Wednesday 31 July 2019

Midland Line [4B]: Arthurs Pass-Otira 2: MRC Summit Line 2

Following on from last evening's post here is the rest of the Summit to Otira route. We are assuming plans will exist for the climb up from Arthurs Pass Station to the summit as there are many plans in the Archives collection, but few of them have been scanned as yet which will make it necessary for us to go through much of the remaining collection in the reading room whenever we have time. Of the ones that have been accessed so far we have been able to source the entire route down to well beyond Otira (at least 12 miles) and have used plans and drawn the route as far as where it comes alongside the existing route (5 miles) as the plans beyond that point are difficult to align to topography because they are so old.

Starting from the summit (the actual pass known as "Arthurs Pass") at 920 metres ASL and with a railway station marked as "Summit Station", the proposed line begins to descend towards Otira. The initial section being right alongside the highway and passing Lake Misery, the gradient here being 1 in 15.
At the 1 mile post the line has descended about 100 metres.  Shortly thereafter the location of "Kopeki Station" is reached. It's not immediately obvious why another station was needed so close to the summit. The origin of "Kopeki" is unclear, but there is also a creek of that name marked on the plans, which is what is known today as Pegleg Creek.
Kopeki Station would have been about where the road used to head up the zig zag. This notorious feature of the highway for more than 100 years was replaced in the 1990s by the present Otira Viaduct. At this point the proposed line left the proximity of the highway, understandably given the abrupt change in heights where the highway viaduct crosses the bottom of a big slip, and crossing over the top of the present tunnel it follows less undulating terrain further west.
As the proposed line crosses the slip above Park Creek it reaches the 2 mile peg. The altitude is now 740 metres, representing a descent of 180 metres from the summit.
 After crossing over the top of the present rail tunnel again, the proposed line reaches the site of "Flat Top Station". This was to have had a separate yard as a spur off the main line. The route then makes a big curve westward before it reaches the 3 mile peg, now at an altitude of around 640 metres. Again there is the question of why another station was needed so close to the previous one.
We saw this map in the previous post and here it is again. This one is scale 1:8000 (the others are scale 1:5000) to fit the entire curved section in, which would be extremely difficult to show otherwise. At 4 miles the altitude on the surface was 810 metres, underscoring the need for the tunnel to continue the descent through the hillside. Upon exiting the tunnel the 520 metre contour line is crossed and on reaching the 5 mile peg the line has descended to around 500 metres, about 20 metres higher than the present line. Considering that the present route is descending at 1 in 33 towards Otira station, the 1899 line still has to achieve very steep grades to reach Otira and there is a stretch of 1 in 22 along this section. See the comments on the previous post about the grades through the 3-5 mile section of the route. One of the old Midland Railway Co plans (drawn by the actual company) shows "Goat Creek" as the name of the station where Otira is today (at 7 miles).

Monday 29 July 2019

Midland Line [4A]: Arthurs Pass-Otira Line 1: MRC Summit Line 1

Perhaps a lesser known feature of the original plans for the Midland Line was that the Midland Railway Company proposed a summit line over Arthurs Pass rather than the Otira Tunnel that we have today. The summit line would have run close to the current highway in a number of places and it incorporated gradients of up to 1 in 15 to achieve this.

Archives New Zealand have the drawings that were prepared of this proposed route dated 1899 which is probably the date that the Government received them from the liquidator of the Midland Railway Co, the company having been wound up after it failed to complete its contracted works. It had built the railway from "Brunnerton" (Brunner as we know it today) to Jackson on the western side of the route, but on the eastern side the line that had been started from Springfield was only complete to Otarama, with Tunnel 1 being completed but work yet to start on the Paterson Stream viaduct. There thus remained 92 km of very difficult railway through the Waimakariri Gorge and the Main Divide to be completed. The MRC sought a new contract in 1894 under which it would have undertaken to complete this section within a four year period but this was rejected by the government and eventually the works were resumed by the PWD. Otira was reached in 1900 from the western side, and on the eastern side, Otarama to Broken River was completed in 1906, Broken River to Cass in 1910, and Cass to Arthurs Pass in 1914. By that time the work was well in hand for the Otira Tunnel. This work was commenced in 1908 by the private firm of John McLean & Sons and was intended to be completed within four years. However at the time of expiry the company had completed less than half of the tunnel and the work was again taken over by PWD. Hole-through occurred in 1918. It was to be another three years before excavation and lining was completed, and in 1922 the rails were completely laid. The Midland Line was finally finished and opened to through traffic in 1923.

At the moment we have accessed drawings of the summit route from the top of Arthurs Pass down to Otira, approximately 6 miles. The below map shows the route coming down the Rolleston River valley with a big horseshoe curve and tunnel. 

 The route as shown with aerial photo background where it approaches the present day route.

By turning off the aerial photo background we can look at the contour curves with their heights marked in metres and gauge some idea of the way the railway climbed/descended. There does appear to be some sort of altitude markings on the drawings but we need to do some more work with these before using them. So at the moment we will go with the contour curves and what is marked on the drawings for gradients. At the bottom of the drawn section, 5 miles from the summit, the altitude is about 500 metres, while at 3 miles, it is 640 metres. This implies an average gradient of about 1 in 22 over that section. The gradients marked on the diagrams vary. From 3 miles the line is descending on 1 in 15 until just before the start of the tunnel, where the line levels out for the bridge over the Rolleston River (not marked). The tunnel itself is at 1 in 15 for a length of 1170 yards (1 km). At the bottom of the tunnel there is a longer level section which includes the bridge over Holts Creek (not marked) before a descent is resumed towards Otira at 1 in 15.

It will be interesting to put together the rest of the diagrams in the next few days to see what the line would have looked like as it came down from the summit and hopefully also the climb from Arthurs Pass up to the summit can be drawn in due course.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Midland Line [2H]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 8: Avoca 2

Today we are going to have another look at Avoca, this time with a full set of maps.
An overview of the Avoca area, showing the full area of interest including the locations of the coal mining.

Avoca railway station. This was still open as a crossing loop until the 1980s.
This backshunt and the scissors crossing were part of the sidings installed for the coal mining and were removed after it closed.
A closer look at the station showing the main features. The coal mine had a weighbridge and loading stage that were removed when it closed.
1982 historical view of the station. Showing that the loop and siding remained the same size as they were in 1923. The original shorter loop was extended in time for the opening of the Otira Tunnel as it was the case that many of the facilities in various places in the Midland Line, such as the Springfield deviation, were improved in time for the opening of the full route.
Looking at the route of the tramway that was installed for the coal mine. The section just above Avoca station was an incline worked by endless rope haulage  to bring the coal tubs down to unloading. Whereas the main part of the route going across the map from left to right was worked by a small steam locomotive.
There was another incline to bring the empty coal tubs down into the Broken River bed to reach the coal mines. A large steam boiler was located at the top of this incline to work the haulage rope that took the empty tubs down and brought the full ones up.
The larger part of the coal mine was on the south side of Broken River. Within the area shown there were two distinct sections of mining, each accessed by its own tramway crossing the river. The earlier and larger section was to the right and the later and smaller section to the left, probably as a new exploration after the main mine caught fire.
Another area that was mined was on the north side of Broken River reached by an extension of the tramway that ran along the riverbank. This appears to be an earlier part of the mine. The mining company was in operation in total for ten years, from 1918 to 1928 (a note on one of the plans shows the date April 1928 "Mine Abandoned").

Sunday 21 July 2019

Midland Line [2G]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 7: Avoca 1

Description of the Mt Torlesse Colliery (currently this area is being mapped and we hope to have more details of it in a few weeks)

"The first coal will be loaded into railway trucks at the company's siding, Avoca, today... the construction of tramway and plant has been a big undertaking...the deep rock cuttings and ravines over which the tramway passes necessitating building several large viaducts...on account of the very steep gradients heavy machinery for haulage purposes had to be employed...

The transport of coal from the mine to Avoca railway station is by light tramway, the through route being about 3 3/4 miles...beginning from the mine, the coal is taken down the Broken River for a distance of three quarters of a mile to the foot of an incline...from there it is raised by endless rope haulage up a steep incline with an average gradient of 1 in 2 to a height of 850 feet from the river level...from here it is taken 2 1/4 miles by locomotive to a point 450 ft directly above the Avoca it is lowered down a steep incline by gravitation to the bins of the company's siding...the plant is capable of handling an output of 500 tons daily...

From other sources, the company was in operation for nine years only, from 1918 to 1927. The best year of operations being in 1920 when 15770 tons, an average of only 300 tons per WEEK.  The total output was 72,500 tons over the full period of operation. 500 tons a day would have been a very major undertaking. The coal tubs used were said to have a capacity of 12 hundredweight, or about half a ton, so there would had to have been 1000 loads a day moved to get 500 tons, again a pretty major undertaking. Whilst there was some suggestion that two trains a day would have been needed to handle all the output proposed, it seems doubtful that more than one train per week would have been necessary. The mine did well for a time but in 1924 there was an outbreak of fire in the underground workings, and further similar issues plagued the mine from then on, so that it was eventually forced to close, and the company placed into liquidation.

The loading stage and siding at Avoca in 1920. Photo by Edgar Williams, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Friday 19 July 2019

Midland Line [2F]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 6: Waimakariri Bridge 1

Waimakariri Bridge is a location on the Midland Line. It is one of three crossings that the Kiwirail network has historically made of the river, all on different lines; the others being the Main North Line near Kaiapoi, and the Oxford Branch near Bexley (closed in 1930 but the bridge still stands today). Here is the overview map.
 There are two key features of this location: the bridge itself which was replaced in the late 1970s on a new alignment; and the ballast pit on the north bank of the river.
 The new bridge is concrete and was built on a new alignment slightly easing the curvature here (14 chains radius).
 On the north side was the ballast pit.

Development of the Waimakariri Ballast Pit began in 1941 due to an anticipated requirement of large scale reballasting work being needed on the Midland Line in the coming years, however it was not until 1944 that the pit was fully in operation with a dragline and crushing plant. Operations at the pit were suspended about 1953 and the plant was removed the following year. The date at which the site was finally closed off and cleared has not been ascertained. The historical aerial photos used in these comparisons were taken in 1966 at which time track was still in place in the two locations shown.

Midland Line [2E]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 5: Springfield 2: Springfield Deviation 1 / Springfield Colliery 1

Today's focus is the Springfield Deviation and Springfield Colliery. Both were referred to in my first article about Springfield. Here is the map again from that article:

Since my visit to Archives New Zealand this week I have been taking a look at both of these matters and have enough information to furnish this post although the full detail for both is not yet known and may be cleared up further on my next research visit.

The Springfield Colliery appears to have been established about 1876 and is presumed to be located at the top centre of this map where there is a railway siding running from the former Springfield yard. This period preceded the construction of the railway to Springfield which made it difficult for the coal mining company to get their coal to markets. The Midland Line or Malvern Branch as it may have been known at that time was opened to Sheffield (or Malvern) in 1874 and the more immediate construction priority at that time was the linking of this branch to the Oxford Branch via the Waimakariri Gorge. However, the extension of the railway to Springfield was pushed forward in the latter part of the 1870s and was officially opened in January 1880. The line to the Springfield Colliery was referred to as a "branch railway". The line would have joined to the original route of the Midland Line as shown in the above.

The colliery branched out into brick and pipe making soon after the mine opened, this being established in 1879 by which time the railway extension from Sheffield was well in hand. The township of Springfield was at this time known as Kowai Pass. The extension of the railway did not bring complete happiness to the mining operation, which by 1884 was complaining that the rates of railage were excessive. Similar concerns were being expressed by owners of mines in the South Malvern area where more coal mining had been commenced, a meeting of the Industrial Association having been convened in Christchurch at this time. It would appear the Colliery railed its coal to Christchurch for general sale at its premises there close to the South Town Belt of that time. By 1894 and certainly earlier there were suggestions that the company's financial viability was questionable. However little more is known about the facts of the operation except that the colliery appears to have closed down in 1916 and the siding line was removed except for the first curve that was left in place as a siding in the railway yard. The length was slightly less than a mile which corresponds to the approximate length of the siding as shown on these maps. This in turn is based on a land corridor marked in property maps. Track layout at the terminus had a loop and backshunt. In addition to the coal mine it appears an adjacent clay pit was served and clay was also railed out. After the rails were lifted the formation was converted to a road.

There is hopefully more to come from additional research as there is little information so far to confirm the exact locations shown and it is generally difficult to confirm the details which are now over 100 years old. 

We now turn our attention to the main line deviation at Springfield. The deviation of the Midland Line at Springfield commenced in 1921. The authorisation for it was obtained by a Parliamentary Bill, the Railway Authorisation Act introduced on 23 October 1919 and the details published in the "Press" newspaper the following day read thus:
"The Railways Authorisation authority for contracts for the construction of certain lines....these are: (Abridged)
  1. North Auckland Main Trunk Line - An extension of the authorised line from the left bank of the Wairoa river to a connection with the existing line near Ngapuhi; length about 39 miles.
  2. NIMT - branch line from Otorohanga along the right bank of the Waipa river to the south boundary of Block 7, Mangaorenga survey district; length about seven and a half miles
  3. NIMT - a deviation between Plimmerton and Paekakariki; length about 22 miles
  4.  East Coast Main Trunk - A branch line from Wairoa to Waikokopu; length about 22 miles
  5. Teroti-Opunake - An extension of the authorised line from Opunake to a connexion with the existing line at Moturoa; length about 35 miles.
  6. Midland - a deviation at Springfield along the north-eastern side of the existing line between the 29 mile 19 chain post and the 31 mile three chain post; length about one mile seventy-four chains.
  7. Greymouth-Point Elizabeth - An extension of the existing line from a point about three miles forty-five chains from Greymouth for about two miles fifty chains in a northerly direction.
  8. NIMT - a branch line to connect with the Kaihu Valley railway commencing in Block 7, Maungaru survey district and terminating in the town of Dargaville; length about 14 miles.
  9. North Auckland Main Trunk - A deviation of the authorised line westward from the 117 miles 14 chain post to the 121 miles 15 chain post.
  10. Waikokowai Branch - A branch from the Huntley-Awaroa railway to the Rangiriri survey district; length about seven miles.
We can see the Springfield deviation listed as Item 6 in the above. Item 2 referred to some sort of ballast siding or tramway. Item 3 is an odd description but it does seem to be an early reference to the Tawa Flat deviation. Items 7 and 10 were connected with coal mining. Out of the above only item 9 stands out particularly because I will need to research further to try to confirm the exact location involved, a quick look at the Quail Atlas not confirming anything in particular.

Again so far we have little information about it, in particular the reason for it is not known but a likely situation is that there was limited room for the railway yard then required at Springfield to allow for a probable expansion in the traffic with the imminent opening of the Midland Line through the Otira Tunnel. When Springfield was first opened in 1880 the prospects for the Midland Line were decades away (in fact more than four) from completion. The railhead eventually reached Arthurs Pass in 1914 being further delayed by the Otira Tunnel works and the line was eventually opened in 1923. It is likely the deviation was considered and planned for many years prior to construction but so far the only information relates to the actual construction timeframe. We do have confirmation to date of the original route at least partly following the suggested line above and also drawings of the original station layout but not enough information so far to confirm the exact position so as to be able to map it, and we hope that further research at Archives will be able to confirm some of these details. 

The land required was taken by proclamation in mid-1921 and construction works commenced in June that year. The work was pushed ahead fairly rapidly and within 12 months the track was laid in the new Springfield yard. Compensation claims over the land taken for the new route went to court and were finally settled in 1923.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Midland Line [0E]: Volume 9 Progress Report 5

Contrary to my original proposition that no research would be done into any part of the Midland Line, I had a session this morning at Archives Christchurch and looked at 55 files and copied around 200-250 documents from these files. Quite a few different stations were covered and some very useful material about parts of the Midland Line were obtained.

I am looking at possibly a second visit to look at more material next week or maybe later this week depending on how many more stations I am interested in. It's possible I will look up a few stations on the West Coast that I didn't consider yesterday when I was putting the list together. In hindsight the list of files that I did look at today was quite a lot to go through in a 3 1/2 hour session and didn't really need to be any longer, so doing another list for another visit seems the right thing to do.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Midland Line [3A]: Whitecliffs Branch 1

Today we have a set of maps of the stations on the Whitecliffs Branch, including the junction station, Darfield.

Darfield 2015/1970

Hawkins, 2.94 miles along the branch, and it seems one of the few with a regular size goods shed. 2015/1958.

Homebush 2015/1943. The two largest bridges still have superstructure in place, with the one that crosses a river substantially intact.

Coalgate 2015/1943.

Glentunnel 2015/1943.

 South Malvern & Whitecliffs 2015/1943.

 South Malvern 1943 & 2015.

 Whitecliffs turning triangle 1965 & 2015. The triangle is not visible in the 1943 aerial photo, so it possibly may not have been installed at that time.

Whitecliffs 1943 & 2015.