Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Project Diary 2019-08-12

This week we have switched back to the Christchurch area maps due to the impeding local government elections. We are currently working with several candidates and preparing material in order to assist some of their campaigns, in association with Christchurch Transport Blog.

Because of this the Midland Line work has temporarily halted, although research at the local branch of Archives New Zealand has continued. We estimate approximately two more days of research at Archives will be sufficient to complete the Midland Line maps, but are unsure exactly when these maps will actually be ready.

We are taking the time to complete more of the historical maps of Christchurch as well as some of the other stuff we are doing so I have pulled up a number of Gimp projects and revised them as necessary to keep them within reasonable file sizes. For the Main North Line it is now split into one project that covers Addington and Riccarton along with Christchurch (from MSL) and a second one covering from Bryndwr to Ashley, previously it was all one project from Addington to Ashley. 

For the Main South Line we have Lyttelton to Heathcote including Ferrymead in a project, then from Woolston to Waltham, then from Middleton to Hornby, and then from Islington to Rolleston. The reason Christchurch was put in with Addington going north to Riccarton was because we had Addington in two projects, one for the MNL and one for the MSL, which was an unwarranted duplication.The one we haven't started on really is Hornby to Lincoln, and it's likely we will take Hornby out of the MSL Gimp projects at this point and put it into the one for the Hornby Industrial Line.

It's timely to comment briefly about maps of local government boundaries. Linz Data Services does not have this type of map in the list of layers that can be downloaded through their site on Koordinates. However, Statistics New Zealand, another Government department, does have them through its Datafinder site, http://datafinder.stats.govt.nz also hosted on Koordinates. As a result we have taken the opportunity to download six layers together: Maori Constituency 2019, Constituency 2019, Community Board 2019, Regional Council 2019, Territorial Authority 2019 and Ward 2019. This information is needed in order to discover the boundaries of each of the wards for the Regional Council elections and in so doing, be able to assist certain candidates in the wards of the transport related issues in their constituency.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

MSL Branches [17A]: Bluff Island Harbour


This week we took a little side trip to have a look at Bluff with the NZR aerial photos from 1972-3 covering the island harbour as well as the land based station yard. Like many ports, Bluff once had extensive shipside trackwork on the wharves that is no longer needed in this era of containerisation. As a result their rail network is much less extensive than formerly, aided by the shift to road transport and traffic being railed between Southland and other regions' ports to suit shipping patterns.


 Starting off with our usual pair of overview maps showing how things have changed over a 40-plus year period.

Our first maps are the island harbour. We don't know much about this structure, when it was built or for what purpose. Most ports have a series of wharves that jut out from and at right angles to, the shoreline. The "Island" is very unusual in NZ, and made for an interesting and unique rail layout. The westernmost tip as you can see was notable for the railway engine turning triangle, which is now gone.

Going east along the island, we get into one of the wharves, with a storage shed and attendant sidings. Ship-side sidings were very common on NZ wharves once, but have mostly disappeared since containerisation made it unnecessary to directly unload to railway wagons. Often times tracks are still in place on parts of wharves, but here there is just a single siding still connected and usable.

 More into the middle of the island is the main railway storage area. However the large yard with its multiple sidings has been largely reduced to the main line and a couple of tracks.

The south-eastern part of the island had several wharves along with their numerous tracks. Scissors crossings and other complex track structures such as double slips were commonly seen on wharves back in the day in order to fit as much track space as possible into a cramped layout. These days all but gone with just a couple of tracks across the whole area.

We can now have a look at the main railway station and yard at Bluff. The curve taking the main line across the bridge to the island harbour is to the left. Even in the 1970s there were few sidings in this area. The island section became the main line a long time ago and the Bluff township area a siding off it.

A little further east we come to the main railyards and some industrial sidings. These days practically everything is gone. 

Here we can see a shore-based wharf and a couple of industrial premises served by wagon turntables. These were once a popular way of getting into premises with a track and space saving layout, but fell from favour as longer and heavier wagons became more prevalent. The wharf was very interesting as there were no fewer than three separate tracks crossing between it and the shore, two of which can be seen in the black and white historical map. This was a necessity to connect up all the tracks in the tight space available, but these days, with no shipside tracks needed, the connecting lines and even some of the bridging has gone.

 Closeup views of the two sets of private sidings connected by wagon turntables. In the first photo we can see another track coming out of the front of one of the premises (far left) that appears to have been disconnected. The right hand premises in the same map is interesting as it was connected directly without a turntable.


Lastly we can see the end of the line where it went down to the tank farm and simply stopped adjacent to what was then the famed Fluteys Paua House. This area is known as "Bluff Township Siding".

Friday, 2 August 2019

Project Development Report [2019K]

This brief report is to update progress for 2019 so far as the year is now more than half over.

At the start of this year work was happening on the MNPL line which continued until the end of January and then work was switched onto the Main North Line, followed by the Kinleith Branch, North Auckland Line, then parts of the Main South Line around Dunedin. Then we had a look at Hamilton on the NIMT, followed by a significant chunk of the MSL within Canterbury. The next section to be looked at was the Cromwell Gorge.

At the start of June, work was begun on the Christchurch specific project in conjunction with some of the other areas that we support, and the Midland Line work was started towards the end of that month. Since then, work has alternated between Christchurch and the Midland Line.

It seems a good move right now to push ahead to complete Volume 9 for the Midland Line over the month of August, alternating with the Christchurch specific project as necessary. 

In terms of the overall project and its goal to have all 12 volumes completed at a basic level by the end of this year, that hasn't really fired, however neither has the alternative preference of completing any volume at all. We are now substituting an alternative schedule, which is to prioritise the South Island volumes of which we have six, to be completed first at whatever level seems appropriate, which will be more than basic. This includes revising Volume 7, the Nelson Section, with inline yard layouts and other detail using the aerial photography we previously obtained, which was put into an appendix at the end of the most recent edition of the printed volume.

However it is possible to work on the North Island maps by using WMTS to pull in live aerial layers of any area without the extensive work that is needed to download map layers for offline use, so using this to complete any area of the North Island to the Basic level that we proposed could make it happen a lot faster than has been the case to date. 

The priorities have shifted from first completing all of the maps to the Basic level in 2019, to completing as much as possible of the South Island at intermediate or comprehensive level before completing the Basic maps in the rest of the country. Some intermediate or comprehensive work of the North Island will continue throughout next year, especially for the Palmerston North Gisborne Line. Basic maps for North Island areas will also continue this year but we can't say how complete that will be by the end of 2019 at this stage.


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

This is a brief update on progress with Volume 9. Currently we have completed the route alignment as far as Otira and the details of the Otira yard tracks are being drawn in. A decision has been made to use the available aerial photography we have as far as Kotuku to draw layouts of all stations for which the photographs cover west of Otira.

Route alignment which consists of drawing tracks and station markers is one stage of the mapwork and the second stage after that is to put in bridges, tunnels and milepost markers where applicable. We expect to push on with route alignment towards Stillwater, Greymouth, Hokitika and Ross, although the last section is mostly done already, so there isn't a lot to be done in that respect.

Visits to Archives New Zealand over past and coming weeks will fill in in the details of the major yards of Stillwater, Greymouth, Hokitika and Ross in lieu of any available aerial photography. We hope this should enable Volume 9 to be completed by the end of August.

 The location of Bealey Bridge is an interesting question. Working Timetables and Kiwirail maps place it on the eastern end of the bridge as shown to the right corresponding to 68 miles 45 chains. However NZR file information shows the placement of the passenger stop at the western end of the bridge corresponding to 69 miles.

The other question is the location of Bealey Quarry and at this stage we are not confident of being able to determine that with our current level of research.
 Apart from the ballast siding at Waimakariri Bridge there was also one at Cora Lynn for a period probably around the 1940s which is likely to be the one with wagons in it shown above. This was not a source of high quality ballast and was only used for emergencies.
Another location where ballast was taken along the Midland Line was Sawmill Stream at approximately the location shown above. Probably this dates from the construction days and only one reference to it from 1923 has been found so far.