Sunday, 20 May 2012

SOL - Tangarakau

In my last post I showed some photos of Tangarakau, specifically some of the old bridges. This time around we are going to look at a little more of the area.
Tangarakau was where the Egmont Coal company set up in coalmining in 1929 with a small mine in the Tangarakau Gorge linked by a 610 mm gauge tramway to Tangarakau railway station. The tramway followed the river to the mine over a distance of about 6 km. A small steam locomotive was employed to work the tram. Coal in the area is generally sub-bituminous and was used to fire the PWD power station boilers and locomotives during railway construction, for local needs and was railed out. It was generally a low quality coal. The mine was closed in 1936, about three years after the railway was completed. The tram is not marked on current topo maps so it is guesswork as to where it went, however the New Zealand Railway Observer a few years ago had an article – I am advised that issue 238 and 239 of 1999 covered it. Here is a guess as to the route (green line) and also the location of the mine and Tangarakau in general.

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This map is of Tangarakau itself. You can see some features like where the old road bridge used to be (see the previous article) which was parallel to the railway bridge, and on the east side where the PWD powerhouse was during construction of the railway.

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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Stratford Okahukura Line Leased

Kiwirail have announced the SOL will be leased out to Forgotten World Adventures who will hire adapted golf carts for people to take rides on the route. This is similar to a thing that some outfit are doing on the Rotorua Branch as well. The line can be taken back by Kiwirail if they need it to bypass the North Island Main Trunk or if there is a significant freight opportunity developing such as a coal mining development (which I think is unlikely as it would have happened by now, the coal in the area is generally low grade and only used for local industry in the past).
Apart from the map at the bottom of this article here are some photos of Tangarakau which is one of those very remote locations typically served by the SOL railway. A fascinating series of blog posts describing part of the construction of the SOL and the Egmont Coal mine nearby can be found on Bren Campbell’s blog. He also talks about his time as a locomotive driver, including WW2 experiences helping to operate railways in the war zones of the Middle East, and his career in the engineering business. Several of these photos were taken by the late Phillip Capper (1944-2011), an Englishman who emigrated to New Zealand about 40-50 years ago and lived for a number of years on the South Island West Coast. His Flickr photostream contains over 12 000 photos.
This photo is from the NZETC, which means some old document that got scanned in, and as the caption says it was taken by an official NZR photographer. Actually all of today’s photos are of bridges. I would guess this photo dates from the 1930s.
Phillip Capper’s photo of the old road bridge at Tangarakau in 1968. As he writes, the farming of the area faced dubious economics and even in this period farmers were being forced off the land. As Steve’s recent photo on his Flickr page shows, this bridge has now been dismantled and has not been replaced. Any road access in the area appears to be achieved by fording the river. (Phillip Capper’s photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic).
Another Phillip Capper photo, this time a suspension bridge in Tangarakau area. The caption of the original photo on Flickr is well worth reading.
The map is below. It is currently being updated and at the time of writing only part of it has been converted to the new symbols. The line colours have been changed to designate its new status. I am also updating the Open Street Maps coverage of this route. You may have wondered about that since at the beginning of this year I said that I wanted to do everything in OSM. In fact the two modes will be complementary and will be simultaneously developed. Each has its own strengths and the opportunity of one will be used to improve the other.

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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Ecan bus changes alternatives

Ecan's proposals: Here is the full report and here is a summary.

David Welch analysis over here at NZ In Tranzit.

My suggestions:
The map below suggests replacing the current routes with new ones that are somewhat fewer in number, but retaining the central bus exchange concept with routes radiating out like spokes from it. The map shows 26 single ended routes, based on the premise that most people would live within, at most, 600 metres straight-line of a route. I think that is quite a reasonable spacing. These routes are concepts only – I don’t know how workable they are in practice and therefore a lot more work would be needed to produce something that works out. However when you look at the fact that our current route arrangements put a lot of buses down a handful of arterials before they spread out – then it looks like an odd way of covering the city.
These routes should be maintained with a frequency of at least 30 minutes in daytime – more often at peaks if needed, all week and weekends,  going to hourly later in the evenings.
There may be scope for a few suburban hubs where a number of routes cross over and therefore where people might be transferring between routes reasonably often.
Note this does not show an Orbiter route – I am a great fan of the Orbiter and advocate keeping it in its current form. However I would like to suggest maybe there is scope for two Orbiter routes at different radii from the city centre.

View CST Chch Buses in a larger map

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Amberley Station 1987

Again it’s been a while since the last update. I have been busy with other things – establishing my Flickr site and uploading photos to it has been a priority. There are currently more than 3000 photos on it, plus others I am scanning from films.
Amberley in 1987 was the last station on the MNL before Waipara. It was almost closed by that time with the yards mainly storing track materials.
Amberley’s station building was a relatively new replacement of one that perhaps had burned down – I don’t recall the details. There was a main line going down the yard side of the platform, and a loop going down the opposite side of the platform – technically making it an island platform, though not in the usual sense – where an island platform is used to serve multiple passenger trains on the opposing tracks. I don’t recall if any passenger trains stopped here at the time – although the Coastal Pacific did stop at Papanui and other smaller stations in this section on demand. I used to walk or bus from my home to catch the train at Papanui to Waipara when I was travelling regularly to Weka Pass Railway to work there during this period.
Here we can see the loop and main going down the yard towards the bridge, which was within the home signals. The siding to the left served stockyards, which had a movable ramp that ran on rails of its own set into concrete. A trap points and indicator can be seen to the left.
The bridge is 200 metres long and there must have been wires for the home signals along the side of it. I believe the sign said “Shunt limit” or something like that, but it was still something like halfway across the bridge to that point.

Off the south end of the bridge you have the two home signals. Although there were ground levers at the station platform, these would have been to control the home signals at the north end. There appears to have been a set of ground levers next to the loop to main points just at the north end of the bridge, to control these signals.
The S&I diagram showing Rangiora and Amberley. There were several other stations in between, but they were all closed by this time: Ashley, Sefton, Balcairn, and Grays Road. The diagram probably correlates well with the state of the yard in 1987. As you can see, there were also colour light distant signals outboard of each pair of home signals, which would have been electrical rather than mechanical, therefore the wires, if any, to connect them to the signal panel would have been simpler to arrange than the mechanical cables needed to connect the home signals.
By 1987 Amberley like most of the stations between Addington and Waipara was switched out at weekends, and trains were being crossed only at the extremeties of the tablet section. Between Addington and Waipara a system called “safeall” was used when the stations were switched out. The home signals at each end of the station would be pulled off as these signals were interlocked with the mainline points at each end of the respective yards, thus guaranteeing that the points were safe for trains to proceed. Safeall replaced the tablet system which was still nominally in operation between Addington and Waipara, which I believe was the last use of tablet north or west of Christchurch (except possibly the Otira Tunnel) at the time.
This was a period when Booz Allen had just produced their report for NZR recommending freight terminal rationalisation. Between Addington and Waipara, Belfast Kaiapoi and Rangiora remained open for some level of freight traffic into the 1990s, with other stations closing outright. Track Warrant equipment replaced the semaphore signalling and tablet in the section in 1989 but was not actually commissioned for another few years. With the further loss of freight customers due to Tranz Rail's policies in the mid 1990s as well as closure of some premises, I believe the freight traffic originating in this section in recent years mainly consists of some log loading at Rangiora and a private siding at Ashley. The two freezing works at Belfast both closed their private sidings in the mid 90s and the Kaiapoi works closed outright around that period; the Belfast works are subject to further rationalisation at the present. Waipara kept a public siding when the yard was rearranged in the late 1980s but I don’t think there is any traffic to it now.
Click here to see a Streetview of Amberley in 2009. As you can see it is all gone. There is virtually no remaining trace of the former station site, although the bridge remains in more or less the same state with wooden piles.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Blackball Branch and Roa Incline [2]

With more help from certain friends I have managed to dispel the suggestion I made earlier that the Roa road took over the incline route after the latter closed. They were sufficiently separate that the route of the railway can still be picked out today and distinctly from the road.
Here is the map:

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And here is a photo, with a link to its full 16-megapixel size in my Picasa albums. You can zoom that one up to something quite meaningful and easy to pick out the detail from.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Road & Rail Bridges between Reefton and Inangahua

Currently on the Stillwater Westport Line between Reefton and Inangahua there is one road-rail combined bridge, the parallel bridge at Inangahua Junction. It was built around 1925 from memory and has survived two major earthquakes in 1929 and 1968 both of which caused significant damage to the piers at their bases. There are only two other bridges of this type in NZ: the one at Westshore just north of Napier, which has a two lane road that closed to traffic some years ago, and the recently built bridge at Arahura near Hokitika which has two lanes for traffic.
There also used to be four other bridges with a shared single lane deck that had rails up the middle of it. During the 1970s and 1980s all four of these were replaced with new road and/or rail bridges. The maps below detail these four bridges and we start by heading out north of Reefton.
Coming north from Reefton the first bridge is at the Waitahu River which is the biggest of all the rivers. I understand it was bridge no. 74 on the line and was about 150 metres long. It was built by the Public Works Department in 1906 when the railway was put through north of Reefton. A flood in 1950 required a Bailey Bridge for the road while repairs were put in hand.  The new railway bridge was built in 1972 and the old bridge was then handed over to the Roads Board. It was at the end of its useful life by 1979 and had to be patched up until the present road bridge could be opened about four years later.

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Here we can see that I have chosen to guess (green route) that the old combined bridge was some distance east of the current road and rail bridges. There is some support for this with what appears to be an old rail formation on the north side of the bridge and possibly also an old road formation also on the north side. On the south side you can see nothing of the approaches of either for that location, so where the rail line went is just a guess.
Continuing north the next bridge location is just north of Cronadun station, at Boatmans Creek. This is such a small waterway that you wonder why the road rail bridge was the only option for so long. It was originally Bridge no. 76 on the line and was about 70 metres long. A new road bridge was built by 1972.

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In this case the path of the old road is pretty clear; on the south side old sealed roadway still goes most of the way, while on the north side the road still exists and is open up to nearly the end of the bridge. It looks like the road bridge was replaced first, which left NZR to keep using their rail bridge. This bridge was still nearly all wooden until the mid 90s, as you would expect if it was the original. It has since been rebuilt to make it stronger.
Third bridge is at Larry’s Creek, a larger waterway, and this bridge was built as no. 79 by the PWD in 1900 and was about 95 metres long. The bridge got damaged a few times by floods and temporary Bailey bridges had to be built a couple of times for the road traffic. One of these temporary bridges got washed out by another flood before the repairs were completed. The current road bridge was built about 1974.

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Just like at Boatmans Creek, the road bridge being replaced first left the Railways able to keep using their bridge on its original alignment. I would doubt considerably that this is still the original bridge however as it would have needed to be strengthened at some stage due to the heavy coal traffic on the route these days. The road formations to both sides are easy to see.
The last of the four bridges is where the Inangahua River is crossed at Landing. Don’t confuse it with the Inangahua Junction bridge I mentioned above. It was built by the PWD before 1914 and when the NZR took it over they had to renew a lot of the timbers because of poor quality hardwood being used. It was about 80 metres long. The Inangahua Earthquake in 1968 caused a lot of damage to this bridge. It was already being looked at for replacement but the earthquake meant it had to be patched up until new bridges could be built as a priority. The damage was mostly to the concrete abutments and piers. The abutment at the south end was so badly damaged that an extra span of 5 metres was added. The bridge got patched up from time to time throughout the 1970s and whenever this happened, road traffic had to be diverted on Browns Creek Road all the way up to Inangahua to cross the river there.

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NZR opened their new rail bridge in 1982 and handed the old one to the Roads Board. It was still in very bad shape and it just got patched up a bit more and lengthened again at the south end. Within 5 years the new road bridge was being built. It was about 1988 when the bridge was decommissioned and it was worth so little that it was slowly dismantled over the next few years. As you can see from the map, the old bridge was just to the west of the rail bridge and this meant that the highway had to make a sharp right angle turn onto it on the south side. Today the old highway on the south bank can still be seen alongside the current route. On the north side the highway had to cross over the railway line and then it went alongside it to join up with the current highway. Today the level crossing is on the south side of the river because the road bridge is now to the east of the railway. 
With all the maps this is a long post. I have some photos that I hope to post in a future blog but I won’t make any guarantees when this will happen as it is a lot of work to get them together.

Ikamatua Coal Siding

This facility was built about three years ago for the Pike River Coal Co which operated their mine in the Paparoa Ranges. The mine closed in November 2010 as a result of the explosion that killed 29 workers underground. Recently ownership of the mine and facilities passed to Solid Energy Ltd.
The loading facility is very unusual as it is a completely circular siding. We would ordinarily expect to see a balloon loop at such a facility or perhaps a conventional loop. Effectively for train working purposes this is a single ended siding because there is only one junction of the siding to the main line. There is no loop within the siding itself. Trains must enter and leave the siding in the same configuration as there is no ability for locomotives to be changed from one end of the train to the other.
A train coming up from Christchurch which needs to turn around and go back to Christchurch would either go first to Ikamatua railway station 1.5 km further north, run around there, return to the siding and propel its wagons in for loading, or enter directly, propel out after loading and then carry on to Ikamatua to run around. In either case additional staff would have to be on hand apart from the train driver for these shunting operations. That is why a balloon loop would have been a more logical design as the train would be turned right around and extra staff and shunting operations would not be needed. Another option for loading is a train coming to Christchurch from Reefton or Ngakawau where other mines load coal onto the rail. But the train would still have to be propelled in even if it didn’t need to turn around, so shunting crew would still be needed. It may well be the case that additional staff are needed for the loading operation as it is a kind of shunt, so maybe that is not the issue it seems.
Here is the map of the sidings overlaid on Google Earth.

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To see this map you must have the Google Earth Plugin installed in your browser. If you don’t have this you might need to install it. Here is the same map in Google Maps, but you won’t be able to see the sidings because Google Maps doesn’t have the latest Google Earth coverage.

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Blackball Branch & Roa Incline

With a little help from some friends I have been able to get an up to date map of the Blackball Branch and the Roa Incline. There are still a few old bridges and stuff left today on the routes. My understanding of Roa is that most of the route was taken over by the road after the railway closed, but this could be wrong.
Here is my map embedded in Google Maps:

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Here is a Bing map which is higher quality but you can’t superimpose a KML over it of course. Bing only has coverage above Blackball at present.