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

View Larger Map
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

View Larger Map
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

View Larger Map
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:

View Larger Map
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.

View Larger Map
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.