maps won't be finished by the end of the year unless I can totally guarantee to complete a station every week and at the moment this does seem to be proving difficult to keep to, although I also have to spend time on Google Earth checking the streetview between each station which is time consuming so a lot does get done with each map that is not so obvious.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

MSL Branches [2D]: Methven Branch 4 - Rakaia 2

Here is another complete set of pictures of Rakaia. There are three sets in total, from north to south, and in order, each set covers 1942, 1974, 1984 and 2012.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

MSL Branches [2C]: Methven Branch 3 - Rakaia

Above is the Rakaia station as seen in 1942. There was a freight yard (to the right) and a passenger platform (to the left). Methven Branch passenger trains left from the western (in this case upper) side of the island platform, while the main line was on the eastern side (lower). Note the turntable tucked into a corner of the passenger station - Methven had a triangle, so steam engines were able to be turned at each end of trips up the branch.

North end of Rakaia and the bridges. In 1942 the separate road and rail bridges were relatively new. Possibly the white appearance of the road bridge might be down to concrete bridges not being sealed over with tar as they are today. Although this bridge was "state of the art" when built, it is considered narrow by present day standards.

Rakaia Today: Any traces of the railway station and platform are long gone. This image from Google Earth is of the Railway Tavern which is directly across the road from the former station in Railway Terrace West.

These premises in the south end of Rakaia were among several that were siding served in the days of rail freight. More information on sidings will be shown in due course when the 1974 aerial image tiles for Rakaia are generated and the layout traced, as these particular images are high resolution and therefore well detailed.

Apart from the Rakaia map tiles still under preparation, tiles now exist for every one of the branch stations. However mapping has not started because of a consideration that a day might be spent at the local Archives New Zealand office to obtain NZR diagrams for every station. I have compiled lists of all the files held and am making preliminary enquiries with ANZ Christchurch office with a view to accessing these files in order to extract the required information from them.