Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 6, March 1964
Urge for Coast Line
Urge for Coast Line.
The discovery of minerals in Westland made Nelson very aware of the need for better communication with that area. At a public meeting early in 1863, Mr. Charles Elliot, editor of "The Examiner", strongly favoured a railway and stated that Mr. Fitzgibbon, the engineer of the Dun Mountain Company, had informed him that the body of men recently discharged by him were as competent and efficient for such an undertaking as could be found anywhere. (5). A select Committee reported to the Provincial Council on the railway proposals, and in July, 1863, by 11 votes to 10, adopted this report. This involved borrowing £300,000 for the purpose of building the line from Nelson to the Four Rivers district, (later called Hampden, now Murchison), a distance of 85 miles. This proposal required the sanction of Parliament, and the Ministry in office did not favour this, in view of the small majority in its support. The Maori War also made the time unpropititious for borrowing. The dislike of working on borrowed money was the chief reason for the high opposition vote in the Nelson Provincial Council.
In 1865 the gold rush to the West Coast stimulated the Provincial Council to further effort. The proposed line was to run from Nelson to Cobden, at the mouth of the Grey River, with a branch line to Inanguahua and Westport, 207 miles in all.
In Canada and elsewhere land grants to the constructing company had paid for the railways, and the Provincial Government decided to adopt this principle for Nelson. The first 20 miles from Nelson was to be built under guarantee by the Provincial Government, the remainder by a grant of 10,000 acres of adjacent land for every mile of construction, plus mineral and timber rights over the land.