Thursday, May 28, 2009

More information on the North Island Main Trunk line

I've received some very interesting emails from rail historian Anne StewartBall sparked off by my wee piece on the building of the North Island Main Trunk line, "Riders of Hobby Horses".
"Some additions to your information.

Ferdinand Hochstetter investigated the Drury Coalfield in 1859 and from this visit came dreams over a piece of coal burning in the grate at John Logan Campbell's premises in Shortland Street.

Yes a wooden tramway 4ft. 6 in guage was built for the Waihoihoi Coal Company headed by John Logan Campbell as Chairperson to the water. The design by civil engineer James Stewart. At the opening it was suggested a rail or tramway Drury to Auckland. This was raised by Mr. Buckland at Provincial Council Meeting.

The first surveys for Auckland - Drury Railway were carried out by Samuel Harding C.E. and James Stewart C.E. ( you will see this confirmed in books by Lawn, Furkert, Cyclopaedia Auckland Province, Provincial Council Records, AJHR, and what little Archive NZ records have managed to survive fire, flood and shipwreck.These were confirmed by Mr. Weaver - Provincial Engineer - first section out a major likewise the site of the Auckland Station to be decided. The first sod of the Drury Railway was turned by Mr. Graham in Mr. Dilworth's paddock 0n 16 February 1865. There was great discussion about this being the beginning of a railway all the way to the Cook Strait.Before this there were extensive warnings in the Daily Southern Cross, etc asking people not to pull up the survey pegs.

Yes there were two locomotives ( called this before a track is completed) Suggest you may like to read Vicesimus Lush diaries as there is a rather neat account of the boys enjoying seeing the locomotive in action - new technology for its time.

Harding and Stewart were the Engineers in Charge of Construction. Yes things ground to a halt in 1866 (for a number of reasons including the high cost of compensation wanted by landowners.)

Yes the railway started again under the Vogel ' think big" scheme. Yes Mr. Wrigg was District Engineer and under him was Stewart and Harding ( Resident Engineers ) who carried out a resurvey for Government. Mr. Brogden concurred the route and likewise Mr. Henderson, Brogden's Personal and Head Engineer.In fact these two were to concur so totally that it abbrogated much of the anti in the newspapers.

(If you had done more research you would have seen much from a Mr. Dalton Civil Engineer who really wanted the railway contract and was a bit pipped because Stewart had won the Mangere Bridge Design competition and he got third )

In 1872 Stewart was asked by Government to report on possible routes after Mercer South through to Wellington. In 1872 Stewart was also put in charge as Resident Engineer Public Works Auckland Mercer Railway overseeing the Brogden contract and ordering rails, sleepers, carriages,locomotives, stations, water tanks or towers, etc. In 1874 Stewart was made District Engineer for all railway construction in the Auckland Province. After Brogden completed railway to Mercer the rest of the route was built by Public Works and Militia to Ngaruawahia.

Yes the first sod for the Mercer - Ngaruawahia section was turned at Ngaruawahia. The special thing about that was that on the first sod was placed a Harakeke, Rose, Thistle and Shamrock representing those who were surveying and constructing the line.

Getting the railway to Te Awamutu is also a delightful story and is one of settler lobbying in an interesting turn, so near and yet so far because of a bottomless swamp sucking up the ballast and a wonderful country fair and dinner.

Interesting point for main trunk is that you will see names of other Engineers Beere, Hunter, Goodall, Jackson and not forgetting the contractors Gallagher, Falloon, O'Brien.

There is a wealth of reference out there to add to R.S. Fletcher - just a little scattered across Archives, Museums, Government Departments, etc. If reading the papers then one probably needs to follow the stories right through
or else only part of the story is gained,

I too am like you - a passion for writing railway history - if you would like my two articles on the Drury Railway you would be welcome. They are well referenced because of the scattered information and I have a belief it helps other researchers. Plus I have been in the process of completing my GGF's Biography - the James Stewart I have talked about. The story need to be written on those early Railway Engineers and Surveyors before they become a lost heritage.

Yours sincerely
Anne Stewart Ball"
Anne has also done a number of articles on New Zealand rail history:

Brief Biography Stewart
The beginnings Main Trunk (Waihoihoi, Drury)
Glimpses of Four Generations - their Horizons A Family in Epsom/ Eden( bit about family, Drury Railway, Mercer Railway, Auckland Electric Tramways )
Beginning Glimpses - Thames Waikato Railway
Steel Horizons to Waihi
The Tarawera Eruption 10 June 1886
Research References on Steamers in Auckland Province Coastal Waters- Those early beginnings 1866- 1875
War Horizons ( the story of PS Rangiriri and PS Koheroa)

As written have been donating or depositing copies with relevant places so others can access for information, research,etc eg National Library, MOTAT, Railway Heritage, National Maritime,etc.)

Also, the following research published on Electric Scotland:
Scottish Influence of my Scottish forebears in NZ

JAMES STEWART M.inst.C.E. – Civil Engineer and Surveyor 1832 - 1914

If anyone wishes to contact Anne, send me an email, and I'll forward it on to her. Thanks Anne for letting me publish this on the blog.

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