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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 8 (February 1, 1933)

History of the Canterbury Railway

History of the Canterbury Railway.

Interesting Staff History.


The following details of the staff employed on the Canterbury Railways, and their rates of pay, are taken from the Estimates for the year ended 30th September, 1870:—

Locomotive and car and wagon repairs employed two fitters, one at 11/- and one at 10/- per day; one smith, 11/- per day; two carpenters, 10/- per day each; one painter, 10/- per day; and one labourer, 7/- per day. Wheel turning was done by an outside firm. The cost of this and of timber, paint, and other stores and material was estimated to require £1,000.

The Maintenance of Way was in charge of ah Inspector at £300 per annum, the foreman in charge of gates, fencing and building received 15/- per day, foremen platelayers 11/- and 10/-per day, gangers 9/-, and labourers 7/-per day.

There were one foreman, two gangers, and thirteen labourers on the Lyttelton line (including the Christchurch yard), and one foreman, three gangers, and fourteen labourers on the South line. Under the foreman carpenter were four carpenters and two labourers. The charges for maintenance of buildings, gates and fencing were divided equally between the two lines.

Tools and materials were estimated to cost £2,050, and extra ballasting £1,050. There was a separate vote of £2,000 for labour and material for the work in Lyttelton tunnel.

At Christchurch Goods, there was a Goods Manager at £300, a foreman of outside labour at £250, two senior clerks at £ 175 each, two junior clerks, a tally clerk and a weighbridge clerk. There were also a shunter (horse driver) at 55/- per week, two head storemen (export and import) one at 10/- and one at 76; per day, five storemen at 7/- per day, a gate-checker at 6/-, a sailmaker at 9/-, and a labourer at 7/- per day. The two latter looked after the tarpaulins, ropes, nets, and bolsters. Casual labour for the sheds and for unloading and stacking timber and coal was estimated to cost £2,500.

On the Great South line £600 was voted for extra labour during the wool and grain seasons. Lyttelton Goods employed a clerk (import) at £140, clerk (export) £120, and a tally clerk at 48/-per week; yard foreman £180, shunter £120, horsedriver 50/- per week, head page 38 storeman 10/- per day, storeman 8/- per day, extra labour £400. Horse feed cost £80 per year.

Lyttelton wharves and jetties employed a shipping clerk at £240, a tally clerk at £ 120, head porter at 48/- a week, and three porters at 42/- a week each, a steam crane driver at 10/- per day, two donkey enginedrivers at 9/- per day each, and a horsedriver at 48/- a week.

Gates and Police.—There were on, the Lyttelton line two gatekeepers at £91 5s. per annum each, and one at £30 per annum. Two policemen at £127 15s. each for whom quarters were provided at Christchurch.

On the South line were three gatekeepers at 30/- per week, seven at 15/-per week, and one at £ 13 per month. In some cases the gatekeepers were wives of surfacemen, and were provided with cottages at the crossings.

Financial Depression in the ‘Sixties.

There had been hard times in Canterbury. In his address to the Provincial Council on 11th August, 1864, the Superintendent (Mr. Samuel Bealey) referred to the financial depression then prevailing, and in 1866, 1867 and 1868, the then Superintendent (Mr. Moorhouse) also mentioned the depression, and his regret that there was no alleviation of the position. In addressing the Council on the 8th October, 1869, Mr. W. Rolleston gave a survey of the conditions and expressed a hope for improvement. His address (in part) was as follows:—

“In opening the last ordinary session of the present Provincial Government, though it is not my privilege to be able to congratulate you upon a return of that progressive prosperity which marked the early growth of the Province; I feel that the present is an occasion when, amidst all the difficulties which surround us, we cannot but look hopefully to the future. When the present Council first met, the financial I depression which has since weighed so heavily upon us, had set in; not only in this, but in all the Australian colonies. Its severity in our case was enhanced by a variety of causes. The discovery of goldfields in the neighbouring provinces had roused expectations and induced a speculative spirit which caused the reaction to be more painfully felt. To the difficulties of a widespread commercial crisis were superadded those pf a native war involving large and extravagant expenditure, the provision for which has hitherto mainly devolved upon the people of this Island, and during the past two years our position has been rendered worse by the fall in value of one pf the staple productions of the country. Yet it is impossible amidst all this not to recognise that the foundations of a prosperous future are being more firmly laid, and that under the influence of a temporary paralysis of commerce men have been led to turn their heavily taxed energies to new industries and new and cheaper methods of production, which must ultimately swell the value of our exports.”

This is in reference to the fall in the price of wool, and to the preparation of fibre from New Zealand flax, the establishment of meat canning works, and the expansion of the grain-growing industry.

Bridging the Canterbury Rivers.

Owing to the failure to raise loans on the London market, and to a reduced revenue, there were no funds available for capital works. On the funding of the Canterbury loans certain unexpended balances and released sinking funds became available, and the Superintendent was able to submit to the Council proposals for the appropriation of £35,000, which sum he suggested should be divided as follows:—

For the Northern Railway, £15,000.

For the Southern Railway, £15,000.

For the Southbridge Tramway, £5,000.

The Southern Railway, to the Rakaia River, was already laid out, and it was thought funds would accrue that would provide for the continuance of the work at such a rate of progress as would ensure its completion by the time the bridge over the river was ready for traffic.

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For the Northern Railway a sum of £30,000 had previously been voted, and with the addition of the £15,000 proposed it was thought that the work might be commenced and carried to a point at which it would greatly benefit the residents of the Northern district. With the vote for the Southbridge line, which it was at first proposed should run from Selwyn via Leeston to Southbridge, the Superintendent thought there would be little difficulty in inducing private capital to undertake the construction by offering the contractors £5,000 and guaranteeing them the receipt of the tolls for a period of years at a fixed rate.

A contract for the construction of the bridge over the Rakaia River had been let on a similar principle. The contractor was to be paid £10,000 and authorised to collect the tolls for the use of the bridge for a term of years. The bridge was to be for both road and rail traffic. The contractor was William White, who had previously built a toll bridge over the Waimakariri River at Kaiapoi, under a similar guarantee.

In view of the successful negotiation of the Rakaia contract it was proposed to call for tenders on the same principle for
In the days of the Canterbury Broad Gauge Railway.(From the W. W. Stewart Collection.) Christchurch Station about 1863.

In the days of the Canterbury Broad Gauge Railway.
(From the W. W. Stewart Collection.) Christchurch Station about 1863.

bridging the Rangitata, and it was hoped that course would leave a balance out of funds already appropriated for that bridge, which could be devoted to the erection of a bridge over the Waitaki, It was proposed that steps be at once taken to ascertain the cost of the land which would require to be purchased for the North line, which, as surveyed, passed through some valuable sections, and the Council was asked to consider whether an alternative route could with advantage be adopted. A line taken by way of the Canal reserve would require the purchase of only 21 acres 2 roods as against 66 acres by the western route. The re-purchase of private land for public purposes was a very serious consideration owing to the enormously inflated prices demanded.


Mr. W. Atkins, Claudelands, Hamilton, writes to the Stationmaster, Palmerston North, as follows:—

I am writing to let you know our goods arrived Quite safely and not anything- damaged or even scratched, and we were very pleased indeed to get them a day earlier than we expected.

It was the best and cheapest removal we have had So far, and this was our tenth move.