Thursday, 24 December 2009

Otago Central Railway / Rail Trail / Taieri Line / Taieri Gorge Railway

As we all know the Otago Central Railway is the most complete closed branch line in New Zealand ever. The Rail Trail concept was never thought of before to the extent that it was applied when the OCR closed in 1990. Today you have public access to 214 km of the original 236 km, the balance being submerged beneath the Dunstan hydro lake. What was originally one continuous route of the NZR line is now split in three: the Taieri Industrial line for the first 3.5 km from Wingatui, the Taieri Gorge Railway Local Authority Trading Enterprise operating on the tracks for the next 60 km to Middlemarch, and the Otago Central Rail Trail on the remaining 150 km.
I am writing about this to report that I have spent a lot of time recently updating my map of the Otago Central Railway, and will continue to do so over the break. As a general rule I am introducing content to this site from my old “enzedrail” Trainweb site, so the descriptive pages with photo thumbnails about the OCR will be posted on NZ Rail Maps soon. They will embed content that is actually stored and accessible on my Picasa Web Albums where I currently have 381 photos of the line in its various forms over the past 22 years. Once I have finished putting the map together I will be publishing the pages so as to have the references to the map and its availability appear in Google.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Energizer LED Torch may be suitable for heritage railway handsignalling

In my computing blog I wrote a review recently of Energizer’s PROSW2A “Hard Case” swivel head 2 AA flashlight, which can display red, green and white aspects using high brightness LEDs. A friend recently reminded me that these colours are often used to hand-signal trains on heritage railways during night operations. Specifically these colours are referenced in old NZ Railways rule books, where red means, of course, Stop, and various directions of movement of green and white lights are used to indicate a direction or speed of movement in yard operations such as shunting. Although commercial products of this type are available, they are likely to be significantly more expensive than this $60 Energizer model. However the design of this model, for all practical purposes, effectively limits its usefulness to situations where green and red are the predominant colours used, as these are both controlled by one pushbutton switch. White is on another switch and can be on at the same time as the colours, so a red-white-red or white-red-white pattern, or changing rapidly from white to red display, would be pretty awkward to achieve. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Otago MSL Branches continued

Most recently I have continued tidying up and detailing the branches that came off the Main South Line in Otago. I took another look at Kurow Branch recently and its near neighbours, Ngapara and Tokarahi. The latter pair were the first railways of any sort that I drew full line maps of when I started this project nearly 2 years ago. Hence the lines were a bit too detailed with too many points, always a problem when the map has to be realigned due to changing overheads. Therefore I just deleted the old lines and redrew them.
The Tokarahi Branch was an interesting one to look into when it first became “fashionable” for Google Earth to be used to look at old branch lines, which I think we really got into in the NZ railfan community in a fairly big way from about 2005 onwards. I can’t recall when I first started to draw maps except that some of the early ones were fairly primitive, using only placemarks to show where obvious visible remnants were, drawing lines was a relatively late concept. I was working from the 3rd edition Quail Atlas which had very little detail and determined that there must have been additional stations on this branch, which I ended up placing in what seemed to be likely locations. Later it turned out that the 4th edition of the Quail, published around 1993, showed two almost identical locations as a result of some research that someone has done into the branch. Considering it closed in 1930 it is not terribly surprising so little was known of it. On the map the intermediate station locations are shown in hypothetical green due to their location being somewhat inexact. One discovery I made fairly quickly about the Tokarahi Branch is the second tunnel at Tapui, although it is well known locally.
On both Tokarahi and Ngapara, stations have been put in, using a mixture of guesswork and measuring distances using Google Maps. One interesting feature of the Ngapara branch that I saw a separate photograph of in some railfan setting, is the old overhead bridge where the line crossed the road between Lorne and Enfield. The road was deviated around the bridge in order to straighten the route, as the bridge must have been at right angles to the railway as basically a kink in the road. Another point of note is near Enfield where the road on a curve has made use of the railway formation which ran alongside at this point. Apart from the two tunnels at 44°59'15.15"S 170°44'13.85"E and 44°59'25.86"S 170°41'50.66"E, the first of which was curved,  a particular point of interest on the Tokarahi Branch is the abutments of an old culvert at 44°56'51.91"S 170°39'45.25"E which can be seen clearly in Street View and these are still in reasonable condition after 80 years since the line was closed. Here, my view differs from the account in “Ghost Railways” in which the authors state that Tokarahi was called Livingstone at the time the branch was first built. Maps make it reasonably clear that Livingstone is a separate locality approximately 6 km away from Tokarahi. That the line was originally called the Livingstone Branch is more likely a reflection that it was originally meant to go there. I have not found any substantive evidence of earthworks or even land surveys beyond Tokarahi so it seems that for whatever reason the extension of the line was never completed as planned.
The other two small lines which I have looked at are the Fernhill and Walton Park branches in suburban Dunedin. Being able to find one of the mines at Fernhill on a topo map has enabled me to draw in a bit more of the possible route that the line took to get to the top mine which is above the small forest area that it is difficult to trace the line through. Walton Park is a very different ballgame, in part due to the construction of the Fairfield Motorway 10 years ago. The purported route (I drew practically all of the map in hypothetical green) crossed over the motorway in a couple of places and it is recorded by Transit NZ that part of the route crosses over underground mines, which I am guessing was the old Walton Park workings. There was definitely a mine known as Saddle Hill which is possibly the mine definitely shown on topo maps being the more southern location of the two sidings at the end of the Walton Park branch. I think that these are the locations of the two mines. However it is recorded from the motorway construction that there were other mines in the vicinity of the motorway and I do not know what relevance these have to the Walton Park branch, if any. So the map for the branch has been redrawn to be perhaps more relevant or correct, hopefully.
Finally of note, a reprint of the fourth edition of the Quail Atlas (NZ Railway and Tramway Atlas) has been been released recently. It is unclear how the work on a fifth edition is proceeding as the main forum where work was originally coordinated from is essentially defunct having received only 8 messages this year in total. The printed publications that I reference, which are the Atlas and “Exploring New Zealand’s Ghost Railways”, are staples for those with an interest in rail geography, yet it is a matter of considerable debate whether the relevance of them is being swept away in this era of GPS and Google. Also on the Graham Carter Transport Books website is a new book about Addington Workshops. Various other titles continue to surface for NZ.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Otago MSL Branches

The Main South Line being such a long route, it spawned many branches, which I have been working on for the past couple of weeks. The Catlins Branch on the new Spot coverage has got quite a few improvements as well as making use of “Ghost Railways” to nail down a few useful relics. As the stations have been marked in as well this map is pretty well complete. My attentions have also been turned to the Outram Branch, Dunback/Makareao Branches, Ngapara/Tokarahi Branches and the Kurow Branch. In the case of the latter I found the instructions in “Ghost Railways” so confusing that I resorted to using Google Earth to measure the distances from Pukeuri in order to mark in the stations. Maybe it is just me, or maybe they addressed this issue in the 2nd edition.
Out of all the above I still need to do significant work only on Ngapara/Tokarahi; the other maps are more or less complete. I also had a look at Kaitangata which is done about as well as it needs to be at this stage. Also done is a lot of work on the Roxburgh Branch also taking advantage of Spot coverage and, of course, Street View. The main work to be done there is to mark in the stations and one or two other points of interest. On the other hand, Shag Point and Moeraki are not worth too much bother, being short industrial sidings in actuality. Ditto Port Chalmers which I think I have covered most of already. Fernhill warrants a bit of another look but not Walton Park. Tapanui I have done except for marking in the stations. Even if you don’t know where they are, you can always use the ruler to measure from the distances in the Quail Atlas.
So there’s still plenty enough to do in the South Island etc. One pleasant enough Canterbury branch I did recently was Southbridge, very interesting.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

East Coast Main Trunk (pt 2)

The first line I looked at when I decided to reinstate my web site was the ECMT on discovering new Google Earth coverage. Now having determined the very recent addition of CNES/Spot coverage to GE I went back and tidied up all the rest of the ECMT files as the whole of the area covered by the lines can now be viewed. (Incidentally Google is now purchasing coverage from all three of the major space imagery players: Digital Globe, Geoeye and Spot)
Some of the points of interest are summarised and depicted as follows:
1. The Mt Maunganui Branch

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Mt Maunganui Port has one of the most extensive siding developments of any NZ port (depicted in blue lines above). The green lines suggest possibilities for mainline deviations in several places. 
2. Whakatane Board Mills Line

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The Whakatane Board Mills line was a private industrial route from Awakeri (formerly ECMT and later Taneatua Branch) to the factory on the outskirts of the town. An exact date of closure is not clear but it became disused in the 1990s, latterly worked by Tranz Rail rather than the Board Mills company, and it has been lifted. Google Earth shows all the bridges in place but the date that the imagery was taken is unclear. It’s apparent the line could not ever be reinstated in the future as the land it ran on was not a properly designated rail corridor.
3. Taneatua Branch

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This map shows the overbridge which is a short distance east of Taneatua. Earlier in the 2000s, Transit NZ had repairs carried out to the bridge, and this has resulted in the bypass road that can be seen to the left of the bridge being built at that time. But now it is closed again, and this is rather a curious state of affairs overall. We now know that NZ Transport Agency which took over Transit’s role has a project on the books for this bridge, for which $500,000 has been allocated. But at this stage I cannot find out more about it. I would guess that the proposal will be to remove the bridge outright and take the kink out of the road by cutting straight across. A second proposal is to realign the highway alongside the rail route to bypass the township altogether (black lines on the maps show road options). Street View coverage of the Peketahi road rail bridge shows that the rail has been removed on the approaches to the bridge although it is still present on the bridge itself.
A date for the “closure” of the Taneatua Branch is also unclear because it has not been formalised. Rather than actually “close” some national network lines, they have simply been mothballed. But I would guess that the last train would have run sometime in the 1990s as well. Unlike the WBM line, the track has been mostly left in place. However Google Earth appears to show damage to a bridge near Edgecumbe. Youtube has footage of “wheel5800”s LIV trip up the Taneatua Branch in 2002 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)
Both of the Main Line and Other Lines files for the ECMT have been updated in this latest pass. As always I recommend you download the files from the site and open them in Google Earth if you want to see the most detail, as Maps does not reproduce all the colours properly.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Google Earth adds Spot coverage of North Island

A few weeks ago I wrote about the enhancement of Google Earth coverage of the South Island when Cnes/Spot imagery was added. Although it is only medium resolution, it basically displaces all that horrible low resolution Landsat coverage which has filled in the gaps of Google Earth for a long long time. The addition of this coverage makes it possible to think about completing most of the maps I have drawn because the improvement makes it possible to pick out additional geographic features that are otherwise impossible to determine.
One of my favourites in the North Island is the Kirikopuni Balloon Loop on the Dargaville Branch as seen here:

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There are many more Kirikopunis waiting to be opened up by the enhanced coverage, even as I noted parts of Lower Hutt still not covered by the urban footage that their council apparently hasn’t seen the light on yet. Still, it is now possible to see Waterloo station.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Major progress at NZ Rail Maps site

This is just a quick post to note that a lot of work has been done on setting up this blog, Picasa Web Albums but especially on the NZ Rail Maps site. Just about every rail line map is being gone over as time permits, though I am very busy and often it is quite cursory. However full advantage is being taken of the Spot coverage of the South Island recently added to Google Earth to update the maps, most of the rural branch line coverage in particular is being brought up to date, the Stratford Okahukura Line and nearly every other line in the North Island including parts of the NIMT have been looked at so far, ECMT etc etc. Just finished looking at the Kingston Line and some but not all of its branches but that is what has been completed to date in a short amount of time, it is a very busy time of year, we have just had a long weekend so there has been opportunity.
Elsewhere I see the mothballing of the SOL has been controversial, but I sincerely doubt that it can ever be viable in the future given its geographical disadvantages. Reality is coming home to roost in certain areas, though Auckland still seems immune to it with the rebuilding of the Onehunga Branch, the new line to Manakau, proposals for a central rail tunnel and harbour bridge duplication, electrification, and laying a line to the airport. Still I imagine the money will run out sooner or later.
One of the useful features to be added in the latest version of Google Earth is being able to access earlier coverage of areas. For example, when I looked at the old Rimutaka Incline route recently, I found there was extensive cloud cover over the parts of the old route between Upper Hutt and Kaitoke. But stepping back to earlier footage gets rid of most of that, letting me see things like the temporary siding that connected the old and new routes between Mangaroa and Maymorn.
In general at this time the revision of maps is mainly for missed features. I am not bothering with alignment corrections except where coverage resolution has been improved significantly. It is notable that there is a lot of high-res of most of the main centres now and Hamilton in particular is a big improvement. But it is ridiculous that part of Lower Hutt is still only covered by low res Landsat, and we await Spot coverage of the rest of the North Island. Alignment errors tend to occur every time coverage is updated, which can be often in some areas, and fixing these is a very time consuming process that I haven’t got time for at the moment. I would suggest the alignments might only be corrected every 5 years or so, and the main bulk of the maps perhaps annually.
Must rush but the updates of the web site will continue, gradually.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

New Arahura Road-Rail Bridge Nears Completion

The new Arahura road-rail bridge is nearly completed. The bridge replaces the original single lane structure which is the original bridge at this route on the Ross Branch (now the Hokitika Branch) and was a single lane (for road) combined single deck road-rail structure. Being on the same level, the bridge was a hazard to road traffic which had to come to a stop every time a train came along. In turn, trains were limited to 10 km/h in order to minimise the risk to road vehicles, however “cornfield meets” were not unheard of and the rail running through the road deck could be slippery and hazardous, especially for motorcycles.
The new bridge has two lanes for road traffic and one rail track all on a combined substructure. It is therefore a new way of building a combined bridge that is similar to the parallel bridges at Inangahua (one lane of road traffic and one rail line) and Napier-Westshore (two lanes of road traffic and one rail line). The road portion of the latter closed some years ago although the deck is still in place. The new bridge at Arahura was constructed by first building one of the road lanes to the north of the existing bridge, and diverting road traffic onto it. The rail structure was then built on the south side, and its piers can be seen in this photo. The rail bridge was then built, and the original wooden bridge, now sandwiched, was closed and demolished. The second lane of the road bridge was then built in place of the original bridge. There is now one lane of road traffic open while the second bridge is completed. The whole project is due to be completed by early 2010.
This photo is by Russ, you can see it at full size by clicking on the link. It shows a train crossing on the original bridge, sandwiched by the opened lane of road bridge on the far side, and the substructure of the new rail bridge under construction on the near side. The new rail bridge was opened early September and the entire original bridge has now been demolished.

Originally uploaded by > Russ<
This is one of my old photos of the bridge which was taken in 1987. Click on it to go to the album, which shows other road rail bridges as well as pages of a historical article I wrote some years ago.
This is a picture of the parallel bridge over the Inangahua River, built in the 1920s. Since the road closed on the Westshore bridge just north of Napier, that bridge will probably be rebuilt eventually as rail only and its historical features will disappear. Hence the bridge at Inangahua has been the only parallel road rail bridge in NZ until this one has been built at Arahura.
Here is my map of the Arahura Bridge area, it shows quite a few changes. The highway on the west of the bridge has been changed twice. The first highway used to go out with two right angle bends and then over a bridge across the railway line. This was closed sometime 1990s I think and the highway was then put on the south side of the railway track. (You wonder why this wasn’t done instead of building the overbridge because the sharp bends would have made it unsafe for traffic) Now, the highway will be on the north side again for a short stretch until it crosses the railway line at a roundabout which is like the one at Kumara Junction. Then it will follow the more recent alignment south-west to Kaihinu.

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Whilst the new bridge is great for road users, compared to the original it is hideously ugly and reflects that outside of major centres, bridges are functional utilitarian designs that are no longer considered as public architectural works. In time, the bare ground will be landscaped and planted to beautify the immediate surrounds. A span of the old bridge has been preserved in a reserve nearby as a nod to its superior aesthetic qualities.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

NZ Rail Maps Site Reinstated

Today I reinstated this blog and the associated NZ Rail Maps website. I used to have two rail related blogs and about half a dozen websites. Early February 2009 I decided to abandon a 25 year hobby of railfanning and take up new hobbies related to gardening and nature. This continues unabated at this point. However I have decided to reinstate this blog and the Rail Maps website. In the past nine months I have continued to pursue an interest in geography with the ongoing use of Google Earth, and have published a few articles on other blogs about rail geographical subjects. Since February there has been a significant improvement in Google Earth coverage, especially with the addition of Cnes/Spot satellite coverage of the South Island. This new coverage means that practically the whole South Island is now covered. This makes it possible to update all the unfinished maps. This will gradually be done over an unspecified period. I have done some small scale updating of a few maps, particularly the ECMT, Midland Line and its branches including Ross. So the maps will be available at the site again.
However, there are and will be significant differences in the way the maps and this blog are updated in the future:
  • Blog postings will mainly be in relation to website updates. I am not writing a significant volume of other material related to this subject. Nor am I routinely undertaking research or investigation into rail related subjects
  • Map updates are limited to improving existing maps when coverage improves. No significant effort will be made to try to identify points of interest that are not already marked. No completely new maps will be drawn.
  • There will be no research in relation to maps. I don’t have contact with the railfan community in NZ as I am not a member of any groups associated with this community. Nor do I have time to look up other sources of information in relation to maps. Essentially the process of improving maps is limited to identifying features that can already be seen in Google Earth, rather than locating existing non visible features.
  • There will not be a set timeframe in which maps are updated. Rather it will be done spasmodically as free time permits.
In addition, all other rail related websites I have produced in the past are not going to be reinstated. I have no ongoing interest in the other subjects that these websites covered. Nor will former postings to this blog or the old NZ Rail Maps blog be reinstated. Although it would be very easy to repost from source, I don’t have the source files stored anywhere and they were not backed up when the blogs were originally removed.
So that is how things stand. If you go to the website you will find some maps have been updated recently. That’s about all I have time for right now.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Remnants of the old East Coast Main Trunk Railway

As Google Earth coverage keeps getting better, we keep discovering more about the geography of New Zealand, with one of my interests being former railway lines. There are still some areas of the North Island that use old Landsat low res coverage, I hope they will get some Cnes/Spot coverage soon. In a former life I was an avid railfan and drew maps of nearly every railway line in NZ, which are now to be found on Google Maps. Today I just happened to load up the map of the old East Coast Main Trunk line, and have had a look at some of this former route. I have got absolutely no intention of keeping these maps up to date in a major form as this requires many hours of work and I am disinclined to do any research, one of the great attractions of drawing the maps in the first place was that I did all the work at home on my computer and didn’t have to go anywhere else. However I have just chosen to pull up the old ECMT map because of the improvements and it has got a small makeover today, because some of the old bridges can now be seen in medium-high resolution coverage recently added. It is equally as clear that some locations that I thought would be bridges are culverts.
According to a file from the Western Bay of Plenty District Council the following remnants of the line are known to exist between Athenree and Apata. Their source is a 2002 report for the Historic Places Trust by Phillip Moore. Rather than embedding the maps into this blog post I have linked to maps of all the locations that I know of by converting the NZMS260 map references where these are given. There is one photo in that document of a concrete culvert where the road appears to go over the railway line. It isn’t identified but I assume it is Athenree Station.
1. Athenree Station (see below)
2. Athenree Station site – concrete foundations, rail formation, culvert near SH2,
plate layers cottages and Arden Cottage. [T13 E6903 N1177]
3. Railway Formation south of Athenree Road (800m) [T13 E6990 N 1153]
4. Prominent Cutting through hill (100m) [U13 E70021 N10383]
5. Concrete Culvert [T13 E69940 N10181]
6. Small Concrete Bridge Piles (Bridge No. 28) [T13 E69768 N09677]
7. Tuapiro Stream Bridge Abutment [T13 E6915 N0765]
8. Railway Formation south of Kauri Point Rd (800m) [T13 E691 N054]
9. Tahawai Stream Bridge (No. 35) Concrete Piers [T13 E6794 N0331]
10. McKinney (Tawherowhero) Bridge timber abutments (No. 37) [T13 E67833 N02574]
11. Uretara Stream Bridge (No. 40) timber abutments [T13 E67654 N00894]
12. Henry Road cutting and railway formation (200m)
13. Rereatukahia Stream concrete bridge (no.44) [T14 E67621 N98416]
14. Te Manaia Stream Timber Trestle bridge (no. 46)
15. Waitokohe Sream Timber Trestle Bridge (No. 48) and embankment (300m)
16. Aongatete River Bridge (No. 51) concrete and timber piers
17. Whatakao Stream Timber Trestle Bridge (No. 52)
19. Wainui River Timber Trestle Bridge (No. 56)
20. Apata Station Site – small station building
The Athenree Station is located at a new site at 360 Athrenree Road (Stewart Homestead). This site is encircled by a well known large horseshoe curve of the old railway route. I believe this is Street View’s view at the time of writing of the old station building. The photo is a bit dark but the building which looks just like a typical railway station is on the little rise about the centre of this view.
This post is not going to be a series of posts, nor is there going to be any more maps updated this year (if ever) because all this stuff takes forever to do. But if I had kept all the blog posts of the two former blogs that I used to write on this subject, I would gladly repost them herewith.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Dunedin’s Railway Rebirth

The original railway line south of Dunedin to the satellite township of Mosgiel, a 15 km length, was a steeply graded and sharply curved single-track route incorporating the Caversham and Chain Hills tunnels. It was opened for traffic between 1874 and 1875. It sufficed only for some thirty years before an improvement project was started to make the route fit for heavier traffic and safer, faster operation. Begun in 1906, the modernisation of the line, realigned and regraded into its present day route, was not completed until 1914. A description of the route changes is in order and described thus:
The reconstruction of the route begins with the 1 in 100 grade embankment approximately opposite the CT (Container Terminal) site. This takes the route over Andersons Bay Road on an overbridge and eliminated the first of sixteen level crossings. Just short of the next bridge at King Edward Street, Kensington Station was raised to the new level, which along with the bridge made the working of this station much more straightforward, without the problems of trains blocking the busy road. Continuing south, the next new bridge was built over Wilkie Road. Between it and King Edward Street a siding into the Hillside Workshops makes a steep descent down the embankment. Soon after Wilkie Road as the line passes behind Carisbrook Stadium, the original route level is joined somewhere near the bridge over South Road. Further on the first major deviation was made when a new tunnel was built through the Caversham Hills at a lower level, easing the gradients, and a longer length; it was also double-tracked from the outset. This deviation placed Caversham Station in a new location. On leaving the new tunnel at the south end, Burnside Station was reached on a new site, followed by Green Island. Abbotsford was then encountered, also on a new site, before the second major deviation was reached. This involved a new Chain Hills double tracked tunnel, twice the length of the original and on much more favourable grades. On reaching the south end of this tunnel, Wingatui Station is encountered on a new site nearly 2 km closer to Dunedin than originally. The rest of the route to Mosgiel involved relatively minor changes.
The Caversham Deviation was examined in my previous posting, “Caversham’s Railways” and is not further referenced here. The geographic impact of this deviation was probably the most significant change of the whole project, due to it passing through an established residential area, and its approximate length. Though the Chain Hills deviation was also of significant length, much of the area through which both lines passed, and still pass, is rural and not impacted significantly. The rest of the rebuilding took place on more or less the original route. There was an undeniable geographic impact from the construction of the large embankment between Dunedin and Caversham stations, the three overbridges and raising of Kensington Station, as well as the doubling of the entire line. In the early 1980s, much of the line was singled in several stages; Dunedin-Caversham was completed first, and Caversham-Wingatui later. At this present time, there is still a double track line from Dunedin almost to Kensington including Andersons Bay Road bridge. All of the remaining bridges that were able to be observed have been reconstructed or modified to single track formation. This includes, as at Wilkie Road, removal of the girders on one side, or as in the case of a bridge near the southern end of the Wingatui Tunnel (possibly Abbots Creek), abandonment in place. In other cases like King Edward Street and South Road, the bridges have been rebuilt as a single track structure. The single track in the two tunnels has been pulled towards the centreline to increase the clearances for modern rolling stock.
At the time that the line was altered, it crossed the Dunedin, Peninsular and Ocean Beach Railway line just north of Andersons Bay Road on a diamond crossing. As rebuilt the crossing is effected by a single span overbridge. With the closure of the DPOBR in 1942 the remnant of this line served nearby private sidings. In the late 1980s there were still tracks as far as Orari Street used to store old locomotives. The overbridge still exists even though the track is now cut back to Strathallan Street and appears disused. Green Island and Abbotsford Stations were both junctions of branch lines (Walton Park and Fernhill respectively) in the 1900s. Both of these lines continued in use regardless of the effects of reconstruction which altered the junctions somewhat. Suburban passenger traffic density was an important justification for the reconstructive work at the time; the singling has followed the demise of these trains in 1982, but some of the stations closed earlier, including Caversham in 1962 although it may have continued as a passenger halt after this date. After 1982 the Southerner was the main regular passenger train to pass over the route but it made no stops between Dunedin and Milton. Passenger trains were operated on the Otago Central Railway until 1976 and I do not know if they made any suburban stops within Dunedin city. The advent of the Taieri Gorge Railway has not resulted in any reinstatement of closed stations for passenger convenience, the trains generally running non stop between Dunedin and Wingatui.
During the course of my time in Dunedin I only examined the line between Dunedin and Burnside, although I rode the route twice and obtained a few photos of Wingatui which are in my Otago Central Railway album. Please refer to the Caversham’s Railways article for the map of the route and changes. I am not going to revise that map for the purposes of this article; but the photos from the Picasa web albums associated with this blog will be shown below with brief captions. You can see the full size photos together with locational information if you visit the General album at nztransportgeography's Picasa site.
Heading south from Dunedin, the first indication that most people would see of the reconstruction is the embankment that climbs at 1 in 100 to get the line over Andersons Bay Road, a thoroughfare that it formerly crossed on the level.Here we can see it near the beginning of the ascent.
The bridge over the former DPOBR just north of Andersons Bay Road. The lower line appears to be disused today and any future reconstructive requirement of the bridge would probably result in its disappearance.
Andersons Bay Road bridge. The piers are most probably original. Soon after its construction, movement was reported in one of the abutments; the extent of any remedial work is unknown.
Kensington station was about here when its site was raised on the new embankment about 1906. The date it was closed is not known to me. There is road access today from what is now the Warehouse site, which was formerly the location of the Caledonian Grounds.
King Edward Road bridge. The original design, on the far side, incorporated access to Kensington station by steps between the tracks. These have been removed with the reconstruction of the abutments and piers for the now-singled bridge. I assume the reconstruction was at least partly necessary in order to widen this road. The bridge must therefore have been extended.
kensington bridge steam cranes 1
This photo by Ken Devlin of Dunedin shows the double track bridge at King Edward Street being singled sometime in the 1980s. Two of the Craven steam cranes were brought out to do this work. In the centre of the far abutment you can see the access doorway to the stairs which went up between the tracks and gave access to the station which was used for suburban passenger traffic. As we can see the abutments were rebuilt later and there was then no need for this access.
Wilkie Road bridge. The abutments are probably original but one of the two girders has been removed as it is no longer needed for a single track crossing.
This substantial retaining wall was needed for the raised embankment where it passed alongside Wilkie Road. At the far end the overbridge can just be seen; the road doglegs under the bridge then continuing in roughly the same overall direction on the other side of the line. The wall was necessary because there was not enough space between the railway and the road to allow for the usual sloping embankment with a wider foot.
The motorway and rail overbridges at South Road, just north of Caversham. The rail bridge is modern, and having a similar substructure as the highway bridge suggests it was probably built at the same time. As the highway was constructed in the 1980s, it would appear to me that the singling of the rail route had been decided by this time, as the rail bridge must have been built from the outset for the single track. (As detailed in the second “Caversham’s Railways” article, the railway used to be where the highway is now, and was deviated to its present location when the highway was put through. This required a new bridge which was built at the same time as the motorway bridge and therefore used a very similar design)
More pictures of the route can be seen in the Transport Geography album.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Otago Central Railway (phew:)

I have just finished creating my new Otago Central Railway album on pjrdunford Picasa Web Albums. This is an update of an older album on my old railfan website and has nearly 400 photos – the number is not settled as several will be removed tomorrow when I check for duplications. This has been a huge effort, and purely for the general community, not the railfan community; that effort will not be repeated with any of my older photographs. It has only been done this time because of the addition of the large number of new photos from the Taieri Gorge Railway excursion to Middlemarch I rode upon two weeks ago. The preparation of the album has taken around 10 days, which even allowing for the working only of evenings during the week, is a lot of work. For this new album, every picture has been geotagged, all the slides have been rescanned, and the correct dates inserted, all pictures are batch resampled to a width of 1600 pixels which is around three times the size of photos that I normally put into my Picasa albums or more recent websites. By keeping JPEG compression at 50, the entire album takes less than 100 MB of space whilst allowing reasonable picture quality. Just to give you some idea, here are all the steps followed to get the album together:
  • Select the source images
          • Scan slides
          • Copy negative scans from CD
          • Copy digital photos from source
    • Geotag source images
            • Use EasyGPS to synchronise recent photos with GPS tracks obtained on board the train.
            • Using either Google Earth/Picasa or Geosetter, geotag all other photos. Google Earth 5 proved troublesome at times and the last 50 photos had to be tagged with Geosetter, which is more work.
    • Date source images
            • This step only applies to scanned images – digitals have the date inserted in the Exif tags. Using Geosetter to set the EXIF date fields.
    • Caption source images
            • Use Picasa to add captions to all images.
    • Batch convert source images
            • Using IrfanView batch processing, resample all images at a width of 1600 pixels and add the overlay text.
And if this sounds like a lot of work, it is. The only steps which can be automated across a group of images are GPS based geotagging, and batch conversion. Every other step is being done one image at a time. However, you see clearly the advantage of using a digital camera, and using GPS. The images don’t have to be scanned, all the date information is already in them, and the GPS can add the positional information in a simple batch process using EasyGPS. Then only captions have to be added individually, and another batch process using IrfanView for resample.
This isn’t an album for my erstwhile railfan associates. It’s an album for friends, family and the general public. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered – and the captions don’t contain all the technical data about the railway, they just refer to the location and occasion. These photos cover a spread of over 20 years and the first of them was taken around 22 years ago.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Caversham’s Railways

Caversham is a suburb of Dunedin and I spent a week there recently. It is one of the oldest parts of the city, established in the late 1870s, and has always been bisected by a railway line. The original route south of Dunedin was single track and featured sharp curvature, steep gradients and numerous level crossings. The two tunnels at Caversham and Chain Hills were known for smoke nuisance from the steam engines and in that era their clearances would have fallen below the standards of modern day rolling stock. So it was that only some 30 years later a start was made on duplicating and regrading the railway and eliminating the crossings, which in its day was a major civil engineering and public works project. This post focuses exclusively on the Caversham section because it was here that a new double track tunnel was bored through the hill, almost double the length of the original, and a deviation of the route totalling around 3 km was constructed. I’ll start by referring to the map below and noting particular features of the old route. Another copy of this map showing the photographs which are in my Picasa web albums, appears at the end of this post. I suggest you zoom and drag the maps to see features referred to.

View Larger Map
The first question to determine is what route the old line actually took. We know, of course, where the old tunnel is located, as it still exists. However there is virtually no trace today of the route at the eastern end. The map above shows the old route as an aqua coloured line. It is a reasonable assumption that it actually followed the present highway route because that is roughly on the right level and direction. Where did the two routes join? There are two possibilities:
  • Near the South Road overbridges. The road and highway bridges are at the same level. Moreover, the elevation is 30 metres lower over a distance of 1500 metres, corresponding to the 1 in 50 gradient of the old railway at this point.
  • Near the Goodall Street bridge and the old Caversham station. There is a difference in the elevation of the railway and present highway, which possibly could be explained by the highway being constructed by building up the formation. If the new route is at an elevation of 27 metres at this location then this would allow the gradient to be maintained. Evidence for this location mainly comes from a statement that this is the position where the lines diverged, and a photo which appears to show a curve and one of the overbridges over the new route, possibly the one at Goodall Street.
The main issues which oppose the latter suggestion and favour the former are:
  • The difference in levels. At the eastern portals there is a difference in elevation of 15 metres between the two tunnels, the old tunnel being higher. This means the new tunnel was roughly at 25 metres at its eastern portal, which is lower than the 27 metres mentioned above despite the track being on an upgrade. If the new tunnel was at 25 metres elevation then the junction would be at roughly 17 metres which would not work with the 1 in 50 gradient of the old line up to its tunnel.
  • The variation from the deviation map. This document shows that the new and old routes were at the same elevation at a point around 1500 metres east of the old tunnel and just a little east of the latter day station site. The most likely location for this grade crossover is the vicinity of the South Road overbridges as suggested by the former option.
What then is shown by this photo? The bridge could be the Goodall Street overbridge crossing over the new route, but the slope appears to be wrong for this. The piling shown alongside the new track is possibly that referred to in a document on the deviation works which states that such piling was needed to stabilise a slip in the cutting of the new route. Even here a difference in levels is apparent. Despite a statement that Sydney Street was where the lines diverged, this seems impossible to sustain and in fact a significant level difference is mentioned in the same document. The best conclusion that can be drawn from this document is that the lines were already running side by side for a much longer distance, and that Sydney Street was the point at which the new line became more separated horizontally.
Another option which was considered was that the photo shows the South Road overbridge with the two lines crossing on separate bridges, but this appears very unlikely as other details are difficult to match up. The conclusion I have chosen to go with at this stage is that the routes did join somewhere near the South Road bridges. On the map I have chosen to make use of the big curve at this location, but without further research it is quite unclear where the actual junction would have been located and the map shown is really an educated guess. We do know from an old map that the South Road overbridge was part of the original route. Unlike many of the other bridges, the line was not raised at this point.
The second question is where the Caversham station was located on the old route. The railway map drawn at the time the deviation was constructed shows that the station on each route was in a different location from the other route. The present day route’s station site (it closed around 1962) is approximately at the end of Parkside Ave, near the old gasworks. The old route’s station is shown on a 19th century map as being between Catherine St and Laing St. The street called Station Rd is something of a red herring, which may have given access to either site, being roughly halfway between both of them. It is interesting that an old railway overbridge is now located in a reserve alongside the highway near the old station site. This bridge probably came from one of the old stations. This article refers to the location of the station being moved, so it is quite reasonable to assume that there were two separate station locations as a matter of fact.
Continuing west we come to the first of what were five crossings of both routes by suburban streets (shown in light grey, along with part of the old Main South Road). Old maps of Caversham show that these streets coming off what is now Main South Road on the south side of the lines, joined up with streets on the north side, which had the same names then as on the south side, but have been renamed today. Five overbridges appear to have been constructed for the new route, as determined by the remains of abutments still present today, but the advent of the Caversham Bypass has meant that all of them except the Goodall Street structure were removed, presumably along with a significant number of houses. The latter bridge now serves only pedestrians who can also cross the highway on a new structure. The present South Road bridge is probably not original. Just west of it is the bridge that is now called Caversham Place. This was the highway bridge when built, but the motorway bypass rendered it redundant. Beyond this point, the route followed by the highway is original.
At this point both railway routes enter their respective tunnels. The new tunnel was driven by hand through sandstone. Most of it is unlined, which is unusual for a railway tunnel in New Zealand. There is some lining at the portals and for a few short stretches within the main tunnel. The new route was built as double track and originally there were two tracks in the tunnel. In the early 1980s the line was singled, and the rail has been realigned towards the centre in order to improve clearances. The old route veers off the highway to enter an approach cutting right alongside. The footpath alongside the highway is cantilevered over one side of this cutting, which is cut through sandstone (as is the tunnel itself). It is possible to walk through the cutting to the tunnel portal, which is covered with a gate. An excellent view of the portal and cutting can be obtained from the footbridge at the end of Lindsay Road, which crosses over the cutting.
At the western end of the old tunnel, access is blocked off with a high wire fence. The route then crossed what is now Kaikorai Valley Road and curved sharply round past the old Burnside Freezing Works to join the present route at Burnside station. The old Cattleyards station was next to the freezing works. The present tunnel at its western end comes out just east of Kaikorai Valley Road and north of SH1. It then passes under the Kaikorai Valley Road overbridge to enter Burnside station.
Below is the photo map showing the photos in my Picasa albums. The old Caversham railway tunnel is an interesting piece of what might be called “Lost Dunedin”. It has been disused more than 100 years and is tucked away in a hard to find location out of the way in a residential suburb. But it is still in almost the same condition as it was when abandoned in the early 1900s, forgotten but not gone. The tunnel is the main remnant of the deviation; the route on the eastern side has disappeared with the motorway construction, and on the western side there is little to see today.
At the time of writing, a four-laning proposal has been in place for the Caversham Bypass Motorway for some years. It appears the original motorway that follows the old rail route was first constructed in the 1980s. The present section of the motorway following the old rail route, including the South Road overbridge, was only constructed as two lane and a new bridge would be needed for the four-laning. Another aspect of this project is that the road will be pushed out over the top of the approach cutting on the eastern side of the old tunnel. This means that the Lindsay Road footbridge would disappear, although the tunnel itself would not be altered in any way. The change could lead to access to the tunnel cutting being blocked off altogether, as it is at the Burnside end of the tunnel, since the change would make it much more practical to achieve this. At this stage the timeframe for reconstruction of the motorway is unclear and the work might not start for at least five years.

View Caversham's Railways in a larger map
I’ll post another article or two in the next few days covering the Wingatui tunnel deviation and the rest of the route between Dunedin and Caversham. You can see all the photos here.
Online references: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
A Dunedin man is trying to get the tunnel re-opened for public access. His website is here
Here is an interview that was broadcast on Channel 9 around 2007.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Little River Rail Trail II

This Saturday just passed, I took my second outing on the Little River Rail Trail. Since my first visit in June 2006, the original route west of Motukarara has been extended another 3 km into the terminal township, and another section from Prebbleton to Lincoln, consisting of a sealed pathway paralleling the actual rail route, has also opened in full. My focus today is on Motukarara – Little River, and starts with my arrival at M by car and getting ready to set off on the 24 km ride to LR. Motukarara now boasts the original station building, albeit on a site 900 metres south of its original location, and a length of track with a couple of wagons on it. Today in the hot summer sun, the trail surface is dry and poses little resistance; the first time, winter rains made it sticky and slippery. Still, I’m not able to get up as much speed as on a sealed road.

Setting out from Motukarara, every few minutes I stop to photograph some point of interest, such as a curve, or a bridge, or some other geographic feature of the line. This makes for slow riding; in the first hour I only cover 9 km.  With the GPS along, I don’t bother recording anything else; later at home, the computer will match the GPS timestamps to photos automatically and so create a pictorial trail of the journey (which you can view here). It is a very hot day and I am well covered in clothing and sunscreen. Another nice little touch alongside the line is the milepegs, full miles, halves and quarters, here and there. This line was never metricated, after all. Just after the first bend out of Mot, we encounter the first of numerous bridges. Most of these are on the original alignment, using the original abutments or in some cases new concrete ones. We have now turned almost due south and are continuing for the moment as a slightly raised embankment in rolling open country with the main road some distance away but gradually converging, and at the 11 mile peg we are briefly alongside. Nearby at Seabridge Road, we have the first public access to the trail since leaving Motukarara. Soon we turn south-east, meeting the highway again on a bend, and cross a stream with old piles in the waterway.

We are now on the shores of Lake Ellesmere, where the stone-faced embankment has been a distinctive feature of the landscape for more than 100 years. Up till now, all the bridges have been narrow one-way affairs, but a few km further on, we encounter the only such structure that is the full width of the embankment. Perhaps this is the case because it is largely a deck on top of the original superstructure/substructure, which appears to have been left mostly intact when the line closed. Soon the dry lakebed resembles mudflats; the tide is out, so to speak. Further on, at another meeting place with the highway, we reach Kaituna, our first station since Motukarara and almost 8 km from it. The trail deviates around the station site which is on road reserve and still includes remains of a loading bank. Just past the 13 mile peg we come to the unusual Kaituna inlet bridge, which is a humped structure to raise the trail above the waterway, probably to allow navigation. Very soon the view is dominated by a raised mound of rock on the horizon. We have reached the Kaituna quarry, where the stone pitching that protects the embankment in these parts was broken down from big rocks with explosive blasting. Clearly there was a siding here as the curved embankment and remains of sleepers show. The quarry also yields the remains of a number of old rail wagons, which evidently were pushed into the siding in some long distant past era and burned when their useful life had come to an end. Two small brick huts were formerly used to store explosives; the more accessible of the pair turns out to have a large cloud of wasps surrounding it, so I beat a hasty retreat back to the trail.
The lake continues as a dominant feature of the local landscape until we pass another meeting place of the highway, then the longest bridge on this entire trail, and eventually turn north-east at the Birdlings Flat township turnoff. Here also is the eponymous station with its old loading bank still present. We are now heading in the direction of Lake Forsyth, but still have to pass over several concrete culverts, the first such structures we have encountered so far. Passing the 17 mile peg we are soon alongside the lake, which will be our companion all the way to Catons Bay, a public roadside rest area and the original 2006 terminus of the rail trail. The embankment winds its way in and out alongside the lake, more or less following the shoreline, and in parts closely sandwiched by water on one side and asphalted highway on the other. The first trees of sufficient size to provide meaningful shade are a welcome feature of this part of the trail. After stopping to photograph a few flocks of black swans, I am soon at Catons Bay. Here we have travelled some two-thirds of the length of the lake and soon pass its head another kilometre on. In this last part of the trail there are a few rises and dips, and several deviations when we are getting too close to the road. The main challenge faced in completing this section has been the old level crossing near the Little River Hotel; in a 100 km/h section of highway, it makes things quite dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Eventually after a lot of discussion, a “temporary” deviation has been constructed to continue the trail on the south side of the highway, rejoining the original route after 750 metres.

Today I choose to cross the highway, very carefully, and then follow the original embankment until it gets too far from the road, then go back across and onto the trail, which follows a stream bank around to Wairewa Pa Road and an easier/safer crossing of the highway in a 70 km/h zone. From here I ride along the highway a short distance and then turn off down Barclays Road to ride alongside the original formation past the recycling depot and down to the Little River Station. The original buildings were retained by Banks Peninsula Council after the line closed, and are still standing today. The locals and the Rail Trail Trust have laid some bits of track and mounted restored items of rolling stock on them. Here my ride comes to an end, after 24 km and nearly three hours. I think that the “temporary” extension is most useful and should become permanent. After I meet up with my ride, we are soon on our way back to Christchurch. Some way past Motukarara, the embankment trails off into the distance while the road route pulls rapidly away. This section promises to be another interesting ride and I trust that the project to reopen it to the public is making good headway.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Mapping photos with GPS and Google Earth

Since I bought my first digital cameras four years ago, there has been widespread development in the availability of virtual globe software which lets us do many useful geographically orientated things, such as mapping points of interest and the locations of specific photographs of scenery. There are two specific services which are integrated with Google Earth for photolocation. These are Picasaweb and Panoramio. At this stage I have stuck with Picasaweb due to my dislike of having to duplicate effort in Panoramio, and its lack of sophisticated upload tools like the Picasa client software that Google produces. However, Panoramio pictures can be displayed as an integral layer in Google Earth. I hope that Google will introduce a similar level of integration of Picasaweb for those of us who prefer its capabilities so that we can submit photos directly from Picasaweb in our existing and new albums.
The main subject of this post is how to map photos using Google Earth and Picasa. In the beginning of 2008 I created my first mapped albums in Picasaweb, as the client software features the ability to geotag individual pictures. It does this by using Google Earth as a user interface to find the coordinates of a specific place which the user nominates as a photo location, and then using the EXIF standard it adds coordinate information to an existing JPEG photo. As my albums can incorporate up to several hundred pictures each, it takes a lot of time and effort to locate each individual picture. As well as that, you have to be able to work out where each picture was taken. On the train trips that I did last January, and some other trips that I have created other albums for, because my knowledge of the routes was very good, I could work this out without too much trouble. But on a recent trip I did on the Waipara river, I couldn’t work out where everything went because I didn’t know the area.
The easiest way to get around this problem is to batch synchronise data from a GPS unit with photos. A $200 handheld GPS from Garmin will automatically create a track of locations over a period of time while it is turned on. This track can be downloaded to a PC and then using appropriate software the timestamps of the GPS trackpoints can be synchronised to specific pictures using the timestamps that your digital camera embeds into each picture that it takes. The software can then save this information in a file that can be imported into Google Earth to display the photomap.
A recent trip to Quail Island was the first trial of this system for me. The only real issues encountered were technical limitations in Google Maps and Google Earth, and the GPS’s batteries going flat. My equipment was:
  • Garmin eTrex H handheld GPS. This is a high sensitivity, basic unit at the lower end of the price and spec range. It is a rugged water-resistant design, and the high sensitivity means it is better to use indoors (such as inside a moving vehicle) when environmental conditions make it more difficult to receive the faint signals from the GPS satellites.
  • Garmin serial PC data cable. This connects the GPS to the serial port of a PC. Your computer will need to have a 9 pin serial port (the old RS232 style). A lot of modern computers do not have these ports and you might also need to purchase a USB to serial adapter at extra cost if your PC is in this category. Garmin still provides only the RS232 interface on its most recent lower end units. This is a lot slower than USB, but it works satisfactorily and the cable can be connected and disconnected on the fly.
  • GPS download and geotagging software. You do not need to buy this from your GPS manufacturer, as typically like the data cables, such products are unnecessarily expensive. A lot of GPSs are supported by third party products. I used the free EasyGPS software to download the tracks and geotag, which it does by comparing timestamps.
  • A geotagging compatible web album or software system that can display your tracks and photos automatically in their correct locations on a virtual globe. I use Picasaweb, Google Earth and Google Maps as needed.
First thing is to get your GPS set up. The eTrex automatically records the track by default as long as it is switched on. Make sure the batteries have enough juice in them to last for the whole of your trip. Secondly, ensure that the clock(s) on your camera(s) are very accurately set. Get a time signal from the radio (or somewhere) and sync the clocks to that. The more accurate these are, the more accurate will be the locations of photos that can be determined by the geotagging software. Then, on the day of your trip, just turn on the GPS before your trip starts, and take your photos. Simple :)
Once you’ve returned, download photos to your PC and the track data from the GPS. Then, select the photos you want and carry out any additional processing needed. I use IrfanView to batch resize my photos and add a copyright caption which also shows the date and time the picture was taken. For public web display I resize to 960x720. The next step is to geotag. In EasyGPS you simply tell it to add photos to the correct track. This causes it to write the coordinates of each photo directly into its EXIF headers, by matching GPS and photo timestamps. I had no problems with this as I synched my cameras’ clocks within 10 seconds of GMT. The GPS gets its time automatically, of course. You just need to make sure it knows what your timezone is so it can adjust the timestamp automatically to your local time.
Once finished geotagging in EasyGPS, save the track as a GPX file for use with other software. GPX is the open GPS XML format for exchanging GPS data. My next step is to open the GPX file in Google Earth, which the current free edition has the ability to do. This lets me edit the tracks to remove parts that are irrelevant to my map. I discarded the picture information from the GPX as it is static to the hard drive locations of my PC and therefore not much use on the internet. Using Picasa client (version 2.7 is recommended), I then captioned each of the photos on my PC and then bulk uploaded them to a new Picasa Web Album of my choice. This causes Picasaweb to automatically create a map of the locations of all the photos of the album. I can then download this to my PC (using the “View in Google Earth” link) and open it in GE. I then combined the photo map from Picasaweb with the GPS tracks that I imported from my GPS to create the final map of my trip. That trip was then imported to Google Maps to allow it to be embedded for display in a blog posting. All of the thumbnails on this map will automatically link to Picasaweb to display the photo from my web album.