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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 5 (September 1, 1927)


The completion of the new Canterbury marshalling yards at Middleton, to deal with traffic through the principal commercial outlet of the South Island, has been awaited with the keenest interest.
Business men as well as railway operators have been considering the possibilities, and preparing for the changes, which a scientifically laid-out yard, with ample room and hump-shunting facilities, would produce. Quicker despatch and delivery of consignments, safer working, the elimination of congestion, and greater economy in handling, are among the benefits to be derived from the enterprise which these modern yards represent.

It IS comparatively a long span of years from the construction of New Zealand's first line of railway in 1863 to the construction of the first modern marshalling yard in 1927. The growth of years has witnessed a great development in railway transport. Formerly small station yards were sufficiently large to handle the transport offering, but with the expansion of our primary industries, and the development of our natural resources, the growth in traffic has been so great as to call for very modern means of dealing with it.

Marshalling yard in course of construction.

Marshalling yard in course of construction.

Christchurch as a railway centre has in particular felt this increasing demand. Situated six miles inland from the port of export, Lyttelton, it is the centre for traffic from the whole of the Canterbury Plains, South, East and North. In addition, with the recent opening of the Otira Tunnel, it has become the centre for the greater portion of Westland's export trade, including timber and coal for overseas, as well as a quantity passing south to Dunedin. Then there is the import trade for the northern portion of the South Island all being distributed from Christchurch. The existing goods yards and station yard have for long been inadequate to handle the expanding business expeditiously, without delay in transport and needless waste of revenue.

The new marshalling yard is situated three miles from Christchurch city, on the Main South Line at a flag station named Middleton. The yard is thus nine miles from the port on the line of route of all traffic offering from the South, or from the West Coast, and only one mile distant from Addington (the junction of the Main North railway with the main line).

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The land bought by the Department, fifty acres in area, was formerly sheep grazing land with a slightly rising grade and eminently suited for the construction of an up-to-date marshalling yard.

The work of constructing the yard was commenced in March, 1926. Canterbury was blessed with a particularly dry winter and this in no small manner assisted in the early completion of the job. The formation work was done by the use of horses and drays—private carters contracting at so much per day. No less than 20,000 yards of “cut” were excavated from the high end of the land and used as filling at the lower end of the yard. When this preliminary work was completed a commencement was immediately made with the construction of the permanent way, the whole of which was carried forward in a face from the east end of the yard.

Marion steam-shovel in operation.

Marion steam-shovel in operation.

The yard contains 8 3/4 miles of running track. The main engine road contains rails weighing 70 lb. to the yard, whilst rails of 56 lb., and 53 lb. to the yard are used for the other tracks. The points and crossings (all of 70 lb. material), were manufactured in the Addington Workshops, the quantity used in the construction of the yard being shown in the following schedule:-

Nine 1 in 9 points and crossings for main line connections.

Sixty-four 1 in 7 1/2 points and crossings in marshalling yard.

Three “tandem three throws.”

Two diamond crossings for main lines.

Three double slips.

One scissors crossing.

With the completion of the track laying in December, 1926, the work of ballasting, lifting and packing, proceeded. A very fine pit was opened on the west portion of the land acquired, and material was excavated to water level at a depth of ten feet. The ballast was loaded on to “Mb” wagons by a “Marion” steam shovel, loading 3/4 yard at a time. A work train conveyed the material into the yard where it was unloaded by a special plough hauled along the surface of the trucks by a steam winch. In all, some 32,000 cubic yards of ballast were placed in the yard, the lifting and packing of which was completed in May, 1927.

The yard in general is being completed in accordance with modern marshalling yard practice. The Signal and Electrical Department's work in the installation of the yard interlocking is nearing completion (the whole portion of the train running yard is to be electrically controlled and interlocked), a fine two-storied brick signal cabin having been erected to house the controlling machine.

The yard shunters have been provided with an accommodation house, well lighted and fitted page 16 with shower bath, etc., for their convenience. The engine depot, complete with pit, coal store and water supply (electrically pumped from an artisian source), is apart from the marshalling yard proper, though easy of excess.

Much has been written on the principle of “Hump” marshalling yards. The technical term was first introduced to a gathering of maintenance men at a smoke concert, and with the commencement of the new yard construction shortly afterwards, every visiting surfaceman and works man, as well as the passing train crews, made sure to watch the growth of this important detail of the yard. An attached diagram shows the general layout of the yard, with the various grades plainly indicated.

Loading ballast in the pit.

Loading ballast in the pit.

The yard is excellently drained and with the completion of the interlocking and the erection of the flood lights, the Middleton Marshalling Yard will be available for use. There can be no doubt but that the yard when opened will considerably facilitate the working of goods traffic in this district. From the shunters' viewpoint, the yard is favoured because of its modern appointments and scientific layout; from the maintenance viewpoint, the work of construction has been carried out expeditiously and with satisfaction so far as the final cost is concerned.