Tuesday 24 September 2019

Project Diary 2019-09-24: Main South Line

The southern most section of the Main South Line, from Templeton to Burnham, for the Greater Christchurch maps, has been completed in a mosaic form, with eras of historical maps varying from the early 1940s through to the year 2000. We had only intended to go as far as Rolleston, but as Burnham is just south of there and did have its own railway siding into the army camp, it was decided there was no harm in including that stationb. Apart from Templeton, Rolleston and Burnham, this mosaic project also includes Weedons and Weedons Air Base Siding. The air base site was opened sometime in the 1940s and closed roughly 60 years later, but the last remaining storage hangar was only removed quite recently.

The current Linz aerial photos we have of Rolleston are too old to show the Port of Lyttelton inland port site details, and since Canterbury Maps have much more recent ones, we will endeavour to find some way we can use the more recent imagery.

Mosaics are mostly completed for the rest of the Main South Line but there is still a bit of work to be done on the Lyttelton-Heathcote section. The Hornby Industrial Line section to Lincoln has been mosaiced and we are currently doing research on this section from Archives New Zealand. What has still to be carried out is the overlaps between all of the different mosaic projects that are of continuous sections of the rail corridor. In general the MSL corridor is mapped as a continuous section from Heathcote to Islington, and the Hornby Industrial Line from Hornby (MSL junction) to Lincoln. For  practical purposes these continuous sections are divided into a number of different Gimp project files with small overlaps, usually a single column of Linz base tiles. This makes it possible to easily copy overlapping layers between Gimp projects so that the other layers in a project can be lined up with the overlaps; this means that when the tiles are all viewed together in Qgis, everything lines up nicely across all the different sections. In Qgis the tiles are grouped by station, so that the different eras of a station's aerial photos can be turned on or off as the base imagery for each section of the maps. 

The local government elections in Christchurch are now underway and we await the results with interest. We believe that greater Government intervention in Christchurch is required to reorganise the planning focus of the city to designate the key rail corridors for their importance to urban development to get a full public transport focus for commuter rail in the city. The new city council will need to focus more on working with other bodies cooperatively and drop the previous council's efforts to take over the public transport system which has been an unneeded distraction. Public transport should continue to be regionally organised with increased powers given to the regional council. The Government has been content to date to leave the business cases for commuter rail to be developed by the local authorities which is really just giving a nod to their fellow Labour Party members in those authorities rather than actually indicating a genuine intention to bring about the implementation of such a service.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Project Diary 2019-09-12: Hornby Industrial Line

As we continue assembling maps for Christchurch Transport Blog use, currently we have shifted to the Hornby Industrial Line, which is historically the section of the former Southbridge Branch from Hornby to Lincoln. It was designated as such in July 1962 after the branch was closed beyond Lincoln. In December 1967, the section of the Hornby Industrial Line between Prebbleton and Lincoln was closed. Subsequently, the section from around 3 km to Prebbleton was closed, although most of the track is still in place as far as Springs Road, except for the section now crossed by the Christchurch Southern Motorway, SH76. The Prebbleton overbridge was demolished in 1997, and all of the corridor south of Springs Road has been built over. The section from south of SH76 to Springs Road has been reused for a rail trail alongside the mothballed track. 

From time to time the idea is floated that the line could be reopened to Lincoln and if this were to take place, the route beyond Prebbleton would have to be changed due to the reuse of the corridor, including new station sites.

The maps below show some of the sidings which can be traced in the 2015 aerial photography. We know that many more will be visible on the historical map mosaic tiles when they are finished.

Around 1 km, with a siding visible across the site of a demolished building.
Around  1.5 km, at least three sidings are still partly in place.
Quite a notable siding around 2 km.  These premises are currently occupied by Pengelly Transport and may possibly have been used by Toll Freight at one stage.
The lengthy Watties-Tegel siding at around 2.5 km. This was the last siding used on the line. With the closing of this siding, there is no traffic currently moving on the line.
United Empire Box Co Ltd (known today as UEB) seen above in 1973 with a siding. There is no obvious trace on the aerial photos of this siding today.
UEB in 2015.
Prebbleton yard seen in 2012.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Project Diary 2019-09-07

As some will know, this week CHAT Club released their "MaRTI proposal", which suggests the Middleton rail yards could be turned into a housing development. A couple of posts about it have appeared on Christchurch Transport Blog, but the indepth analysis hasn't been done until the historical maps of Middleton are ready. As per usual this has taken longer than expected but right now they are about to be saved in their final form.

The Gimp project covering this part of the MSL takes in from Middleton to Sockburn in order to keep the project at a reasonable size but it still has nearly 80 layers and a file size of just over 30 GiB. As per usual we start with 1940 as the first era covered, then 1950 and 1961. These three eras in particular are pretty much what can be found to cover any part of the railway landscape in Christchurch, but they are not rail specific. They vary up to about 1:16,700 scale. What is rail specific for this particular part of the MSL rail corridor are the NZR station surveys, which are in particular for Middleton in 1967, Hornby in 1972, Middleton again in 1975 and Sockburn in 1980. The actual areas covered extend outside those named stations. Typically the station surveys have a scale of around 1:4300.

Then we have the MSL corridor survey starting at Lyttelton and heading to Ashburton in this case, and it dates from 1984. Scale for these corridor surveys is usually 1:5500. To finish off we have two more non-rail surveys which are again standardised over much of Christchurch, and they are from 1994, and the only colour one which is from 2000. These last two are at a scale of 1:50,000 and because they cover such a large area at that scale, they have to be trimmed down to covering only the base tiles that we actually use in order to avoid a lot of unnecessary pixels having to be saved in the file and blowing it up too big. To explain further, these are the only layers that cover the whole area of the project canvas in one single layer, and with a canvas that is only half filled, due to the shape of the base not being a nice and regular, we have to avoid covering areas of the canvas that aren't occupied by the base layers, because it just wastes file space unnecessarily and it can add up to a few extra GiB each time we save, which is a big deal.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Project Diary 2019-09-03

Chat Club, a group of transport professionals that has been running rail passenger workshops in Christchurch, proposed at a seminar on Monday evening that the Middleton rail yards could be closed down and relocated further west, to enable the land occupied to be redeveloped for medium density affordable housing (1600 homes approximately). About 50 people attended the presentation, including a number of candidates in the upcoming local elections.

There have been two articles in the "Press" so far:
The first one is the details of the proposal and the second one states that Kiwirail is not planning to move from the Middleton site.

At this stage it will be interesting to see where the proposals go as it will now have to be looked into further as an option if the Minister of Transport decides to investigate the idea. At the same time there are several other possible sites nearby, such as Addington Saleyards, Waltham freight yards and Linwood Loco Depot land which has either been undeveloped or minimally developed.

As for NZ Rail Maps we have historical maps of Middleton currently in the works and these will probably be posted on this site later this week or early next week. We also will have the historical maps of Linwood and Waltham available soon as well.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Project Diary 2019-09-01: Comment on our relationship with the rest of the NZ rail heritage community

As many of you know, we have not always enjoyed good productive relationships with the rest of the NZ rail community which is partly why this project has its own separate Facebook presence and our involvement of various hobbyist groups has waxed and waned over the years. Ongoing politics relating to this project and to Patrick personally has continued to the present day.

Because of this the decision was made the decision over the last week to withdraw from every Facebook rail-specific group and the implementation of this was completed as of today. A project-related membership is still held of one or two minor and specialist groups that are not read or visited very often which are exclusively related to map production and sharing.

It may be we will review the group membership and rejoin in the future but at the present time we just need a break from these forums which has been a difficult and ongoing issue over the past decade or more.

There are a few people in the Project's own Facebook group who have provided us with or may be able to continue providing us with valuable resources in the future and we would certainly like to thank each and every one of you who has assisted with this and is able to keep assisting with this into the future.

This decision does not in any way affect the continuation of the project in the slightest. It is simply a reflection that a break is needed from these groups which are currently contributing very little to the overall project and we need time to evaluate the contribution they are making to the project and whether it has been worthwhile. We have left those groups on good terms with the admins and could easily choose to rejoin any of the major ones at any future time.

The project will continue the same tomorrow as it did yesterday or last week or the month before and all of its resources including our own Facebook group, Blogger blog, the Wordpress website, and Google Photos albums of all the information will carry on exactly as they do now.

The decision reached is to allow us to concentrate on this project more exclusively and to facilitate stronger relationships with other related projects that are Canterbury based. This includes membership of local and national railway preservation societies and contributions made to them, and the development of rail campaigning that is being facilitated through Christchurch Transport Blog. Membership is retained of a small number of groups related specifically to the campaign interest. It has been found that the personal relationships being fostered through these developments in groups with relatively smaller membership have become far more valuable than much of the associations and acquaintances that have occurred through the broad based rail community Facebook forums and the interaction with their large membership.

We believe the future of this project and of our work in Canterbury and to some extent nationally in promoting rail and rail heritage looks bright for the coming weeks and months and we welcome and acknowledge all the ongoing support of each and every person who has supported this project since it began in its current form at the start of 2008. Currently the project is working to an assumption that over the next two or three years there will be a concerted and conclusive effort to bring as much of the project as possible to a completed state so that the activity level on it can be wound down. This has been alluded to in posts at earlier times referring to development schedules. As this year's original development schedule has not been met, due to other projects becoming more prominent, it will be reviewed at the end of this year and revised accordingly to make sure it is still possible to achieve the original goal. We anticipate it will not be possible to continue the current scale of map production of the last three years in particular although there is no timeframe for when the current level of resourcing is expected to decrease, and as referred to in the last one or two posts, resourcing has been increased this week to enable the mosaics in particular to be produced more rapidly because that is the part of the project that takes the most time to complete.  The additional resources cost a mere $62 to provide and consist of a larger SSD for a computer and have had a significant impact and will enable us to much more efficiently utilise project time which is very important as there are now the competing demands that will continue.

To conclude and summarise the project leadership does not believe that this decision will have any major impact on the project, the project schedule will not be changed from where it was yesterday or in the last week or month, the project welcomes and continues to welcome the contribution of all the members of our Facebook forum and other associated means of contribution, and the project continues to forsee a bright future for the continuation of the project in the coming weeks and months. Thankyou to all personally for your support.