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.