Saturday 29 June 2019

Midland Line [2B]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 2: Arthurs Pass 1

So here we are at Arthurs Pass with a selection of historic aerial photos dating from 1943, 1966 and 1971, the last of which being the NZR station surveys. We could also have made use of the NZR corridor survey of the early 1980s that we used for Otira. However, there would have been very little change between 1971 and the early 1980s so that option has not been utilised in this case. The 0.3 metre base tiles were each scaled to 0.1 metres for this mosaic and there were two map tiles in total for each generation. We also took the opportunity to combine the tiles at the south end of the station yard where two different Linz layers overlap with the annoying black fringing so that we have continuous terrain on the tiles instead of these ugly black borders that in this case take up nearly half of the tile area.

Arthurs Pass did not show a lot of change over the generations and for this reason the maps themselves are simply a combination of these three generations rather than being three separate generations. The main changes seen are:

In 1943 there was a turntable pit visible at the due west end of the engine shed. This must have been the original location of the turntable at Arthurs Pass. One possible reason for removing it is to enable the main highway to be straightened up. We don't know yet when the turntable was relocated but it has been at the due north end of the yard next to the Bealey River bridge for the best part of 80 years, probably longer. The other difference with later maps is the original station building.

In 1966 there were sidings around the engine shed that were in use and the engine shed had been used in earlier times to store mothballed steam locomotives, most notably F 13 of 1872 which is now at Ferrymead. It had been placed in storage after the NZR Centennial exhibition at Christchurch in 1963 but due to the wish for it to be moved to Ferrymead for eventual restoration, it hauled an excursion train from Arthurs Pass to Ferrymead in 1964. It was eventually restored to service 20 years later. After falling due for its ten year boiler inspection it sat out of service for approximately fifteen years before being restored for the second time several years ago. The other difference seen on the 1966 aerial photo is the new station building which replaced the old one that burnt down in the mid 1960s.

In 1971 the sidings around the engine shed had been removed. The engine shed has since been sold or leased and is no longer used for any railway purpose. 

The major changes more recently are the de-electrification of the Arthurs Pass-Otira section through the Otira Tunnel and within the last five years, the major highway alignment between Bealey Bridge and Arthurs Pass. (N.B. Bealey Bridge refers to the railway bridge at Halpins Corner and not the bridge at the Arthurs Pass entrance to the Otira Tunnel) The highway realignment is a fairly major project that has replaced a long twisty and undulating stretch of SH73 with a straight flat section with excellent visibility and weatherproofing by bringing the highway parallel to the railway for most of the section. But it is very strange that it ends at the one way bridge across Rough Creek on the outskirts of the town, without replacing that bottleneck with a two way structure.

Thursday 27 June 2019

Midland Line [3A]: Greymouth-Ross 1: Ross Branch 1

The Midland Line has/had a number of branches, starting with Whitecliffs Branch and Oxford Branch in Canterbury, and progressing through to several on the West Coast. The longest of its branches has been the one from Greymouth to Ross, a total distance of just over 60 km. The history of railways in the Grey District seems to be one of routes radiating out from its principal township, with works apparently commencing in the 1870s eastward towards Stillwater, and in the 1890s southward towards Ross. In the latter case the first section completed was to Hokitika in 1893, being the first 38 km of this route. At that point there was quite a lengthy delay until the line reached Ruatapu in 1906, doubtless partly occasioned by the task of constructing the lengthy combined bridge over the Hokitika River. It then took another three years for the last section to Ross to be completed, which includes a bridge nearly 200 metres long over the Totara River. However, trains were running to the north end of this bridge In December 1908, the last section finally being completed in April 1909. South of Ross there was from 1919 until 1959 a bush tramway owned by Stuart & Chapman Ltd which apparently included a bridge that was shared with road traffic and may have reached as far south as Ianthe. Apparently there were some notions that this should become an extension of the Ross line but this never happened, if it ever was expected to. 

The Hokitika-Ross section of the line closed in 1980 partly due to the deteriorating condition of the bridges and the combined bridge at Hokitika was demolished soon after. It is a matter of record that at least the section of track between Ruatapu and Ross was left in place for a few years after the closure and the local people of the area built their own jiggers to run on the track. I used to have a newspaper cutting showing tenders were called for the lifting of this section around 1986/87. We had during 1987 holidayed in the area and I did get some pictures which I hopefully have around somewhere of a few remnants of the branch line. In the 1990s Transit NZ (the state highways agency of the government) decided that a new highway from Hokitika to Ross was a good idea and they built a new bridge across the Hokitika River on the site of the old railway one and then put the first part of the highway along the old rail corridor. Hence this is documented on the maps which are as below. Because of rail corridor reuse and the sparsely populated nature of the area there are few remnants south of Hokitika as far as the stations go. The main things you can find today are Bridge 37 which has been preserved by the Department of Conservation just south of Takutai, and the formation, eleven bridges and some culverts between Ruatapu and Ross which has been incorporated into a rail trail. However the long term future of this section is somewhat hazy due to the possibility of it being dredged or quarried for gold in years to come.

Commencing at Hokitika for this examination of the Ross Branch. Hokitika station is on the north bank of the Hokitika River and there is a siding which originally connected to a sawmill that even in the 1980s still had a short tramway running from it, originally there was a much longer tramway network going into the bush that we shall map soon. These days the siding connects to the Westland Milk factory, which provides the entire traffic for the Hokitika line. There was also a siding onto the old wharf. The main line crossed the combined bridge No.33 the site of which is now occupied by the new road bridge and headed south towards Ross. On the south bank the highway has taken over the first section of the rail corridor.
Continuing south we approach the site of the Takutai station of which there are no known remains partly due to the highway reusing the corridor. The highway leaves the rail corridor just a little south of Takutai with the corridor now to the east of the highway, which is reusing Ruatapu Road. Bridge No. 35 was just a little north of Takutai.
The first substantial remnant of the Ross Branch is Bridge No.37 which crosses Mahinapua Creek. This is one of a number of bridges abandoned after the line closed and now maintained by DOC. It appears the bridge is now incorporated into a cycle trail.
The rail corridor continues east of the highway to the next station, Mananui. There were no remains there when I last visited in 1987 except for a train control phone box which is probably gone now. Mananui once had a bush tramway connecting to it and a walking route follows the tram's route nowadays.
Lake Mahinapua station is at the site of a well known hotel that appeared in a TV advertising campaign. The road made a right angle crossing over the railway at this point and carried on at the eastern side of the line to Ruatapu, part of its route being incorporated into the highway which gently drifts over to that side.
Ruatapu was the railhead from 1906 until late 1908 and for a good part of its life the sawmill provided rail traffic as well as a housing settlement. The mill still operates today but there are fewer houses. The highway used to run through the township with a right angle level crossing so did not cross the rail route, when it was open, at the place where it does today. The rail trail starts to the south where the highway curves around to go east.
For the rail trail section I have turned off the corridor path from being displayed so that we can just look at the eleven former railway bridges that are now part of this trail. So here for a start is Bridge 38 crossing Rocky Creek.
Closer view of Bridge 38.
Next we have Bridge 39 crossing Camp Creek, and Bridge 40.
Bridge 39.
Bridge 40.
Then approaching the old station of Papakamai we have bridges 41 to 44.
Bridge 41
 Bridge 42
 Bridge 43
 Bridge 44
Papakamai is a station we know very little about. It doesn't appear in the 1952 working timetable reprint so must have closed earlier. As far as I can tell, the only thing of note was a bush tramway that may have brought timber to be loaded. The Quail Atlas suggests this tramway was open by 1905 but does not give a closure date.
Bridge 45
Bridge 46
The last stretch before reaching the end of the line takes in Bridge 47 and 48, the latter being the longest south of the Hokitika river, nearly 200 metres long. This was found to be in surprisingly good condition after being abandoned more than 30 years, but it did require repairs in the order of a six figure amount to be re-used by the rail trail.
Bridge 47
Bridge 48 crossing the Totara River.
Heading into Ross the rail trail leaves the rail corridor. Approaching the station, the site of the engine turning triangle can be seen on the west side of the corridor.
The station of Ross served a sawmill which is still present in some form at the very end of the line. From about this location, Stuart & Chapman's timber tramway carried on further south in conjunction with this mill.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Midland Line [2A]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 1: Rolleston-Otira Major Stations 1

This week the main focus is on the Midland Line because I need to update some maps of Otira for a requested requirement there. This means setting up a Volume 9 project in Qgis (it hasn't been done yet, like several of the other volumes) and getting together all the base aerial photography for the rail corridor, which is from Rolleston to Hokitika. As this is part of the Volume 1-12 Basic coverage expectation to be developed throughout this year it is an important part of this year's objectives for NZ Rail Maps development. However in addition to the basic coverage, I also will be updating the mosaic tiles I already did for Otira last year, as well as looking at making some for Darfield, Springfield and Arthurs Pass. These four locations constitute all the major stations between Rolleston and Hokitika that I can get aerial coverage for. The actual Retrolens coverage that I got for Otira last year has been blocked off for access since that time because Retrolens in a few areas apparently mistakenly scanned up a small number of images that were not supposed to be published on their site. For this reason I can't get official NZR station surveys for Otira that undoubtedly exist. However I can get NZR corridor surveys for quite a distance west of Otira if I so chose but I don't think there are any other major stations that will be in these surveys to bother with at this time. 

If you look at the other articles in this series you can see some pictures of Otira which are worth taking another look at, and as I already have the map tiles for Otira in a mosaic project, it is just a matter of some tidying up and then importing them into Qgis to just check over and then republish for the Midland Line maps.

However the full extent of the Midland Line is only going to be Basic coverage and will proceed fairly soon and will be alongside the other stuff I am doing with Christchurch City at the moment including Christchurch Transport Blog. Since I have just downloaded all the corridor images then the next step is to get that into Qgis and once that is completed then mapping the whole route can be pushed ahead. I think the mosaics for those four stations will also be pushed along as a token gesture since we can't get any aerial coverage for anywhere else on the West Coast.

We'll finish off with some Weston Langford images from around the area. These were all taken when he visited New Zealand for a series of railfan specials between December 1963 and January 1964.

Otira. Permanent way overhead inspection vehicle is seen on the left whilst on the right is the vicinity of the steam engine depot with its coal dump ramp for unloading coal for the engines. The overhead inspection vehicle is now at the Ferrymead Railway.

An electrically hauled passenger train arriving at Otira from Arthurs Pass. On the left is the coal ramp and a rake of loaded (coal?) wagons beyond it. To the right can be seen the steam engine depot with what appears to be an AB class locomotive in steam.

Big Kowai Viaduct immediately north of Springfield. The Midland Railway Company, an unsuccessful private venture, built the original viaduct as part of the 4 1/2 miles of completed track under its contract that it was able to complete from Springfield to Otarama, although the work was actually subcontracted to Andersons Engineering of Christchurch. This consisted of the two viaducts across tributaries of the Kowai River and the No.1 tunnel. Progress stopped upon reaching Pattersons Creek where a temporary wooden viaduct was built, the permanent steel structure being put in by the government after taking over the Midland contracts. In any case this viaduct at the Kowai River lasted for around 60 years until it was washed out by a flood in 1951. It took more than ten years to replace it with the concrete and steel structure seen here, the original being on the right and lower down. This was subsequently demolished, although some of the track that approached it can still be seen at one end.

Big Kowai viaduct as seen in 1960. The original bridge being propped up by temporary wooden piles. Construction had not yet started on its replacement.

Saturday 22 June 2019

Project Diary 2019-06-22A

A quick follow up to the previous post. The key question for many reading this blog is "Does the Christchurch Transport Blog project subtract from the NZ Rail Maps project time commitment"?

The simple and perhaps slightly regrettable answer to this question is "Yes". This is key to understanding the recent slowdown in progress on NZ Rail Maps, since creating a Christchurch specific Qgis project file for parts of Volumes 10 and 11 of the maps has been the key focus for CTB and that has taken all of the priority in the last month or so.

The historical content that is relevant to the NZ Rail Maps project will continue to be included in Volumes 10 and 11 of NZRM and it's not expected to become a separate volume at the moment. However the possibility of the Christchurch map data going into some other type of publication is quite likely as well. It is already being published in the CTB and being used in various contexts related to CTB.

At the same time I also hope to get some historical map data of the Christchurch central business district which so far has eluded me (it would seem the surveys in Canterbury Maps are not available on Retrolens, so I will have to see if I can source CM's data in some form). It may be I end up having to use some lower resolution stuff but my preference by a long way will be at least 0.3 metre pixel resolution or maybe 0.5 or even 0.75 which I have not found anything similar to that goes back to say the 1960s or 1980s and covers the CBD area. 

But at least I can draw upon the NZ Rail Maps mosaics for the historical rail corridor coverage and that is why the effort is going into that at the moment. So I just need a little more work to get what I need out of somewhere.

As we saw last week I posted on how to get NZ Rail Maps in general back on track, refocusing on Volumes 1-12 Basic level maps, and that has to be the most important thing for NZ Rail Maps right now outside Christchurch.

Visit Christchurch Transport Blog to see what is happening there - just give me a week to update it with the current focus and some important stuff that I want to put onto there to give a context to that project. So just keep an eye on it between now and the end of June as I get some posts into there to explain more about what the CTB project is about and where it is going.

Project Diary 2019-06-22

This week progress has been slow but there has been headway in completing a set of mosaics for Christchurch along the Main South Line corridor. Another activity is in importing the old Google Earth maps that I have maintained from the beginning of the NZ Rail Maps project, into the Google Maps site. Another option I am investigating for these maps is the Open Historical Map site, which I have just found. At any rate, there will soon be a web based option of some form for placing the online map data that I currently have in KML files on my computer. These maps are very useful for quickly finding a rail route and stations and I use them all the time when looking up the Google Maps satellite pictures for an area. They are not actively maintained as part of NZ Rail Maps and are not recommended as a primary source of data.

I now have a second blog, Christchurch Transport Blog, and much of the recent work around Christchurch is more properly addressed by this blog, with the maps which appear on it being produced by the Christchurch-specific sub-project of NZ Rail Maps. Hence, from here on in, Christchurch Transport Blog will be talking in more depth about the Christchurch specific aspects of transport, that will take in a range of transport subjects about Christchurch. However, this blog and the NZ Rail Maps project will continue to talk about the rail-specific historical maps that are being produced as part of Christchurch Transport Blog. The CTB project also has its own Facebook group associated with its more specific segment of transport activism.

Something which is also of concern and deserves a greater focus is level crossing safety. There was this week a serious level crossing accident resulting in fatalities at Pongakawa, which is a small settlement along the East Coast Main Trunk railway between Te Puke and Edgecumbe. The full information on this accident is not yet available but we have to question the ability of local government roading authorities to be able to understand how to design safe level crossings because there are around the country numerous crossings of this particular design which have been shown to be hazardous. In this case the crossing concerned is regarded as dangerous by the local community but there has not been action taken to address their concerns. There are questions over Kiwirail's assessment criteria for what constitutes a hazardous crossing, the maintenance of crossings in safe working order, roading design, and funding for improving dangerous crossings.

Christchurch Transport Blog is going to have a post or two in the near future about crossing safety because concerns exists about some of the crossings in Christchurch and whether there is any incentive for either Kiwirail or CCC to address these concerns.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Project Development Report [2019J]

Currently I am in the position of reviewing the earlier PDRs of this year and as it is now the middle of the year, considering the best way of advancing the project for the rest of 2019. At the moment there is somewhat of a perception of low productivity more recently, and of having too many unfinished projects on the go at the moment.

At the end of January I looked at what it would take to have all 12 volumes completed at a "Basic" level by the end of 2019. But so far in the first half of the year, there hasn't been much work focused on a basic level completion, with the majority of time spent on "Comprehensive" level, and whilst there has been a lot done at that level, the goal of getting "Basic" levels advanced across all 12 volumes hasn't actually been achieved much at all.

At the same time I have other interests, including new ones that have been developed in the last few months, mainly to do with rail history and activism at a more local level, and whilst it's hard to see where these will go over coming months, it means I have to re evaluate my priorities and look at what can be achieved with the resources I have.Lately more time has been spent developing maps to support these local priorities, and whilst these maps have been part of the bigger scheme, they are being developed at Comprehensive level and will always take priority over any other region of maps production.

The PDR 2019D from earlier this year suggested a timeframe for development of the project with the Comprehensive coverage that might be achieved in addition to full Basic coverage. The main issue is that Basic coverage is not being progressed for a significant number of volumes. This involves getting a full set of recent best available Linz aerial coverage for every centimetre of every volume and then tracing whatever is on it and filling in other details from other current resources. To date whilst a significant amount of aerial coverage has been downloaded from Linz, it has not been imported into map projects and the disk space needed to store these large volumes of downloads (of which only a fraction will be used and it will be stored in another location) is significant.

It is therefore necessary to switch the focus back towards Basic completion in order to free up some disk space for Comprehensive level mosaic work to continue. At the same time I have to take a closer look at the level of Comprehensive coverage that can be realistically completed. Whereas in the past the widespread availability of aerial coverage of a reasonable quality at multiple generations for some areas led me to try to document all the changes in multiple generations, this takes a lot of work to achieve. Because Retrolens is making available NZR station and corridor surveys, I intend for the majority of yards to document the track layout based mainly on these surveys, even where other surveys are available that can document a track layout change. Building/structure layout will try to incorporate changes in major buildings or structures but if at all possible at one all-encompassing generation instead of multiples. So in terms of historical layouts, most of it will be referenced to when NZR official surveys were produced, which for most yards is around the 1970s or 1980s, the goal being to have as much as possible prior to deregulation in 1981 which had a major impact on the railway landscape across the country.

Right now priority is still with Christchurch maps and the mosaics are making major steps forward and there will be tiles produced this week for a lot of stuff. However it is necessary to progress Basic level development across all 12 volumes and so this will be the secondary priority but will be pushed ahead more than it has in the last few months to attempt to get the schedule back on track to where it was intended six months ago.

Sunday 16 June 2019

MSL Lyttelton-Rolleston [2A]: Ferrymead Heritage Park

This week development continues on the MSL maps for Greater Christchurch. It has been determined that the maps for Greater Christchurch will cover four directions from the centre of the city, namely:
  • Main South Line to Lyttelton
  • Main South Line to Rolleston
  • Main North Line to Rangiora
  • Hornby Industrial Line to Lincoln
Work is ongoing to add all of the covered areas to the map, particularly those outside the Christchurch City aerial layer coverage. This means that for Templeton-Rolleston, Prebbleton-Lincoln and Kaiapoi-Rangiora, additional high resolution aerial photo layers have had to be sourced and these are being added to the Christchurch project.

In respect of Lyttelton-Rolleston we have continued working on the historical map tile mosaics this week, focusing particularly on the mosaic project that covers the section from Heathcote to Christchurch. Aerial photos from official NZR surveys from the 1970s have made up most of what has been put into the mosaics this week. We are still working on this project with a few more layers to be added; we have the following at the moment:
  • Heathcote has no official station survey, but a third party survey from 1970 and the NZR corridor survey from 1985 have proved useful.
  • Ferrymead is covered by third party surveys from 1958, 1970 and 1984 (part), and by the NZR corridor survey from 1985 (part).
  • Woolston has the NZR station surveys for 1974 and 1981, and third party for 1950. Oddly, we can't find the NZR corridor survey images (1985) for this station.
  • Linwood and Opawa are covered by NZR station survey for 1970, by part of the NZR 1981 station survey, and partly by the 1985 NZR corridor survey (some images in this series seem to be missing - 8380-B-x in particular)
  • Waltham by 1940, 1950 and 1961 third party, 1970 and 1981 NZR station, 1985 NZR corridor. 
  • Christchurch by the same range as shown above for Waltham. There is a possibility of adding a mid 1990s survey as well in order to show the major changes in the yard site at that time.
All of the area from Christchurch through to Opawa was covered in one single survey with three runs, which also covers Middleton and Addington (Survey No. 2345 of 1970). After that, we discovered a NZR survey for Woolston (2376 of 1974) which we had not known about previously. Also the NZR corridor survey of 1985 which started from Lyttelton has added good coverage of part of Ferrymead, but the part of this survey that should cover Woolston appears to be missing (Survey 8380, of which run B appears to be missing).The mosaic project for dealing with this section is one of the largest we have worked on for a while, and the down time earlier in the week to fit a larger SSD giving more virtual memory space for the Gimp tile cache has been definitely worthwhile except that we hope the file which ballooned by 10 GB in one generation will not grow as fast in the next few days while we finish adding layers.

The next three images are of Ferrymead Heritage Park site over a 27 year period starting from its early days and carrying through to about the time I first became involved with the Ferrymead Railway.

Ferrymead 1958. It was then just a dairy farm. Interest was developing around that time, and the 100th anniversary of the opening, in 1963, was the catalyst for the development of the present day park complex. Note in particular the shape of Truscotts Road, with its curious dogleg that went inside the park site and came out again through what is now Gate A.
Ferrymead 1970. Development of the site advanced considerably in the second half of the 1960s. By this time Truscotts Road had been straightened to bypass the park boundary at Gate A. A lot of filling and construction work is happening across the site. Truscotts Road at this time was still the main access for the Heathcote County rubbish dump at Wood Hill.
Ferrymead 1985, about the time I first became involved. The main village site has been heavily developed with numerous buildings in place, the aeronautical society's Viscount and one of their buildings is up, the railway's workshop, running shed and carriage/electric shed are in place, along with some of the buildings in the Ferrymead Trust storage and workshop site on the far side of the railway line. It was around this time that the Heathcote County dump was closed to the public, but was still open for approved commercial loads.

At the moment we don't have complete coverage of the other end of Ferrymead throughout the same period but this will be added to the mosaics shortly.

Thursday 6 June 2019

MSL Lyttelton-Rolleston [1G]: Suburban Passenger Terminal Proposals

There are proposals afoot currently to establish a suburban passenger service between Christchurch and Rolleston, which the NZ Government has provisionally allocated $100 million to develop. This would require a train terminal in a more suitable location than the present long distance train station at Addington.

This week I have spent most of my time looking at a couple of options for putting a transport interchange near the Colombo Street - Moorhouse Ave corner.

This is a simple artist's concept for a small passenger terminal with 2 platforms for suburban passenger trains at Pilgrim Place. It proposes that a bus interchange would be built on the Moorhouse Ave frontage of this site, replacing the present CBD bus interchange on the Colombo St / Lichfield St corner.

Since there is another possible site that may be more suitable almost next door to this site at Cass Street, this idea has not been further developed at the moment.

This is an artist's concept for a proposed transport interchange on the Colombo Street / Moorhouse Avenue corner. It provides for long distance / excursion trains with longer platforms and shorter suburban platforms. A bus interchange is assumed to be possible on the Moorhouse Avenue frontage and to provide for a reinstated CBD shuttle bus.

Sunday 2 June 2019

Project Diary 2019-06-02

In the past week there have been two main areas of work in this project. The first area is the Christchurch City maps referred to in a previous diary entry. It has been decided to combine existing maps of the city created for non-rail purposes with the existing rail maps data drawn for the city, which means there will be a combined Volume 10 and Volume 11 Qgis project that covers only Christchurch. To make things easier this project will share the existing Volume 10 and 11 layers with the rest of those volumes existing projects and will not have separate layers except for the aerial photos that are not of rail corridors or yards. At the same time the existing Volume 10 and Volume 11 projects will have all aerial photography removed that is inside the boundaries of the city.

The other area is the NZ Rail Maps website on This currently is accessed by the address . It will generally be known that the project also uses the domain name which currently redirects to a Trainweb site for historical reasons. Given the length of time that the Trainweb site has not been used for the project, it is likely the redirection will be changed soon to point directly to the Wordpress site. However there is no intention for the present to change the site URL to as this requires a paid Wordpress hosting plan. The other change has been driven by the decision that the Wordpress site has enough free space to host the map volume PDF files, which means they can be removed off Scribd thus reducing the number of external sites used to host project content. However the free version of Wordpress is not conducive to hosting the map tiles which are best to remain as Google Photos albums for the time being. Generally we are well behind in publishing completed project content and this needs to be put together and put on the site as more of a priority in future.

It is hoped that the computer used to do the map mosaic tiles will get a bigger SSD soon to enable it to deal with very large project files more easily, or to be able to have two 100-layer projects open at the same time.