Sunday, 3 January 2010

Mapping Canterbury branch lines

Since I wrote about the Otago Central, which I was working on the map of up to the first week in December, after a brief break due to end of year work pressures, I started updating the maps of Canterbury branch lines. Due to my file structure, this means the maps are in three files, being the MNL_Other, MSL_Canterbury_Other and ML_Other series representing respectively lines north, south and west of Christchurch. With work on the Midland Line file I also checked and updated the maps of the branches that are on the West Coast also. As part of the Little River branch is of course in a rail trail the opportunity was taken to restructure the presentation of the line in the same way as the Otago Central. Since I have not described this process before it is fairly straightforward and is in turn based on the way the East Coast Main Trunk file was restructured, which was purely on the basis of necessity due to the way the ECMT has changed so much over more than a century. In brief, in the past a line which had more than one use/status at different times, would have been structured into separate folders in the file for each of those uses with duplication.
For example, the OCR for most of its life was a 236 km branchline. Later on it became a 3.5 km industrial line, a 60 km heritage line, a 150 km rail trail and a 22 km closed section. Thus there would have been four separate folders (branch, industrial line, heritage line, rail trail) with an obvious duplication of information between the first folder and the other three. The new structure is to show the entire route only once in its current status, with documentation about the change in status of various sections, and a special “Closed Sections” folder for sections that are closed, including changes made to the original route as it stands today. For example the “Closed Sections” folder of the OCR file shows the Cromwell Gorge, the original Clyde station, Prices Creek deviation and three small deviations made by the Rail Trail. This structure obviously affects the Little River line and any other line that is still being used today in any form. The opportunity has been taken over the past month to use the new Spot coverage to bring all these branch line up to date starting with Southbridge, some of these areas also recently got Digital Globe cover for various areas, for example on Southbridge it has been possible to spot a few small bridges that are still in place.
Mapping the Methven line was interesting because it also has Street View coverage along about half its length. Leitch & Scott refer to “near Sherwood (16 km)…several massive bridge abutments”. Since I could not find any trace on the overhead view I used Street View to search around that area, which was unsuccessful. Consequently I believe L&S to be incorrect. Subsequently the remains of a bridge around 20 metres length was located at 43°45'30.48"S 171°57'25.67"E and Street View shows these remains clearly. Why would there actually be a bridge here? The dip in the road suggests there must have been a waterway here at some point, as far as the surrounding farmland goes it has all disappeared or been reclaimed. I am fairly certain this is the only bridge on the line that would fit the L&S description.
Also looked at have been Springburn, Fairlie, Waimate, Waiau, Whitecliffs etc. Fairlie has lots of small bridges or culverts still in place. As a general rule many early culverts look like small bridges because they have two abutments and a small “bridge” structure across the top. It wasn’t until more recent times that fully enclosed culverts became more common and on these branch lines the culverts were not replaced as they have been on main routes. Waimate was interesting in terms of redrawing the route through the Waihao Gorge which I decided had some problems particularly the latter section. In all routes the opportunity to add stations (approximate in most cases) has been taken where necessary as well as revising some route locations if I think that it might be justified. Looking at all the branches there are some abandoned bridges still in place on many of them particularly the Ross Branch in its latter section which has recently been revealed with full DG coverage. The Ruatapu-Ross section appears like a formed road but whether the numerous wooden bridges are still passable I cannot say obviously, so far searching Google has not turned up any websites with more info.
Work continues meanwhile all around the country, parts of the NIMT, PNGL and at the moment Wairarapa (including the two Rimutaka rail trails) is continuing. It’s disappointing though that NZTA has stopped publishing maps and additional information on roading projects on its website, instead you have to email a given address for this info. So I had to find out from elsewhere about the Waipukurau overbridge replacement location, and I haven’t managed to get any info as yet about the realignment around Matahorua which involves a new bridge over the railway line there.