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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 12 (March 1, 1935)


By far the most curious sight I have witnessed in the fish world was the migration of eels and lampreys at Kaimata, Westland. In recent years the River Arnold has been dammed to provide electric power, and the twenty foot dam has proved an insuperable barrier to the slimy folk. At the edge of the dam, however, a thin trickle of water escapes down the side of the hill, and up this trickle (almost imperceptible to the naked eye, as it merely moistens the stones over which it flows) I saw last month literally hundreds and thousands of eels, and an occasional lamprey, squirming their way upwards. The largest eel was a foot long, but the lampreys (which, contrary to the habits of eels, spawn in fresh water) were fully grown specimens.

One could picture the delight with which the old-time Maori would have fallen upon this eely harvest! In the course of a week it would be quite possible to take a ton of fish, at the rate they were coming along.—M.S.N.

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There has been reported from Hatuma, in the Hawke's Bay district, the brief appearance of an apparently nearly exhausted bird, the description of which would fit a huia. Many will hope that it really is one, for its appearance lends colour to the rumour occasionally repeated, that some natives actually know the whereabouts of a few but guard the secret jealously, lest these survivors be finished off. Two summers ago an elderly Maori woman, at that time a patient in a Taranaki hospital, told the writer, of a cousin with whom she shared the knowledge of at least two birds in a piece of bush along the bank of a particular river, well inland. The cousin, whose name she did not disclose, was positive that the female had laid six eggs that spring and hatched several chicks. At the time of telling this, she had been excited by the pleasure of some youthful Maoris over a pakeha schoolboy, in whose friendship for their people they firmly believe, having made a swimming record; and she offered to go with her relative to catch one of the partly-grown birds for this boy, under certain conditions. The offer could not be accepted, as she was not likely to be in a fit state of health for a bush expedition for some time. On leaving the locality I lost sight of her, and have since heard of her death within a year of leaving the hospital. It may be that the Hawke's Bay wearied visitor is one of those chickens. Or there may be several families surviving, it is to be hoped increasing, in different places.—“Waiokura.”

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“Potatogram” is quite the latest medium of communication, and to the Trans-Australian railway must the credit for its invention be accorded. An old prospector walks two or three miles to the railway line to await any letters or papers it may be his luck to receive from Kalgoorlie. As the train does not stop at this point the delivery of the mail has proved rather a baffling problem. However, after much deliberation a brain wave occurred to those responsible, as a result of which a slit is made in a potato, a letter or paper is inserted, and the mail hurtled from the train. The old chap is delighted with the idea, and furthermore, in carrying out the injunction—“Waste not want not,” invariably eats the potato!—“Jasmine.”

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Once again the Railway Department has proved its worth to the country and its adaptability to unusual circumstances. Reference is being made to the recent undertaking of the Southland railways in transporting a forty-ton “lift” from the Bluff wharf to East Gore, a distance of fifty-seven miles. The “lift,” a massive metal cylinder for the Mataura Paper Mills, was discharged at Bluff from the Home-liner Opawa, and was the heaviest piece of machinery ever landed at that port. The question of land transportation was solved by the Railway Department constructing a “skeleton” wagon at Invercargill workshops. The cylinder was of such a shape that accurate measurement was necessary for the assembling of the framework of the wagon; this work was carried out to perfection, the massive cylinder fitting into its bed with mathematical exactitude. In perfect accord with the progressive policy of the Directorate of the Mataura Paper Mills, the Railway Department and the Bluff Harbour Board conjointly worked to facilitate transportation. The special wagon was constructed as above, whilst the Harbour Board spent a considerable sum of money in strengthening the Railway approach to the wharf. Among the problems faced by the Department were the facts that the cylinder was over gauge limits, could not pass station verandahs or overhead footbridges, was too heavy for ordinary road bridges, and too large to permit of passing another train on an adjoining track. The gross weight of the wagon and cylinder was approximately forty-five tons. All difficulties were eventually overcome, and the freight delivered at the consignees back door within a few hours of leaving the ship's slings. A special train, comprising locomotive, guard's van and a Ub wagon with its valuable load, left the port in the afternoon for Invercargill at a speed not exceeding ten miles per hour; later on, the journey to Gore was continued, where delivery was taken and the cylinder loaded into a road wagon running on steel wheels with a tyre breadth of two feet, for the final stage of the journey to Mataura.

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