The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)
The two grade diagrams shown in the illustration are intended to give some idea of the difficulties to be overcome in railway working in this country as compared with many other lands in which high speeds are less restricted by nature's formidable barricades in the form of high hills. The diagrams show to exactly the same scale the ups and downs on the route of the justly celebrated non-stop four-hour run of the “Silver Jubilee” from King's Cross to Newcastle as compared with the rises and falls in an equal distance along the route of the Auckland “Limited” Express. When properly understood they indicate that the performance of the latter train, though taking more than twice the time to travel the same distance, is by no means to be despised.
|20 m.p.h. up a 1 in 50 grade.|
|25||1 in 60|
|30||1 in 70|
|35||1 in 100|
|40||1 in 135|
|45||1 in 220|
|50||on level and easy grades.|
Nor are the grades the only cause of restricted speeds. The same type of rough country also calls for sharp curves. The milage of curves on the run illustrated is as follows:—
53 miles less than 15 chain radius
The speed permissable on curves varies as the square root of the radius. When R. is the radius in chains the average speed in miles per hour allowed on the railways of the world is approximately 11√R. The speed on the New Zealand railways reaches 11 1/2√R. on curves of 13 chain radius and upwards, and slightly less on sharper curves. The South African railways fix the speed at 10√R. The page 58 fastest speeds in the world on curves are run on the Java National Railways, 12√R. On Australian lines the speeds permitted on curves are generally lower, especially on the sharper curves. The speeds on curves on the New Zealand railways are:
On straight and curves 20 chain radius and over, 50 m.p.h.
On curves 16 chain and under 20 chain radius, 45 m.p.h.
On curves 13 chain and under 16 chain radius, 40 m.p.h.
On curves 11 chain and under 13 chain radius, 35 m.p.h.
On curves 9 chain and under 11 chain radius, 30 m.p.h.
On curves under 9 chain radius, 25 m.p.h.
These speeds can be run as the result of the high standard of maintenance of track in New Zealand, as has been recognised by numerous Railway experts who have from time to time visited these shores. A less expert but even more gratifying testimonial to the running qualities of both track and rolling-stock was given by a layman, who, while a daylight express was parked for the night at Ohakune at the time of the 1924 strike, complained of the slow travelling as inexcusable in view of the fact that the track was so level and so straight. When taken into the engineer's office and shown the plans and sections of the track he had just passed over, he was amazed at the combination of corkscrew and switchback and was devoutly thankful for his safe arrival.
The diagrams do not set out to show the highest or steepest grades on the respective systems, nor will such a comparison mean much, since in Great Britain of the 18 places in the whole 20,000 miles of British railways over 1,000 feet above sea-level, not more than five are on what could be termed main lines, namely the Druimuachdar Summit, 1,484 feet, near Dalmaspidal and the Slochd Mhuic, near Carr Bridge, 1,315 feet, both on the PerthInverness line; and those at Hindlow, 1,192 feet, on the Derby-Manchester line, Ais Gill, near Hawes Junction, 1,167 feet, Leeds-Carlisle (old Midland Section); and at the Beattock Summit, 1,014 feet, Carlisle-Carstairs line. All five are on the L.M.S. railway. The remainder are all either in the Highlands of Scotland or in the mountainous parts of Wales on Branch lines and none of these rises more than 1,500 feet above sea-level. The rack railway to the summit of Snowdon, 3,540 feet, cannoi of course be considered among the speed lines.
By way of contrast to these, in addition to the summits on the Wellington-Auckland route already mentioned, may be cited the 1 in 35 climb to 1,890 feet at Mamaku on the Rotorua line, and the 2,434 feet to the Arthur's Pass portal of the Otira Tunnel on the Midland line. It is of interest to note that the point at which the latter line leaves the Canterbury “Plains” and takes to the hills it has already reached, at Springfield, a height of 1,258 feet, or 244 feet above the well-known Beattock Summit on the Caledonian line and 339 feet above the Shap Fell Summit, 919 feet on the Leeds-Carlisle railway, London-N.W.
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As illustrating the slowing-up effect of even moderate grades and curves the trial run on the King's CrossNewcastle line may be cited. The average overall speed was 67 miles perpage 59
hour, but to attain this run a speed of over 80 miles per hour was run for over 120 miles, while the maximum instantaneous speed was 112 miles per hour. The average speed was therefore 60 per cent, of the maximum on a non-stop run. Nothing like these speeds could, of course, be attempted on a 3ft. 6in. gauge. To get a vehicle of sufficient carrying capacity both the height of the centre of gravity and the amount of lateral overhang have to be greater in proportion, thus reducing the safe speed. Nevertheless it is worth while to note that the average speed of the Christchurch-lnvercargill train is 66 per cent, and of the “Limited” express 60 per cent, of the maximum authorised speed of 50 miles per hour even after including the numerous stops required to give reasonable service to dwellers in inland towns.
The only long-distance trains that regularly exceed the 29.6 miles per hour of the Auckland “Limited,” and the 29.7 miles per hour of the Christchurch-Invercargill express (both including stops), on a 3ft. 6in. gauge cover the 373 miles between Tokio and Kobe (Japan); the 512 miles between Batavia and Sveravaja (Java), both 41.5 miles per hour, and the 455 miles between Johannesburg and De Aar (South Africa), 35.6 m.p.h., all inclusive of stops. It may reasonably be claimed, therefore, that for anything approaching comparable conditions the principal New Zealand express trains are well up arrrong the fastest in the world.