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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Railway Department

Railway Department.

The first New Zealand railway, which was laid down 1860, was a length of about eleven miles from Nelson to the Dun Mountain for the conveyance of chrome ore to the port. The venture proved a failure. The real work of railway building commenced with piercing the mountain range dividing Lyttelton Harbour from the Canterbury Plains by a tunnel a mile-and-a-half in length. This great work was undertaken by the late Mr. George Holmes and the Hon. E. Richardson, C.M.G., and it was completed on the 1st of December, 1867, the line from the Heathcote River to Christchurch having been completed four years previously. This line was constructed on the 5ft. 3in. gauge, but was assimilated in 1876 to the standard gauge of 3ft. 6in., which has been adopted on all the New Zealand lines. Up to 1870 there were only forty-six miles of railway open. In that year, Sir Julius Vogel (q.v.) promulgated his great public works policy, and construction went on rapidly, with the result that there were on the 31st of March, 1894, 762 miles 48 chains in the North Island, and 1225 miles 31 chains in the South Island, authorized, constructed and surveyed; the total mileage open for traffic being 1993, costing £15,352,613, the average cost being £7703 per mile. The railways last year returned a profit of £2 14s. 6d. per cent on the capital cost, and the percentage of expenditure to revenue was 63-62. In addition to the mileage mentioned above there are 175 miles of private lines open for traffic, the most important of which is the Wellington-Manawatu Company's line, which possesses eighty-four miles, the Midland Railway with eighty-seven miles in two branches from Stillwater to Reefton, and towards Canterbury respectively, and the Kaitangata Company's line of four miles. The Wellington-Manawatu line cost £771,684, being at the rate of £9187 per mile, which includes the entire equipment of rolling stock, buildings, etc. The total number of men employed on the Government lines is over 4500. There are workshops at all the chief centres, at which for many years the building of rolling stock and repairs of locomotives has been successfully carried on. Nearly all the stations are connected by telegraph or telephone, and at many of them the combined duties of post and telegraph office are carried on. The lines being all practically single track, there is no need of elaborate precautions for signalling. The average cost of maintenance is about £140 per annum. There are nearly 300 locomotives in use on the Government lines, ranging from light shunting engines of eleven tons weight up to the large goods of the English and American type of fifty-four tons in weight. Several locomotives in use were built in the Colony, specially designed for heavy grades. Passenger fares are generally at the rate of 2 1/2d. per mile first-class, and 1 2/3d. second-class; the return fares being calculated at one-third increase on these rates; but for suburban and local traffic the fares are much lower, and excursion and tourist traffic is encouraged by greatly reduced fares during certain seasons. Taken all through, the New Zealand Railways have been constructed and maintained on a most economical basis. All parts are kept up to a standard of safety and efficiency, and the numerous wooden bridges, of which there are nearly 600 in the North Island alone, are, as they show signs of decay, being renewed with more lasting material, and in some cases done away with altogether. In the early days the lines were mostly laid out with iron rails weighing thirty and forty pounds to the yard. These are gradually being replaced by steel rails varying from forty to fifty-three pounds, and at the rate this change is being made, it will not be long before the whole of the railways are renewed with more durable materials, except in the cases of a few unimportant branch lines.

The Hon. A. J. Cadman, Minister for Railways, is in charge of this branch of the Public Service. The honourable gentleman's career is given on pages 45-6.

Mr. H. J. H. Blow, Under Secretary of Railways, is referred to at length, under heading “Public Works Department.”

Mr. Thomas Ronayne, General Manager of the New Zealand Railways, comes of a very old Irish family. Previously to the time of the Commonwealth the Ronaynes owned a large portion of the south of Ireland, but when Cromwell crossed over in his memorable expedition to settle the difficulty in that island, he confiscated a large, portion of the family estates. Mr. Ronayne was born in Youghal, County Cork in 1849, where he received his elementary education. While yet a youth he removed to Wakefield, Yorkshire, completing his education and gaining high honours in mathematics. After leaving college his first employment was with Messrs. Smith, Knight and Co., contractors for the railway between Wakefield and Doncaster. When this undertaking was finished, he entered as an apprentice the Inchicore Works in Dublin, in connection with the great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland. Here he passed through the various grades, and on leaving received excellent testimonials. His next employment was in Manchester, where he worked for Messrs. Sharp, Stewart and Co., in the Atlas Locomotive Works. This was his last engagement in England. He had now become master of his profession, and, hearing glowing reports of this Colony, he resolved to sail for New Zealand. Arriving in Wellington in 1875, he interviewed the late Mr. Blackett for employment, but was unsuccessful. Soon after this, however, page 153 Mr. Passmore, the superintending engineer of railway works, promised him an appointment on the Kaipara-Helensville Railway, on condition that he should first qualify for the position by learning the details of the work contemplated. In October of the same year he took charge of the works at Helensville, receiving a salary of £250 per annum. Here he remained six months, when he was promoted to Greymouth to take charge of the railway there. His residence on the West Coast extended over ten years. It was he who made the first shipment of coal that left the coast, and he was intimately connected with the ceal industry for many years. In 1886 he was transferred to Wellington to perform the combined duties of resident and locomotive engineer. Soon after his return to Wellington, however, Mr. Carruthers was appointed resident engineer, and Mr. Ronayne then confined himself to the locomotive department. During his term of office in this capacity great improvements were made in the working of the Rimutaka incline by which large expenses were Mr. Thomas Ronayne saved. After a residence of two years in Wellington, Mr. Ronayne was promoted to the position of locomotive engineer at Addington, a position previously held by Mr. Smith and Mr. Rotherham. In 1890 he was again sent to Greymouth, where he found employment in putting the Grey-Brunner line into working order. This was an important undertaking, as the line had fallen into a state of bad repair and required much labour and expense to redeem it. Mr. Ronayne was still engaged on this work when, upon the resumption of the management of the railways by the Government in January, 1895, he was appointed general manager. From the foregoing narrative it will be seen that Mr. Ronayne has worked his way up from a humble position to the highest engineering position in the Colony. In 1878 he married Miss Langton, daughter of Mr. D. E. Langton, and niece of the celebrated Victorian freetrader. His family consists of three girls and three boys.

Mr. Charles Hudson, Assistant General Manager of New Zealand Railways, belongs to a family well known in the Colony. Born in London on the 22nd of January, 1853, he returned to England after some three years in this Colony, and was educated at the Islington Proprietary School, on leaving which he entered the service of the Great Western Railway Company. Commencing at the lowest rung in the ladder, Mr. Hudson steadily worked his way upwards till he was appointed to the position of stationmaster. After ten years in this Company's employ, he returned to the Colony about the end of 1879, and early in the following year entered the New Zealand Railways as relieving officer. At Wanganui he was subsequently chosen for the position of Chief Clerk in the office of the Commissioner for North Island Railways. When Mr. Maxwell joined the service in 1880, Mr. Hudson was associated with him in the work of reorganisation, and on the completion of this duty was for some time chief auditor. In 1884 he was appointed Traffic Manager of the Auckland section of New Zealand Railways, a position which he held for eleven years. As a Mason he was attached to Lodge Remuera, 1710, E.C., and on leaving to take up his duties as Assistant General Manager of New Zealand Railways had just completed his year of office as Worshipful Master. Mr. Hudson was also a steward of the Auckland District Grand Lodge.

Mr. Thomas William Waite, Chief Clerk of New Zealand Railways, was born in York, England. He entered the service of the North Eastern Railway Company, in whose employ he continued for eight years, passing through various branches to the office of the General Passenger Superintendent of the line. In 1879 Mr. Waite arrived in Port Lyttelton. Within two years he joined the Railway Department as clerk in the Traffic Department. For some time Mr. Waite was chief clerk to the Railway Commissioners and on the Government resuming control of the Railways on the 1st of January, 1895, he was appointed to his present post.

Other Officers.

Clerks—R. W. McVilly, J. S. Palmer, C. Isherwood, E. J. Andrews, L. C. E. Hamann, J. E. Widdop, W. H. Gifford, W. S. W. McGowan, H. D. Dansey.

Audit Inspectors — C. Wallnutt, D. Munro, C. L. Russell.

Mr. Alexander C. Fife, Accountant for New Zealand Railways, who for nearly thirty years has been in the Civil Service of the Colony, hails from Forfarshire, Scotland, where he was educated. Born in 1839, Mr. Fife entered official life on leaving school in the Scottish North Eastern Railway. He speedily rose in the service of the Company, with whom he remained for upwards of twelve years, attaining the position of assistant manager. Mr. Fife left Scotland shortly after the amalgamation of the Scottish North Eastern Railway with the Caledonian Railway in 1866, coming to Lyttelton, New Zealand, per ship “Mermaid.” For some time after reaching the Colony he was employed as a schoolteacher in the Christchurch Academy in Christchurch. In 1868 an opportunity of utilizing the knowledge gained in Scotland was presented, and on the 1st of May Mr. Fife entered upon the duties of cashier and paymaster for the Canterbury Railways. In five years his services were recognised by promotion to the position of Railway Accountant, which he has held for upwards of twenty years. With Dr. Prins, Mr. J. S. Williams (now Mr. Justice Williams), the late Rev. C. Fraser, Dr. Turnbull, and others, he took a leading part in promoting the establishment of the present Free Public Library and reading-room in Christchurch. He was honorary secretary of the Literary Institute for six years. This Society had considerable page 154 property, and, in order to extend the usefulness of tne institution, its committee agreed, towards the close of 1873, to pass over to the governors of the Canterbury College, on behalf of the Provincial Government of Canterbury, all its property—consisting of Mr. Alexander C. Fife half-an-acre of very valuable land with all the buildings, furniture, and upwards of 4000 books, on the following conditions:—(1) That a free public library and reading-room should be established and maintained; (2) That the circulating branch should be continued, a small fee being chargeable for that purpose; and (3) That this portion of the library should at all times contain at the very least as many volumes as constituted the entire library passed over. The property was taken over on those conditions, and the Free Public Library and reading-room in Christchurch thus became an established fact. This placed Christchurch in the forefront in New Zealand in this respect. In the beginning of 1874 a meeting of the committee of the late Literary Institute and the Library Committee of the Canterbury College was convened for the purpose of presenting a fitting testimonial to Mr. Fife in recognition of the part he had taken in bringing this work to a successful issue. The testimonial took the form of a valuable gold watch bearing the following inscription :— “Presented to Alexander C. Fife, Honorary Secretary, Literary Institute, by the directors, 31st December, 1873.” Mr. Fife joined the Masonic fraternity while in Christchurch, where he belonged to the St Augustine Lodge, E.C. On his removal to Wellington he affiliated with Wellington Lodge No. 1521, but is now unattached. He is an original member of the Thorndon Bowling Club. In 1877 Mr. Fife was married to Miss Jessie, second daughter of Mr. John Neilson, grain merchant, Falkirk, Scotland. His family consists of two daughters and four sons.

Other Officers.

Clerks—H. Davidson, G. G. Wilson, M. C. Rowe, J. H. Davies, S. P. Curtis, J. McLean, E. Davy, A. Morris, R. Allen, V. Janisch, E. P. Brogan, W. B. Fisher, J. Firth, E. J. Fleming, E. R. Nicholson, R. J. Loe, F. W. Lash, A. H. Hunt, W. Bourke, W. H. Hales, W. E. Ahern.

Mr. George Felton, Stores Manager of New Zealand Railways, was born at Cowbridge, South Wales. He was educated in his native town, and at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. For nine years Mr. Felton gained experience on the Rustchuck and Varna Railway, in Bulgaria, rising to the position of stores manager. Desirous of settling in this Colony, he came to Wellington per ship “Commissary,” about the end of 1875. For a short time after arrival Mr. Felton lived in Auckland. In 1876 he joined the Railway Service, at Nelson, in the Traffic Department, but was soon promoted to the position of travelling clerk. After eighteen months Mr. Felton was transferred to the Stores Department in Oamaru, subsequently to Christchurch, and later on to Wellington. His present appointment was conferred on him in April, 1895. In 1877, Mr. Felton was married to Miss Cooke, daughter of Major T. W. Cooke, of Nelson, late of H.M. Madras Army. His family consists of one daughter and three sons.

Other Officers.

Clerks — A. M. Heaton, R. E. Mackay, J. Webster, J. E. Hasloch, S. Alpe, H. W. Barbor, R. H. Stephens, E. J. Maguiness.

Mr. John Henry Lowe, M. Inst. C.E., Chief Engineer for Working Railways for New Zealand, is an old and experienced officer, having been in the Civil Service for about thirty years. Born in 1841 in London, he was educated in his native city and in Devonshire. He came out to Melbourne in 1864 per ship “True Briton,” and, crossing the Tasman Sea, landed in Nelson in the same year. Almost immediately on his arrival, Mr. Lowe entered the public service in the Survey Department at Nelson, where he soon rose to the position of District Surveyor and Engineer. In 1869 he was appointed Resident Magistrate and Warden of the Nelson South West Goldfields, but resigned in the following year and left on an extended trip to
Mr. John Henry Lowe

Photo by Kinsey.

page 155 England. When in England, Mr. Lowe married Miss Charlotte Cronin, daughter of the late Edward Cronin, Esq., M.D., of London. His family numbers seven, one daughter and six sons. On his return to New Zealand in 1872, he entered the then recently established Public Works Department, being entrusted with the construction of the railway line as far as the Hutt. After the completion of this section, Mr. Love went to Otago to superintend the construction of the railway between Waitahi and Palmerston South. This work was completed in 1877, when the subject of this notice was appointed engineer in charge of open railways in Canterbury. This position he retained till 1880, when he was transferred to Dunedin as officer in charge of the Amberley-Bluff section of New Zealand Railways. Mr. Lowe continued in this position till 1887 when he was promoted to the important post now held by him. In 1874 he was elected a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Francis William MacLean, A.M. Inst. C.E., Assistant Engineer for Working Railways, was born at Boston, U.S., and educated in Edinburgh. He entered the North British Railway in 1876, as pupil in the Engineer's Department, and after four years' experience became assistant engineer, a position which he held till deciding to emigrate. Arriving in Auckland per ship “Aorangi” in 1884, he joined the Railway Department as Assistant Engineer of Working Railways. In 1883, Mr. MacLean was transferred to Nelson as District Manager, and four years later he returned to Auckland as Resident Engineer. He was appointed to the position he now holds in 1894.

Other Offices.

Land Officer— E. G. H. Mainwaring.

Chief Draughtsman—G. A. Troup.

Draughtsmen—J. A. Henderson, J. Besant, C. T. Jeffreys, F. C. Widdop.

Clerks—W. P. Hicks, G. McCartney, W. S. Ridler, J. T. Ford, W. A. Mirams, H. Jessup, H. W. Rowden.

Locomotive Superintendent—T. F. Rotheram.

Locomotive Engineer—H. H. Jackson.

Clerks—R. Triggs, W. H. Butterworth, C. Loveday, F. T. Murison, P. A. Buck, W. B. Sinclair, J. Rumgay.

Chief Draughtsman—G. A. Pearson.

Draughtsman—R. Pye-Smith, E. E. Gillon.