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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 1 (May 1, 1932.)

History of the Canterbury Railways

page 38

History of the Canterbury Railways


Financial Difficulties Of The Provincial Government.

Mr. Edward Dobson, the first Engineer of Working Railways in New Zealand.

Mr. Edward Dobson, the first Engineer of Working Railways in New Zealand.

The Provincial Government of Canterbury found difficulty in raising capital by means of loans on the London market. The security offered did not appeal to investors. The General Government had first call on the principal sources of revenue, viz.: Lands and Customs, and the Provincial Government had, as expressed by Mr. Superintendent Moorhouse, merely a reversionary interest in a contingent remainder.

When the General Government was compelled to borrow money to pay for the suppression of native disturbances, not only did the Provincial revenue suffer, but there was competition in London for the loan money available. In 1864 the Provincial Government sought assistance by asking that the General Government of the Colony should guarantee the Provincial loans, but as both bodies continued to borrow from the banks on the security of the unsold debentures, and were subsequently forced to sell these debentures at much less than their face value, the guarantee was not of material assistance to Canterbury.

The English Agent of the Province (Mr. H. Selfe Selfe), in conjunction with the London Manager of the Union Bank of Australia, was able to sell four instalments, each nominally of £50,000, of the Lyttelton to Christchurch railway loan, but when in February 1867 the Bank of New Zealand, as financial agents for Canterbury (Mr. Selfe Selfe having resigned) offered for sale in London £300,000 of the Canterbury Loan (1862) at 95, only £3,900 was applied for at or above the minimum, and only £10,130 altogether. There was no scarcity of money at the time. The failure was due to the indisposition of the public to invest in New Zealand provincial securities.

On 3rd May, 1867, the Colonial Secretary (Mr. E. W. Stafford) advised the Superintendent that his Government intended, in view of the failure of the Provincial loan, to submit to the General Assembly a measure for converting the Provincial loans into Colonial Stock. The conversion was authorised by the Crown Debts Act, 1867, and further borrowing by the Provinces ceased. The balances of the then current loans of Canterbury Province were converted into General Government stock at £97 per £100.

page 39

Communication with the West Coast.

In 1865 a valuable and extensive gold-field was opened on the West Coast of the Province, and it became necessary to establish machinery for the administration of local government and to provide means of communication. A survey of the Coast from the sea was made by the Provincial Port Officer (Captain F. D. Gibson) the small steamer Bruce (Captain Malcolm) being chartered for the purpose. Signal stations for the direction of shipping were established at Hokitika and Greymouth, but owing to the difficulties of navigation, and the consequent loss of ships, land communication was essential. The West Coast road from Christ-church to Hokitika was made, and a telegraph line was also erected. The cost of these, and of the local government establishment was a severe strain on the financial resources of the Province.

The South Line Opened for Traffic.

The contract for the South line of railway, from Christchurch to the Rakaia River provided that, if the financial condition of the Province required it, the work might be stopped completely at any stage, the contractors being paid for the work then done. In December, 1866, an arrangement was made with Messrs. Doyne and La Tonche terminating their agreement for the supervision of construction on the completion of the line to Selwyn, and the contractors were notified of the decision that construction would be halted in the meantime at that place.

On Saturday, 13th October, 1866, an official trip was made from Christchurch to Rolleston, and the Superintendent and party were entertained at lunch, the return trip from Rolleston to Christchurch being made in thirty minutes. On the following Monday (15th October) the line was opened for public traffic. The timetable was:
Christchurchdep.9.5 a.m.5.5 p.m.
Rollestondep.10.0 a.m.6.0 p.m.
Trains ran on Sundays as well as on week days. The fares between Christchurch and Rolleston were: First-class, single 6/6, return 10/-; second-class, single 5/-, return 7/-. Return tickets issued on Saturday and Sunday were available for return on the following Monday. The intermediate stations were: Addington, Riccarton, Racecourse, and Templeton.

Goods rates, Christchurch to Rolleston, were 10/- per ton, and Christchurch to Templeton 7/- per ton. A through rate of 11/- per bale of wool from Rolleston to Lyttelton via Ferrymead wharf was advertised, and the contractors also established a dray service from Rakaia Ferry to Rolleston.

On 7th October, 1867, a train service was commenced between Christchurch and the north bank of the Selwyn, passengers only being carried south of Rolleston. Three trains each way were run daily, leaving Christchurch at 6.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m., and 4.45 p.m., and returning from the north bank of the Selwyn at 8.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m., and 6 p.m.

In connection with the train service, L. G. Cole and Co. ran a line of Cobb's coaches from Selwyn to Rakaia, Ash-burton, Orari and Timaru. The coach left Timaru on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6.0 a.m., and left Selwyn on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays after arrival of the 6.30 a.m. train from Christchurch.

The timetable operating from 16th December, 1867, showed trains running to Selwyn station, but the bridge was washed away by the very severe floods of 4th February, 1868. The bridge was originally constructed with stone and brickwork piers and abutments founded on a shingle bottom, but these were scoured out by the floods and were replaced by piles when the bridge was rebuilt.

The Rakaia Bridge.

The financial difficulties prevented the undertaking of the construction of the bridge over the Rakaia. A suggestion was made that a cheaper form of structure than that originally planned might be adopted, and a report on this suggestion was made by the Provincial engineer (Mr. page 40 E. Dobson). He submitted a plan for a railway bridge, or locomotive ferry, estimated to cost £30,000, including rolling stock. The bridge would consist of piers of raking piles, 15 feet apart, with caps and beams to carry a light railway, and the rolling stock would consist of a light locomotive and six trucks or floats. A loading ramp would be provided at each end of the bridge, carts and teams would be loaded on the trucks, drawn across the bridge by the locomotive, and discharged at the ramp at the other end of the bridge.

Particulars of Mr. Dobson's Plan.

Mr. Dobson estimated the cost of operation of this ferry at about £3,000 a year, including the wages of one engine-driver, two cleaners, and two bridge-keepers. If a toll of 10/- per train were imposed, the possible revenue would be £6,240 per annum for forty trips per day. He was of opinion that contractors could be found to erect the bridge and take a lease of it for seven years in return for tolls at two-thirds of the then existing ferry rates by the punt. He stated that a substantial bridge to carry cart traffic and permit the driving of stock could be erected for about £32,000, exclusive of the approaches, which would cost about £6,450 more, but this bridge, which would be 22 feet wide, would be more liable to damage by floods than the railway bridge, and it would not be suitable for railway traffic.

Now Running As A More Efficient Unit. Locomotive Ba 497, built at Addington Railway Workshops (South Island) in 1911, and recently converted into a modern standard type at Hillside Workshops.

Now Running As A More Efficient Unit.
Locomotive Ba 497, built at Addington Railway Workshops (South Island) in 1911, and recently converted into a modern standard type at Hillside Workshops.

The Secretary for Public Works, replying to this report, stated it was considered 22 feet was unnecessarily wide, and asked for an amended plan for a bridge 18 feet wide, suitable for carts and stock, and ultimately carrying a railway. In his reply, dated 7th June, 1867, Mr. Dobson stated that a bridge to carry road traffic and also a 24-ton locomotive would require a design of very much greater cost. He submitted an amended plan for a bridge for road traffic, estimated to cost £20,000. Trucks could be drawn across this bridge by horses, but it would not be suitable to carry an ordinary 24-ton locomotive.

In the course of the correspondence the Secretary for Public Works stated that looking at the financial prospects the Government could not entertain any intention to carry the railway any further than Selwyn for the present. The construction of the Rakaia bridge remained in abeyance.

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