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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 9 (April 1, 1931)

History of the Canterbury Railways — New Zealand'S First Railway Opened For Traffic

page 36

History of the Canterbury Railways
New Zealand'S First Railway Opened For Traffic.


The First Railway Tariff in the Dominion.

In anticipation of the opening of the line, the Provincial Council passed, on 19th August, 1863, the Ferrymead Railway and Wharf Tolls Ordinance. This authorised the Superintendent to arrange for working the railway, and to make bylaws for the control of the traffic. The Ordinance contains the first railway tariff in the colony. This tariff is a simple document. The charge's authorised were:—Passengers 3/- each. Horses 5/-each. Horned or neat cattle 3/- each. Sheep, pigs, and goats 1/- each.

General goods by weight or measurement, not exceeding 12/6 per ton. General goods in parcels of less than one ton, per parcel, not exceeding 12/6 per ton.

The schedule of wharf tolls was more elaborate and provided fixed charges for a list of articles of general trade in alphabetical classification. For example:— Anchors per cwt. 2d. Beef or pork per cwt. 2d. Beer or cider per cwt. 4d. Grain per bag 1d.; and so on to timber (per 100 ft.) 2d. and wool per bale 3d.

Goods unenumerated:—Heavy goods, 2/6 per ton; per package, tun or butt 1/3 per puncheon 8d.; per hogshead 6d.; per barrel 3d.; per keg 2d.; per jar or can 1d.; per bundle or case 4d.

The purchase of rolling stock was entrusted to Messrs, Holmes & Co. The engines and carriages were imported from England, and the trucks constructed in Melbourne. The schooner “Choice” (168 tons) was chartered to convey the rolling stock from Melbourne to Lyttelton, and arrived at the latter port with the first locomotive on board 2nd April, 1863. As the schooner was too large to navigate the Heath-cote River the locomotive was transhipped into a smaller vessel, the schooner “Saxon,” assistance in transhipment being rendered by Captain Rose of the ship “Mermaid” who gave the use of his ship's yardarm tackle. The “Saxon” left Lyttelton for Heathcote in tow of the steamer “Mullough,” but when outside Lyttelton Heads the “Mullough” broke down. The locomotive however, was safely landed at Ferrymead on 6th May.

After the arrival of the rolling stock good progress was made with the platelaying and ballasting of the line from Ferrymead to Christchurch, and the Railway, the first to be constructed in New Zealand, was opened for public traffic on 1st December, 1863.

System of Inland Waterways Proposed.

The Canterbury Association (by utilising the various streams in the vicinity of Christchurch, and connecting these streams by canals) had planned a system of inland waterways which would provide communication for boats between the town of Sumner and the area between the Selwyn and the Wai-makariri rivers. The Sumner road was to connect Sumner with the port at Lyttelton. The canals projected were: From the Estuary to the Avon (eliminating the use of the lower reaches of the river); from the Avon to the Purarekanui (Styx); and from the Heathcote to the Halswell. Land was reserved for these canals, but the financial position of the Association did not permit any construction work to be undertaken. When the property of the Association was transferred to the Provincial Government these reserves were retained (they still appear on the district maps) though no further progress was projected.

During the session which commenced on 1st October, 1858, the provincial Council recommended that a Commission, consisting of Messrs. Bray, Cass, Harman, Whitcombe and Wylde, together with the Provincial Engineer (Mr. Dobson) and page 37 the Provincial Secretary (Mr. Ollivier) be appointed to advise the Superintendent in regard to lines of inland communication, and to take the necessary steps to reserve the land required for such lines.

Reserving Land for Railway Purposes.

In the following year (on 29th September, 1859), the Superintendent, in his opening address to the Council, stated that he had prepared a scheme by which
Forty-five Years Ago. The blacksmith's staff at Addington Railway Workshops in 1886

Forty-five Years Ago.
The blacksmith's staff at Addington Railway Workshops in 1886

he believed it to be practicable to furnish a thoroughly efficient system of railway transport throughout the most valuable portion of the Province, and to bring the remotest agricultural land into practical and inexpensive communication with the seaport. He pointed out that ordinary cart roads, though adapted for the convenient working of farms at a short distance from the market, would not be of any great advantage to the agriculturist whose land lay a day's journey or more from the consumer's depot. The Land Survey maps showed that the greater portion of the best land within convenient distance from the market had already been sold, and he anticipated that the balance would find purchasers within the next two years. So soon, therefore, as the land within a comparatively limited area had been sold it did not appear that the demand for agricultural land would be sufficient to supply the proportion the present proceeds of land sales bore to the gross provincial revenue. The proposed railway lines would give an immediate guarantee of profitable occupation, the strongest incentive to the purchasers of land.

A notice in the Provincial Gazette, dated 12th April, 1859, reserved for railway purposes land of a width of three chains in the pastoral districts and one chain in the agricultural districts for the whole length of the lines as indicated on the plan of the Railway Commission. The Council, by resolution of 11th October, 1859, confirmed the reservation of the land, but no further steps were taken at that time.

Development of Canterbury.

During the next two years the Provincial Government was chiefly concerned in dealing with the Lyttelton and Christchurch page 38 railway, but when the third Provincial Council met for the first time on 22nd October, 1861, the Superintendent, Mr. W. S. Moorhouse, who had been elected for a second term, announced that nearly £30,000 had accumulated in the Treasury, and as there was reasonable prospect that the revenue would continue at the existing rate, he was prepared to authorise considerable outlay in improvement of the country.

At this time there was some dissatisfaction in the outlying districts, particularly in South Canterbury, regarding the expenditure of the land funds, which was the principal source of income available for public works. There was even a suggestion that, taking advantage of the Act of 1859 of the Imperial Parliament to provide for the establishment of new provinces in New Zealand, a separate province should be formed in the southern district of Canterbury. In order to remove any impulsive tendency to the dismemberment of the Province, the Superintendent asked that the Council establish a general principle that, in the ordinary course, the sums collected from the sale of land
As Seen From the Air. (Courtesy, The Sun Newspaper, Ltd.) A recent aeroplane photograph of the new Railway Workshops at Otahuhu, Auckland.

As Seen From the Air.
(Courtesy, The Sun Newspaper, Ltd.)
A recent aeroplane photograph of the new Railway Workshops at Otahuhu, Auckland.

should be devoted to such works and outlays as were directly calculated to facilitate the beneficial use and occupation of the land whence the revenue was derived. He also proposed that the Council should be enlarged from twenty-six to thirty-three members, so as to give further representation to the outlying districts both north and south.

The Provincial Council Extension Ordinance was passed on 29th November, 1861, and submitted for the approval of His Excellency the Governor with the request that if his assent were given the existing Council be dissolved. After voting supplies the Council rose on 22nd January, 1862. On 9th January the Superintendent advised the Council that there was a large amount of money in the Treasury, and he proposed, as a gesture to would-be purchasers of the debentures of the Lytteiton and Christchurch Railway Loan, that the Province should purchase and cancel the first year's debenture issue of £50,000. To this the Council agreed.

(To be continued.)