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.