The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 10 (February 1, 1928)
Edison Storage Battery Rail Car. — Successful In Canterbury District
Edison Storage Battery Rail Car.
Successful In Canterbury District.
Popularity is the test of success in any transport work as it is in other forms of service rendered to the public. Judged by this standard the Storage Battery car recently brought into use on the Christchurch-Little River and Christchurch-Rangiora run has certainly proved that it can fill a definitely felt want in suburban transport.
The run from Christchurch to Little River is through practically flat country, and provision is made for optional stops in the 36 mile run at no less than 12 intermediate stations and stopping places, yet the car covers the whole distance in 1 hr. 7 mins., or at an average throughout speed of over 30 miles per hour.
We had the pleasure, recently, of making a trip in the car and the first point observed about it, from the passengers' point of view, was the roominess of the interior, which has seating accommodation for 60 passengers—one end being partitioned off as a smoking compartment. The windows are large and almost continuous, very little space being required between the panes for framework, with the result that a splendid outlook is obtainable throughout the journey from any point in the car in practically every direction. The vehicle is manned by a driver and guard and runs under tablet protection. The internal appointments are convenient and comfortable, providing what is really a first-class ride at second-class rates.
Immediately the starting whistle at Christ-church was blown the car commenced to accelerate, and the speed with which this was done served to explain the reason why this car can be scheduled at so satisfactory a speed through the suburban area served.
The next point noted was the complete absence of sound from the car. One usually associates noise of some sort with speed, whether the travelling is done by steam locomotive, motor car, aeroplane, or tramcar, but the power releasing features of the storage battery car are quite soundless, the only noise noticeable at any speed being that produced by the contact between the wheels and the rails. Add to this advantage the fact that there is no steam, smoke, fumes, exhaust, or other drawbacks of the kind, and the popularity of the car with travellers is easily understood.
A noticeable advantage over road travelling is the absence of dust and the fine outlook obtained, the latter being due mainly to the comparatively high elevation above the road level at which rail car passengers are seated. This gives them a substantial advantage, from the sightseeing point of view, over most travelling road vehicles—an advantage particularly appreciated in Canterbury, where flat country (with high fences and hedges), makes any kind of outlook difficult from the ordinary highway. From the electric rail car, however, sufficient elevation is obtained to see over the tops of the ordinary boundary obstacles and to obtain fine panoramic outlooks over the pleasant land through which the route to Little River lies.
The station staffs along the route evidently take pride in the running of the electric car service, for we noted the quick despatch given at stations. A stop at Addington—where passengers were picked up—occupied only eight seconds, whilst on the return journey the stop at one of the smaller outlying stations to pick up a passenger was so brief as to be barely perceptible.
The driver's seat is placed on a standard and resembles (in shape and fittings) those found supplied for passengers in the dining saloons of coastal vessels. In order that his attention may not be diverted from the work of handling his levers and watching the road ahead, the exchanging of tablets is attended to by the guard.
Soon after Lincoln is passed the track follows the windings of a beautiful stretch of water with rugged hills running down to its edges. Some fine metal is worked at the quarries in this area and, for the rest, the principal occupation of the settlers is sheep rearing and dairying.
Little River, the terminus of the line, is the jumping off place for Akaroa—a favourite holiday resort, where Canterbury people and others who appreciate the quiet charm of the peninsula may enjoy the opportunities there afforded for the seaside pleasures of tramping, fishing and swimming. Under an arrangement with the Pilkington Motor Car Service, train connection is made at Little River with motor cars for or from Akaroa. The whole journey can be accomplished quickly and comfortably by this happy combination of rail-car and motor car service.
Very careful consideration was given to the question of comparative cost as between a rail car and a steam driven train before this experiment was launched, as it was desired by the Department to make sure that the introduction of the storage-battery type of vehicle was likely to prove a sound proposition economically. It was page 11 found that, taking all the factors into consideration, the relative difference in operating cost was comparatively small, whereas the cleanliness, comfort and freedom from vibration possible in the storage car, together with a somewhat unique simplicity of operation in driving and control, made it eminently suitable, from the passenger's point of view, for the kind of service most desired in suburban areas.
More recently a further battery has been provided for the car, which has enabled its area of operation to be extended considerably.
As a means of further utilising the revenue-earning capacity of this motor unit the Department has now made arrangements under which the car may be hired out for the purpose of conveying special parties to different towns or districts in North Canterbury on occasions when the ordinary trains are not suitable. Thus lodge parties, concert parties, athletic teams, etc., are able to hire the car, paying no more than the ordinary return adult fare; and although about 70 can be accommodated in the vehicle, the minimum number of passengers required for the average run is only about 20.
As the car can run approximately 100 miles on one battery and provision is made to allow of a wait of about three hours at destination station, the popularity of this innovation is assured. From the economic point of view it is of considerable importance, as runs such as these can be made at times that will not interfere with the ordinary scheduled running on the Little River branch and will assist in reducing the average unit cost of the service.
Advertising New Zealand.
The enterprise of the Railway Department in appointing a representative to travel on the great liners plying between America and the Dominion has been greatly appreciated by visitors to our shores (says the Auckland “Star”). There was a chorus of praise from passengers on the Niagara yesterday with regard to the foresight of the Government in providing travel information. The special representative, Mr. W. W. Cummings, had a busy time in making out travel itineraries and giving advice about the scenic attractions to be visited. “He has saved my wife and family a whole heap of trouble,” said an American visitor, “and I can assure you that the innovation is much appreciated.”