Monday 30 March 2020

NZ Rail Maps Project Development Report [2020F]

In our last update we mentioned that we were considering relaxing the development schedule and allowing two years to complete the maps as expected. The key reason for this is that the level we are currently developing maps to will need longer than the current year to achieve, with the Intermediate level that we are working to.

This has naturally brought about the suggestion that we should work to release all 12 volumes to the Basic level as quickly as possible, and then push on with volume by volume completion to the next level.

However at this point we need to redefine the Basic, Intermediate and Comprehensive levels. In summary:
  • Basic is a set of diagram maps of the current and known historical rail corridors based on current aerial photography and other current sources.
  • Intermediate adds aerial maps, including georeferenced historical aerial photography, to the Basic level
  • Comprehensive adds a printable PDF volume to the Basic and Intermediate levels.
It's appropriate to change these because our priorities have changed. We now regard the online formats (diagrams and aerials) as being the highest priority and reaching the greatest number of users. The posts we made earlier this year defining these levels will therefore be republished.

Whilst the PDF volume format of the maps is still important to us, there are two facets of it that have to be considered for resourcing. The first is that the maps that are produceable in PDF form have to be a unique form factor just for those volumes. This means we have to generate a completely different set of diagrams from the ones that are on the web site. The second issue is simply that there is low demand for this format. Hence it is becoming the lowest priority overall and we now consider it to be the premium format that will take a lot longer to appear.

We are still very serious about completing the 12 volumes and bringing the overall project to a close. We anticipate staging that out over the next three years. The stages will be as follows:

  1. Completion of all 12 volumes to a Basic level will be undertaken serially after Volume 6 is released. This should only take about 2 months.
  2. Serial completion of individual volumes (after Volume 5 and Volume 5) to Intermediate level. This will continue much as it does now, but is now expected to take until the end of 2021.
  3. Complete the Comprehensive level, i.e PDF volume, in all 12 volumes over 2022.
 So for now we'll be pushing on with the Volume 6 Intermediate level, then we'll be switching to Basic level of the other 10 volumes. We will then go back to Intermediate level for those 10 volumes, and then Comprehensive level for all 12. This will ensure there is at least some maps available for all 12 volumes in the shortest possible time and then they are being progressively upgraded to the full level of coverage.

Wairarapa Line [0V]: Volume 6 Progress Update 22

So we've taken a couple of decisions over the last few days. The key decision that relates to this volume, Volume 6, is to do with the "Western Hutt Section", which is our name for the original rail corridor from Petone to Haywards on the west bank of the Hutt River. Like the Rimutaka Incline Section, this has been closed for more than 65 years, but retains considerable historical significance, especially as there is so little to be found of it today.

We've relied on the 1939-41 historical coverage of this area from Retrolens, the key difficulty being that the 1939 coverage is nearly all in shadow and that from 1941 is of lower resolution. There is also coverage from 1951, which is at 1:7000 which is very good but being from Survey 570 that we currently don't have access to, and may not for some considerable time, we've been unable to produce a good enough quality of aerial coverage for this section.

We have decided to spend a little time (not more than a day) adding 1957 aerial coverage that is of better quality than the other stuff for various reasons. Although of low resolution (1:32400) it does show up a lot of detail that isn't visible today and will be useful for showing what the route looked like just after it closed. We are still keen to add the 1951 coverage whenever it becomes available, but having this coverage available will let us push on and publish these maps with the rest of Volume 6, and look at updating them at a later time.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [0U]: Volume 6 Progress Update 21

This week's progress has got us started on the Rimutaka Incline Section going through as far as Mangaroa Tunnel. We're now working on the next section through to Kaitoke, and from there to Summit, Cross Creek, Pigeon Bush and eventually Featherston.

Originally our timetable for this week called for us to be through to Masterton by the end of this week. That has been allowed to slip in order to spend more time working on historical aspects of the Rimutaka Incline Section. So we are looking at getting through to Featherston by the end of next week, and then push through to Masterton and hopefully beyond the week after. This should see the full volume of maps completed late April.

Although as mentioned in the recently produced project development report we are relaxing the pace somewhat in terms of how many volumes we produce this year, it doesn't mean we have lost sight of the overall goal. We are still very keen to get a completion on the entire project. For example having completed Volume 5 earlier this year, we haven't at any recent time felt like looking over that volume again. We're pleased it has been completed and that we don't have to work on it anymore. So the schedule for Volume 6 is being slipped a little but we still are very keen to see it completed.

We are considering an option that we looked at before, for changing the entire project schedule to produce Basic completion (diagrams only) for every route as quickly as possible and then the Intermediate completion at our current level in a longer timeframe, so we may look at that option again and get every volume at Basic level first, which takes much less time, and then put in the more comprehensive coverage. What this would mean is you would see just a set of diagrams for each volume rolled out quite quickly, and then the aerials would come out later. The reason is that we still want to have as many diagrams available as soon as possible and if the overall project schedule has slipped to two years, then we still want to get those diagrams out first.

Saturday 28 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [1A]: Rimutaka Deviation [1A]: Upper Hutt-Maymorn

So here is our first article specifically about the Wairarapa Line main line route. There is a lot to this route, and articles that we write about it will not follow a sequence corresponding to the geographical sequence of the line itself. This is because this corridor has had so many different parts to it and some of these have already been blogged about under different names. But we will use series and subseries numbering to distinguish between the different parts of the route. For this first article we are documenting the new section of railway that was constructed from 1948 to 1955 and generally known as the "Rimutaka Deviation", being in general focused around the Remutaka Rail Tunnel through the Remutaka Mountains.

There is probably a whole story all by itself to be written about the Remutaka Tunnel project because Cameron only has a chapter about it at the end of the book. The tunnel itself was mostly bored by an American/NZ private consortium, but the work was started by the NZ government's Public Works Department, which built many of the railways in this country, and we can speculate that the change of government in 1949 probably saw a desire by the new National Party administration to contract out the work, because PWD in fact did drive almost a kilometre of the tunnel itself until the contract was signed in 1951 with the private consortium (Morris Knudsen and Downers), that completed the project. Apart from the tunnel there was other work like the formation, the shorter Maoribank Tunnel and bridging, and Cameron is unclear as to who actually constructed these additional works, noting only that in February 1955, the two tunnels, formation and piers of four bridges were handed over to NZR at that time.  

Our aerial photos for this section, beyond Upper Hutt Station, are mostly from the dates 1943, 1951 and 1957. The 1943 showing the route before any deviation work was undertaken, 1951 during the construction, and 1957 after. By  mere coincidence, the 1951 aerial photos come from Survey 570, which was flown on 7 May 1951, the day on which the contract was signed for the private construction of the Rimutaka Tunnel. The work of the tunnel construction being taken over by the private consortium in June the same year. 

The following are a few randomly chosen maps. There is a lot of stuff for interest in this area because of the development of the Rimutaka Deviation.

At 34.5 km on the Rimutaka Deviation just past Upper Hutt. The bridge B35B at the end of Cruickshanks Road provides convenient public access to the historical area and tunnel. To the right we can see the probable site of Cruickshanks first sawmill. However this would be much harder to pinpoint since 1955 as earthworks for the new embankment are likely to have destroyed any historical traces.

Up between 35.5 and 36 km we can see in the 1957 aerial, at the end of Moeraki Road, a large flat area. This was very probably a work site for driving the Maoribank Tunnel, which is just around the next curve out of sight on the right of this picture.

Maoribank Tunnel under construction in 1951 with the formation works underway.

Bridge 37 approaches being formed just north of Maoribank Tunnel. This bridge crosses the Mangaroa River.

Overview of the Maymorn area, 1943, 1951 and 1957, showing the changes made for the tunnel and deviation construction. The housing area at the south side (along Old School Rd) remained in place for another 10-15 years or so after the deviation was finished. Old School Rd follows the access siding that was built to connect Maymorn with the existing line from Upper Hutt. The siding was used to bring in materials into Maymorn by rail, but it had not been constructed at the time the 1951 aerial was taken, and its route is only apparent in the 1957 map.

Maymorn shortly after the deviation opened is seen in the 1957 aerial photo above. A culvert has been installed under the railway tracks at the south end as seen to the left

When Maymorn was first opened it had a crossing loop and two passenger platforms, as seen in the 1980 aerial map above. This was at a time when there were more passenger services on the Wairarapa Line than is the case today. Over time, the loop and second passenger platform were taken out of service. In recent years Greater Wellington Regional Council has taken a look at extending suburban passenger services from Wellington beyond Upper Hutt as far as Maymorn, including the possibility of extending the electric overhead. The Government agreed to reinstate the Maymorn crossing loop in January 2020 but the second platform site was previously leased to the Rimutaka Incline Railway and the platform itself has been dug away. GWRC or Kiwirail should be cancelling the lease for that part of the Maymorn yard to allow for future reinstatement of the second platform for suburban trains.

Friday 27 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [7B]: Rimutaka Incline Section [1B]: Upper Hutt - Mangaroa Tunnel [2]: Mangaroa Station-Mangaroa Tunnel

So here we are with the second part of a two part series on the Upper Hutt to Mangaroa Tunnel segment of the "Rimutaka Incline Section". In this part we look at the part of this route from the Mangaroa station to Tunnel 2 (the Mangaroa Tunnel). We will follow this with the first article on the present day route from a historical perspective as there is still 65 years of history that has unfolded since the opening of the Rimutaka Deviation.

One of the challenges for researching Mangaroa station is that Cameron's book hardly mentions it. It may be that we have missed some detail in the book having not read it for some considerable time, but there is no entry for Mangaroa in the index section for stations, so it is difficult to find the detail for it in the book.

Generally for the coverage of this article, we can refer back to the yard diagrams and aerials published in the previous article and general data from the gradient diagram in Cameron. So for a general description let us refer to this diagram from the series introduction.

The general description of this route is there is an initial traverse of the Cruickshank Saddle or Mangaroa Hill from Upper Hutt with very steep gradient of 1 in 35 and very sharp curves down to 100 metre radius. The line then enters the Mangaroa Valley. It climbs more gently and straightly, with a long straight portion between the two former stations, both of which were called Mungaroa at one time or other, the average grade being around 1 in 100. It then starts to climb off the plains into the hills around Kaitoke and at this point the corridor becomes publicly accessible, being used for various cycle trails as it enters "Tunnel Gully Reserve". The map finishes at the Mangaroa Tunnel which is publicly accessible as part of Tunnel Gully and the cycle/walking trails of the area. Gradients on the climb to the tunnel are around the 1 in 50 mark until Kaitoke itself is reached.

Aerial and diagram for the first section of the route past Mangaroa. At upper left is the World War II army base that was established at Mangaroa. As of 2015 this was still defence force land with housing along Alamein Ave, which was mostly built postwar, but the rest of its functions have long since ceased, and it looks very different nowadays, although the circular road is still in place. We don't know if they had their own siding into this base or if they used the RNZAF sidings or the yard. At lower left, Seeds tramway can be seen coming into Mangaroa along Flux Road.

This aerial and diagram cover our next point of significance which is the original Mungaroa station. There's not a lot of documentation on why this was chosen to be the site of a station; Cameron isn't any help on this at all. It was at about 23 miles 20 chains from Wellington. There seems to have been a sawmill and brickyards both on the south side of it at various times and the brickyards might have had their own siding. The yard definitely ended before the bridge. The sawmill had its own short tramway to bring product into the railway yard for loading onto trains.

Mungaroa (according to Juliet Scoble's work "Dates And Names") was operated as a station from 1878 to 1891. The station was then relocated to Flux Road where it stayed until the line closed in 1955. However, in the early 1910s, a company called May Morn Estates was set up with the involvement of Arthur Seed (part of the Seeds referred to previously) and a siding was installed for their use. They had a sawmill in Maclaren Street at about the marked point. The tramway which was worked by a steam engine ran all the way up past Twin Lakes crossing the Hutt River on a large wooden bridge into Akatarawa Forest. It was operated for a relatively short period, closing down at the advent of World War 1. During 1915, part of the site and some buildings were leased by the NZ Army to establish the Maymorn Camp. It is important to note this was a different and separate site from the World War II Mangaroa army camp which we referred to at the top of this article. The history of May Morn Estates can be found in the research notes published on the Valley Signals website.

This location is about where the straight and flat part of the line ends and where it starts to climb into the hills towards the Mangaroa Tunnel. To the right on the diagram you can see the connecting siding into Maymorn Station (it was also called Mangaroa for the first few years) that was put in during the construction of the Rimutaka Deviation. We will look more into this when we talk about Maymorn Station in another article about the current railway from Upper Hutt to Featherston.

 This is a 1957 aerial map of the next piece of the railway line climbing towards the tunnel and of particular interest is the siding we referred to going up to Maymorn, which can be seen heading into what was part of the Rimutaka Deviation works construction camp. Of which more later. In the top right corner we can see the present Wairarapa Line going into the entrance of the Remutaka Tunnel, also covered later (both topics in another post, not this one).

1943 aerial and a diagram of the last bit of the route covered by this article, as the line crosses a bridge and reaches the Mangaroa Tunnel. Referring to the diagram, you can see "Tunnel Gully Access" coming in next to the bridge upper left, and that is a cycle/walking trail built in recent years from Maymorn Station up to the existing Tunnel Gully tunnel trail which passes through Mangaroa Tunnel, as the diagram shows. The bridge was sometimes referred to as "Dry Creek" and according to Cameron on page 276-277 it was built after a track subsidence there in 1903. There may be some remains of this bridge still at the site but having visited there in the late 1990s, we did not then attempt to locate the bridge as the trail at that point simply ended there and the bridge site was well hidden in the scrub. The access from Maymorn appears to have been cut in the 2000s.

There is one other point of interest in this map just past that bridge and that is whether a siding has been put in to some location along the railway. We have not found any records of any railway siding being there but what can be seen on the aerials at this point should be looked into further at some point of time. 

Tunnel Gully is an interesting location in its own right and is separate from the main area of the Remutaka Rail Trail, because of the privately owned land section around Kaitoke Station that has not been opened up along the old corridor. We will look into these topics in more depth in the article about Kaitoke (WL [7B] RIS [2]).

Wairarapa Line [7B]: Rimutaka Incline Section [1A]: Upper Hutt - Mangaroa Tunnel [1]: Upper Hutt-Mangaroa

So here is the first in a series of 5 articles looking at the "Rimutaka Incline Section", which is an NZ Rail Maps name for the route from Upper Hutt to Featherston via the Rimutaka Incline. In this first pair of articles we are looking at the part from Upper Hutt to the Mangaroa Tunnel, which includes several station sites.

If one visits the Valley Signals site, there are several relevant sections for this area, among them Upper Hutt History, Maymorn Estates and Cruickshanks Tunnel. These are comprised of indepth research undertaken by David Castle over the past 20 years into the general area which incorporates the historical railway that closed 65 years ago. David has supplied additional material not on the site which has been added to maps as well. The full set of production maps for the Rimutaka Incline Section will be published in full when Volume 6 is released but for now you will have to rely on the albums that appear on our Facebook page or group if you want to see the complete set of them. 

Depending on which part of the section we are looking at, we have coverage available from 1943, 1951, 1957, 1963, 1970, 1980, 2016 or 2017. Only Google Photos will let you see the original filename of each map, which includes in it the year that the aerial photos were taken. Unfortunately there is no other simple way of indicating this date, since it is impractical to label the map itself with this information. Once we get out of the immediate Upper Hutt residential area the coverage is almost all 1943, 1951 or 1957. with just a little bit from 1980 at Maymorn.

One part of the additional information from Valleysignals is the existence of sidings near the 21 mile peg just north/east of Upper Hutt. These are marked as "refuse dump" and there were two of them as the diagram shows. The aerial photo is from 1943 when the line was still in operation, and the plan from which the information comes is around that date. Note the prominent embankment to the left. Unfortunately this was bulldozed with the recent development of housing in the area. However the rest of the formation is substantially complete and it can be accessed from the end of King Charles Drive to reach the tunnel. The refuse dump siding is shown in the NZRLS 1947 working timetable reprint.

It is not too much further on that the first tunnel is reached (this would be called No.1 Tunnel in the official records, but as many tunnels also had a name, Cruickshanks Tunnel is also well known). The diagram shows a bridge crossing the cutting just west of the tunnel; this was part of the route of a logging tramway for Cruickshanks Sawmill, which was located in Cruickshanks Road in Upper Hutt. The location of that mill appears on the Wairarapa Line maps being adjacent to the present railway rather than the former one. According to Cameron ("A Line Of Railway") a siding was built just "a few chains" north of the tunnel to load timber from the tramway, known as "Cruickshanks" but was lifted in 1889. However, Castle's more recent work published on his VS website does not, as far as I can tell, confirm this in any way. In our previous maps we suggested an approximate location for "Cruickshanks" but being now less certain, we have removed it from the map, and have elected not to draw any possible route for the sawmill tramway at this time. Those who are more interested in this subject may elect to look up the detailed research information on the VS website. There is a whole lot more history than a simple rail history map like this could show but it is still possible we may add the tramway route before publishing the final maps.

For operational purposes the line from Upper Hutt to Mangaroa was split into two parts, divided by the short section of track between No.1 Tunnel and the Mangaroa River bridge. This single diagram and 1943 aerial map show the second part of the section, from the Mangaroa River bridge (far left) to Mangaroa Station (just out of view to the far right) including the second major bridge across what is currently known as Cooleys Stream. The first part of the section, including the tunnel itself, had a continuous gradient of 1 in 35 uphill from Upper Hutt, which is very severe by railway standards and is uncommon on any major route. It was unusual in the case of the Rimutaka Incline Section that this gradient was left in place for such a long time when it could have easily been lowered with a longer tunnel through Cruickshank Saddle. 
This meant trains had to be banked over the hill with extra locomotives. As the line was tablet controlled, bank engine key working was provided for. The bank engine on the rear of the train as it left Upper Hutt would carry this key, and would be coupled onto the train all the way up to the bridge. The train would then be stopped for long enough to uncouple the bank engine, which would then run back down to Upper Hutt, whilst the rest of the train continued on the much easier climb to Mangaroa at 1 in 167, which steepened to 1 in 115 on reaching the station. The bank engine key had to be returned to the Upper Hutt stationmaster before the tablet carried on the train engine when it reached Mangaroa could be put back into the machine and any new tablet issued for the section.
Apart from the gradient, the other defining characteristic of the Upper Hutt to Mangaroa Bridge section, was its numerous sharp curves with a radius of about 100 metres. These are also very sharp by mainline standards and limit a train to a maximum speed of only 30 km/h. But because of the gradient, some commentators have suggested a train was unlikely to be moving much faster than 15 km/h when going uphill anyway. In order to ensure the braking system on the train could cope when the train was running south, downhill, in this section, there would be a limit on the size of the train, maybe about 200 tonnes. All these factors together made this part of the railway have a very limited load capacity. But the real defining factor was of course the Rimutaka Incline itself with its 1 in 15 gradient. As long as that was limiting the whole section, there was never any real incentive to make any improvements anywhere else and that's why there was only ever one realignment at Summit when more space was needed for the yard. Then in 1955 the Rimutaka Deviation fixed everything in one go with a completely new route and much easier gradients.

In the last four years of the Rimutaka Incline Section, diesel traction started to be introduced on the NZR, so some trains were worked by DE class locomotives. These were primarily designed for yard and mainline shunting use - that is to say, shunting in yards as well as roving shunts that travel between stations. They did not have multiple unit capability and only had 660 hp engines, so there was still a requirement for double heading with a crew in each cab. In any case, steam was still in use as well, partly because the DEs did not have the braking systems needed for heavy freight trains. The opening of the Rimutaka Deviation was at least dictated by the availability of enough mainline capable diesel locomotives because it was planned that it would never be operated by steam engines. At the date it opened there were just three DG class locomotives in NZ as a whole, and all of them were put into service to run its trains, but these also went from Upper Hutt to Summit on a number of occasions in the last year of the Incline's operation. It was definitely preferred to run diesels on passenger excursions on the Incline section (except for the Incline itself), probably for greater passenger comfort by eliminating smoke nuisance. The regular passenger services since 1936 were mostly handled by the Wairarapa railcars, but very occasionally Standards were used for operational reasons. Many excursion trains were run in the last months of the Incline's operation and there are numerous photos of these trains running with DEs and DGs, as well as DEs hauling the Royal Train of 1953/54. We don't really know how much diesel and how much steam was used without further research but there are plenty of pictures of steam hauled trains on the line in 1955 to know that steam locomotives continued to operate on this section until closure.

These two diagrams and one aerial (from 1943) are of Mangaroa Station. The key feature seen in that era was the RNZAF Stores Base which was in use till the late 1940s, after which it would have been offered to other Government agencies. Some commentators have suggested the Army may have taken up use of the buildings at that time. It appears they are privately owned today. It was served by two railway sidings shown on the second diagram. The first diagram shows the location of the concrete edged loading bank which is the only remaining trace of the station currently. There may have been other tracks in the yard but without obtaining a track diagram from Archives, we are limited to what can be picked up from the aerial photos.

Mangaroa was established in 1885 and was at first called Cruickshanks Siding. It seems to have been the second place on the line that was connected to Cruickshanks timber milling operations and a tramway ran into the station yard at one time. There was also another tramway run by Seeds which ran along Flux Rd and which can be seen in one of the diagrams. This also went into the station yard at one time or another. Seeds operation was to the south of Mangaroa and had a mill in Colletts Road. The name of the station was changed to Mungaroa in 1891 and Mangaroa in 1909. After 1955, the name of Mangaroa was transferred to the new station near the Rimutaka Tunnel, which was then renamed Maymorn in 1959.

Well that's the completion of the first part of these two articles on the first piece of the "Rimutaka Incline Section". As soon as we have the next lot of maps ready we will publish the second part.

Wairarapa Line [7B]: Rimutaka Incline Section [0A]: Introduction

In the midst of NZ going to level 4 of COVID-19 lockdown we have continued with our progress on Volume 6 and the past few days has been spent on the "Rimutaka Incline Section" (unofficial name) from Upper Hutt as far as the second tunnel (shown as T2 on the maps and generally known as the "Mangaroa Tunnel". We have looked at a number of sources provided by David Castle, who is perhaps better known as the webmaster of the Valley Signals site, and distilled into the maps as much information as appears relevant and which we can be reasonably confident of, in the time available, and it is now time to move forward to the next section so undoubtedly there are going to be some questions over what to include or not but it is assuredly time to push things forward.

We have decided that owing to the immense historical significance of this line and the high level of interest, that instead of publishing just progress updates, we will produce a research series of articles for this section. At the same time the previous research article series has been renumbered to reflect a more structured system of article production. Hence the base series number for this article is that it is part of WL series 7 which is the series number for the Rimutaka Incline section. We have previously had WL [7A] RIS [1] which is the series of articles published in 2018 for part of this route. Now we are starting a new series, which will be WL [7B], and this is the introduction for that series. The breakdown of each area is shown in the diagrams below.
This particular post is an introduction to the Rimutaka Incline Section. The diagram below shows the entire section from Upper Hutt to Featherston both for the original route and the current route. We use a terrain relief background and contour lines to show what the topography of the area looks like, and you'll appreciate that it is very hilly. 

The research article series will be broken down into:

Rimutaka Incline Section [1] covering from Upper Hutt to Mangaroa Tunnel.

Rimutaka Incline Section [2] covering from Mangaroa Tunnel through what is now known as "Tunnel Gully", Kaitoke station, and near the entrance to the Rimutaka Incline Rail Trail as it presently exists.  (Note this map is rotated 90 degrees compared to the previous one to make the best use of the layout)

Rimutaka Incline Section [3] covering from the present day public entrance to the rail trail, into the Remutaka Range, as far as the true southern end of the Summit Tunnel, incorporating Summit station. In railway topography, this would have been called the "northern" end of the tunnel, owing to it being being a greater mileage from Wellington than the portal at the end of the Summit yard, which they would have called "southern"). Again this is rotated 90 degrees, so that true north is more or less the right hand side of the map rather than the top.

Rimutaka Incline Section [4] covering most of the Incline itself (from the true southern end of the Summit Tunnel) as well as Cross Creek station and the exit of the line from the Remutaka Range out into the South Wairarapa plains.

Rimutaka Incline Series [5] covers the last piece including Pigeon Bush station, up to Speedys Crossing just south of Featherston. In railway terminology this was called the 3431 Service Siding and was in use from the time the Rimutaka Deviation opened, until early 1957, once the track on the RIS had been removed. The diagram below doesn't actually show Pigeon Bush station.

So that sets out the series of articles. There will be one single article for each of WL [7B] RIS [1] to WL [7B] RIS [5] as we haven't got a lot of time to write articles and they are going to come out very quickly. In fact WL [7B] RIS [1] will be published very shortly after this introduction. The only holdup in reality is updating the maps and pushing them out, and the posts will be published as soon as the maps they include are produced.

Thursday 26 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [0000]: Volume 6 Research Article Series Numbering

The next article will be one of our research articles into the Wairarapa Line. We will do this one as a break from straight progress updates. We have looked back on previous articles and there was a series numbered from 1 to 9. After that there was the second of the Volume 6 Progress Updates almost two years ago. We have renumbered the earlier article series to make a structure so we can put in further articles such as this one into that structure. The numerical series being adopted will be as follows:
  1. Main Line as it currently exists
  2. Hutt Park Railway
  3. Western Hutt Section / Melling Branch
  4. Hutt Valley Branch
  5. Gracefield Branch
  6. Silver Stream Section
  7. Rimutaka Incline Section
  8. Featherston Camp Siding
  9. Greytown Branch
Many of these names are unofficial. We do not know necessarily which official names may have been used at various times, because in several cases they were part of an officially named section and only got to be separate because of a deviation.  When maps are produced they are put into these series as well and there is a separate map set for each of these series.

We are currently working on the "Rimutaka Incline Section" and have just completed as far as we can, maps for the part of this route from Upper Hutt to the second tunnel. This will be detailed more in the article. There may be more than one research article for this section depending on how much content we decide to publish.

Monday 23 March 2020

NZ Rail Maps Project Development Report [2020E]

Here is our fifth project development report for 2020. These reports give a general overview of the whole maps project for the year 2020.

As has been outlined in previous posts in this series as well as general blog posts, we started this year on the assumption it might be possible to cover the entire set of 12 volumes in 12 months. The first volume (Volume 5) ended up 10 days behind this schedule but we thought it might be possible to catch up a bit and have the second volume completed in only about three weeks. But in fact it will take about 8 weeks to complete the second volume (Volume 6) so not only have we not caught up to the schedule, we are even further behind than we should be.

The reason for Volume 6 being behind schedule is that it covers a big urban area - Wellington - which has a large amount of history associated with it, as well as having had a lot of rail served facilities like the big Wellington yard and various branches, closed sections, depots and sidings. To give reasonable coverage to the suburban area we have had to intensify the coverage of the first 32 km from Wellington to Upper Hutt and as of this date, 6 weeks in, we have only just finished mapping that relatively short distance. We still have, however, another 140 km of route to cover to reach Woodville. It gets easier to do this because north of Upper Hutt, everything thins out a lot. However, we still expect it will take until early or mid April to complete the entire volume, and as that date approaches, we will become increasingly more keen to see this volume completed as quickly as possible.

With the completion of two volumes in close to four months and the need to have a healthy life balance in the allocation of time, we are now looking at a more realistic completion timeframe of up to two years for the 12 volumes. We feel that the NIMT (Volume 2) and some of the South Island volumes will take a bit longer to complete. We will continue to push ahead at a reasonable pace because we still want to have some sort of goal to aim at, otherwise this will never get finished. So the actual deadline is a bit more flexible, but right now we are still looking at about April 10th to complete Volume 6 at the moment.

The slowest part of the process is the historical mosaics which give us a look at the way things used to be in the past, which provide actual maps in the GIS that we can trace stuff off. Various economies and improvements have been effected in map design and production that will follow through into all future maps to make more efficient use of time going forward. The most important change is to accept impossible-to-avoid misalignments between the aerial backgrounds and the vector layers (the layers that show most features such as main lines, sidings, roads etc) by removing the expectation that vectors will always appear in exactly the right place on the aerials.

Volume 6 currently has 96 distinct map views for the 32 km of main line completed so far (in other words, an average of 333 metres of track in each view). There are 96 diagram maps and 354 aerial maps (although some of those are in fact historical maps of Wellington from 1900, rather than aerial photos). So 450 individual maps have been created so far. In Volume 5, there were just over 1000 individual maps created. We could expect probably at least that number in Volume 6 despite the significantly shorter corridor length.

Wairarapa Line [0T]: Volume 6 Progress Update 20

Welcome to Volume 6 Progress Update 20. Since our last update we have completed mapping all the way to Upper Hutt and are updating online photo albums on various platforms with the newest maps.

We are now going into the maps of the section from Upper Hutt to Featherston. In this section on the current main line there are only stations within the section at Maymorn and Rimutaka Loop as a significant part of the line is within the Rimutaka Tunnel. (N.B. Although certain features named with "Rimutaka" have been changed recently, we have not received any information about changes to the names of railway features)

However on the historical route closed in 1955, which we are calling the "Rimutaka Incline Section", there is obviously a lot of interest, and we have been able to obtain full historical coverage of the route, mostly from 1943, and this will be the major focus for map production in this section.

The project will continue to be documented both on Facebook and on our site and mailing list which has been recently established as a FB alternative. We also will be keeping up with this blog and website as previously.

The webmaster of the Valley Signals website has very kindly provided some additional resources to document the route, especially the "Rimutaka Incline Section", and we will be working through these this week as well.

A 1943 view of the first curve just beyond Upper Hutt. 

The old and new routes ran next to each other from Upper Hutt until they passed what is now a bridge over Park Street (it was then an embankment, as the road did not exist in the 1940s). This bridge is marked by the caption B35 on the map. By the time of reaching the beginning of the curve, there was already a significant difference in height, with the old line climbing steeply from Upper Hutt at 1 in 35, the present route gradient being significantly gentler. It can be observed that the two routes crossed over at the end of what was quite a sharp curve on the old line, and a bridge was installed for the original route during the construction era to allow cutting excavations to proceed on the deviation. After the Rimutaka Incline section closed, there was a gap of several days during which this bridge was removed, and the cutting excavated to the correct lower level needed to finish the Rimutaka Deviation and to finish the track laying needed to get the new line open, which would include connecting up the new route in the Upper Hutt yard.

We suppose that in theory it should be possible to observe the old embankment and cutting leading up to this crossover from Upper Hutt but as we have no means to travel there, much less time to spend attempting to investigate old railway embankments and cuttings especially with the growth of gorse and other bush in these areas, that remains an open question. The old cuttings and embankments in parts of this route remain visible to some extent but are greatly overgrown at present, although access to the first tunnel between Upper Hutt and Mangaroa has been improved in recent years.

The below map shows the view of the area in 1970. Park Street was built through some time in the 1970s (after the time this was taken). The old roadbed is fairly easy to see around the cutting, not so easy to see after it crosses over and starts to run through a series of other cuttings and embankments to climb over the hill to Mangaroa. This is really the only significant part of the route on the Upper Hutt side and certainly the only tunnel that does not have official public access.

Sunday 22 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [0S]: Volume 6 Progress Update 19

Today we have completed drawing maps all the way to Upper Hutt. We also created an email group on for the use of those who wish to contribute to the project without using Facebook.

We had anticipated some delay whilst seeking aerial coverage of the Trentham Army Camp sidings. As it eventuated, most of the detail is already on the 1970 NZR survey images because other aerial images of the area at sufficient resolution are few and the details are very hard to pick up on the ground. It would be fair to say that our coverage of the Trentham sidings is likely incomplete due to the poor amount of detail available in the aerial photos, and whilst this may benefit from the availability of images from Survey 570, as with other use of this survey, we don't know when those images will become available and have to press on without them.

Between Silverstream and Upper Hutt, only Trentham has any real detail of interest, which is the sidings mentioned above and some more at the racecourse. Unlike Lower Hutt, there did not appear to be much in the way of goods handling facilities or private sidings in the Upper Hutt section of the line. Thus, only in the case of Trentham has any detail not covered in 1970 NZR survey images needed any additional generations of aerial photography.

We now feel that if we put the use of Survey 570 to one side for now and press on, we can probably reach Masterton by the end of next week and quite possibly complete the entire volume early in April, although this is still at least three weeks beyond the schedule originally planned. We are therefore prepared to set 10 April as an absolute deadline for completion of the volume. We anticipate that apart from Survey 570, no additional aerial mosaics will be needed except for the three major stations in the Wairarapa which should take no more than a day in total to complete.

There is now an email group for the NZ Rail Maps project which can be accessed at . This provides for those who wish to follow the group by email rather than by using Facebook. The developer of is Mark Fletcher, who led the creation of Onelist back in 1997. The very first email lists we know about in the NZ rail community were set up on Onelist, including [nzrailways] which was also one of the first to shut down with 12,121 messages, when most of the members moved across to a more popular and better run list called [Tranzrailphotographers]. A group called [newzealandlocomotives] also came into being in 2002 and eventually became the most dominant group for enthusiasts in NZ. Onelist was merged into eGroups in 1999 and in 2000 it was taken over by Yahoo and became Yahoo Groups. The service is still operated, although since January 2020 the web based features have been removed and it can only be used via email, so all the extras like message archives, photos, files, calendars, polls etc have been removed along with their content. A quick check for this post showed that out of the major NZ rail community groups, only [newzealandlocomotives] still exists on Yahoo Groups and apparently remains active, with several other large groups apparently having been deleted some time ago.

We haven't got any predefined assumptions about what our group will achieve, but like our group on Facebook, it will receive all of these blog posts automatically, and it will be linked to the development map sets for each volume as these are created. To this end it is necessary to use some Google photo albums on a different Google account from the NZ Rail Maps one just to make it easier to manage the content. The finally published map sets will appear as usual in  the NZ Rail Maps Google photo albums and will be linked to from the web site as per usual. However, the group will show the most recently available maps for the current volume, those which have been created within the most recent calendar week.

The general area of the army base and two sidings on either side of it. The leftmost one was actually used by the Ministry of Works.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [0R]: Volume 6 Progress Update 18

Good day to our readers. This update is quite soon after the last one but that one was so delayed waiting for us to put in maps of Silverstream that we just sent it out incomplete. We do now have these maps and some examples are below.

A key focus for this update has been a schedule revision as work has slowed a lot over the past few days, but is going to pick up again. We are now looking at a more realistic schedule for completing the work to Masterton, and we expect that could be one week but quite possibly two. The base maps are completed to Upper Hutt at this stage but the historical maps will include several sidings at Trentham that previously existed. Because we have already mapped Upper Hutt there is no additional work needed. Beyond Upper Hutt we will be relying on previous work done on this section and only limited revision will be needed until we get to Featherston and have aerial photos available of the three station yards. Beyond Masterton we are just using the base imagery and not planning to add any aerial coverage, and Woodville is already well covered.

So it is possible now a more realistic completion could be somewhere around the 10th of April, one month later than originally planned. The reason why the schedule has slipped so much is we have not taken into account the large amount of detail in the Wellington suburban area and the time it takes to research it and add it to maps. However as there are only four urban areas of similar size in NZ it does not follow that every volume of maps is going to be slowed down the same amount, but it does follow that the schedule overall is probably going to slip a bit more. It is hard to say at this stage whether two years might be a more realistic prospect. We are quite certain now that the full 12 volumes of maps will not be completed to the original schedule of 12 months but we still think we may get 9 or 10 volumes completed in 2020 and possibly just volume 2 and 12 would be pushed into 2021, since so much work has been already done on some of the volumes.

Some other news is we can get survey 570 taken up the Hutt Valley in 1951 directly from Linz although at the moment there might be a delay. If there is a delay, it's possible we may push on to the expected completion timeframe and re-publish affected maps once we can get those aerial photos, which cover the Western Hutt section, Silver Stream, Upper Hutt to Mangaroa and one or two other interesting places. The scale is at 1:7000 which especially for Western Hutt would be really useful as what we have at the moment in the area taken in 1939 would have been good but most of it is in shadow.
Another useful resource to date has been the Valley Signals site and we have since obtained further resources from the webmaster of that site. We are being choosy about whether to incorporate any of those into mosaics, which is time consuming, or just transcribing information. Nevertheless there is additional valuable information therein that will fill in a few gaps here and there. We will also soon have access to a North Island working timetable but this will mainly inform more recent history and probably that will mainly affect the line north of Featherston where we are not doing anything in depth like we have in urban Wellington/Hutt.

1945 aerial view of Silverstream Bridge going across into the siding on the south side where the hospital was.

Silverstream Bridge Siding as in 1945. This is currently the site of McKirdy Station on the Silver Stream Railway and some of the markings shown on the map such as the turntable, engine shed and station building are related to that. There appears to have been no passenger station there, only what looks like a goods loading shelter over the siding. The siding itself was just alongside the main line and did not run into the hospital site as we had earlier thought.

A 1970 map showing the site of both Silverstream stations.  Work was then underway to build an underpass at Field Street and the site of the two railway bridges with the rail tracks diverted around them can be seen.

This diagram corresponds to the previous aerial map.

Thursday 19 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [0Q]: Volume 6 Progress Update 17

Welcome to Volume 6 Progress Update 17. Work on the maps is now well underway on the section of the Wairarapa Line from Waterloo to Upper Hutt and hopefully all the way to Masterton by the end of this week in order to have a reasonable prospect of keeping to the schedule and having the full volume published by the end of March. This means a lot of work and various decisions having to be taken to ensure the production goes as quickly as possible. In particular in the production of historic mosaics, it means ensuring they are finished rapidly and with as few redraws as is absolutely necessary. 

Over the past couple of days as an example it was highly desirable to redraw mosaics for Silverstream because of a significant misalignment issue that was discovered in an area where for historical accuracy it has been highly necessary to make a correction. This is where the railway crossed over the Hutt River on the old Silverstream Bridge and our interest in accuracy is high because we have managed to discover that, contrary to ordinary expectations, the old single track formation, rather than being joined to the double track at the entrance to the 90 degree curve at the west end of the bridge, or perhaps running immediately east of the double track, actually ran west of it for some distance before in fact crossing over it at the start of the curve. This is why in the Quail maps there is a distinct location marked as "Haywards Junction" where the old and new routes joined.

Between Woburn and Silverstream Bridge we only have two historical aerial generations for the various stations, 1939/1941 and 1969/1970. Most of these stations in the eastern Hutt Valley did not in fact exist in the earlier period as the line between Waterloo and Haywards was not started until c.1946 and finally completed in 1954. The 1969/70 aerial coverage is of such good quality and the changes in these suburban passenger stations (as they are today) are relatively few so they can be adequately covered with only 1969/70 in addition to current. Nevertheless some of these stations like Naenae and Taita did have goods yards and facilities which is a far cry from their current passenger only operations. 

But once we get to Silverstream, with its interesting history because of the deviation and reuse as a heritage railway, there is enough going on there to have generations for 1941, 1945 (bridge only, at higher resolution), 1957, 1963 and 1984. So that has taken up a fair bit of work since the last update. We also found some better quality coverage of Haywards itself in 1947 that will be added to the maps as well. We now however have to go much faster through to Upper Hutt and then over the Remutakas but have done a lot of these areas previously so we hope to progress fairly rapidly there but it is still going to be a tough challenge to meet that deadline. 

As of today, maps are currently drawn all the way to Haywards (both routes) and have been produced for the main line to Pomare (just south of Haywards) and the mosaics extracted to Silverstream. We will push on today and hope to make major progress towards Upper Hutt by the finish of today. The old western route from Melling to Haywards has been drawn for the first time but we won't produce actual maps for it until the last minute as there is still a possibility of getting better quality aerial photos for it. If we can't get these it is just a best guess but in any case largely academic exercise of map drawing as most of the route has disappeared with highway building and river flood protection works.

Housing development underway at Pomare in 1947. The old single track line via Melling runs alongside the road towards the bottom of this image. The Hutt Valley line in this area was the last section to be completed, finally opened from Taita in March 1954, doubled in July 1954 and electrified in July 1955 and required a double track bridge across the Hutt River.

We'll post more maps of Silverstream etc next time, this post has been waiting a few days for those maps but we just want to get this update posted. The maps of the area are being finalised right at this time and will be available later today.

Friday 13 March 2020

Wairarapa Line [0P]: Volume 6 Progress Update 16

Since our last update we have completed drawing maps of the entire Gracefield Branch and Hutt Workshops sidings. In the process of this we added additional generations of historical aerial mosaics both for the Workshops and for Gracefield, which added about a day. These mean that for Hutt Park (the workshops) we have 1939, 1969, 1978, 1986 and 1995 as well as present, whilst for Gracefield, we have 1939, 1954, 1969, 1981 and 1995. This is however strongly expected to be the full extent of any additional aerial photography needed from Petone to Haywards and as there are expected to be no additional changes observed historically in these areas that aren't covered by the aerial photography we already have, we expect to rapidly proceed with mapping along this section.

What will then slow things down is the section from Haywards to Upper Hutt. In the main, this will be due to the addition of further aerial coverage around Silverstream, which covers the changes in the area due to the deviation being built and the establishment of the Silver Stream Railway (SSR) as a heritage railway in the 1980s, it also documents the route the line took across the old Silverstream Bridge until 1954 as there is no trace of this bridge today. The deviation of the line meant the Silverstream station on the WL was moved so it is useful to be able to illustrate where the old station was.

As we head on up from Silverstream to Upper Hutt we will take in the Trentham Army Base and we will have to see if we have good coverage of this area with the existing mosaics that have been done from 1969 or 1970 otherwise we will have to add some more old stuff to the area but this should not be difficult. What we don't have for this area compared to further back down the line is good quality coverage from the 1930s/1940s. However we expect few changes would have taken place along the route apart from Silverstream, which we have covered separately, and Trentham, with its sidings. This is because the population north of Silverstream historically was relatively sparse pre-WW2 and only really took off in the 1950s like the rest of the Hutt Valley, which is what drove the expansion of the Hutt Valley Railway through Lower Hutt. When it was originally put through to Waterloo it was as much for industry as for the small amount of residential development at that time - a siding was put in at Ava for General Motors and further sidings at Waterloo which was the terminus. North of Waterloo was practically all still rural at that time and the extension was largely driven by the development of new subdivisions and projected demand growth.

The schedule is still well behind where we had hoped to be as we have passed the original deadline a few days ago for the entire volume and there is still a lot to do. We expect to be completed to Haywards by the end of this week and probably it will then take another week to finish the line through to Upper Hutt. We then have work to do on the Upper Hutt to Featherston section and Featherston all the way through to Woodville. We won't be adding any more aerial mosaics than we have already planned beyond Featherston - just that town, Carterton and Masterton. It would take at least another week to get through this and possible more, so there is at least two more weeks of work. 

We therefore have set our new deadline to be March 31st for Volume 6 and will be making every effort to keep to this as much as possible. Although progress has been slow this week we have successfully resisted the temptation to spend time fixing up misaligned aerial mosaics and there is just one fix to one area where adding a second image for the same area significantly improved the quality of the aerial map that will be produced. Aerial mosaic misalignments are quite a common reality when dealing with the challenges in putting them together out of multiple source images and we vastly prefer our changes to the map formats to display more information on a diagram map and less on an aerial map as the solution to misalignments, rather than trying to fix them as we have spent a lot of extra time doing in the past. This helps to speed up the overall process since the mosaic production is quite slow.

The entire Gracefield Branch, with Hutt Shops at upper left and Seaview at lower right. As always, this diagram is a composite view showing everything in one diagram, and it will be necessary to refer to the individual aerial views to discover the extent of track installations at a particular point in time.

Gracefield using 1969 aerial background. We are not going to label the individual sidings as this requires more research that we do not have time to undertake.

Hutt Workshops with the historical footprint of the site indicated by track locations that are now occupied by private industry or housing.