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.