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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2002

The Tramway and the First Bridge at Paynes Ford

page 23

The Tramway and the First Bridge at Paynes Ford

As sawmilling expanded, the primitive roads were soon cut up and made impassable by the horsedrawn junkers, or log haulers, and wagonloads of timber. A tramway began operating in 1882 between Waitapu Wharf and East Takaka, primarily to carry timber to the wharf. Its embankments can still be seen at Paynes Ford, where there was also a siding to load timber from across the river. The little 'coffee pot' locomotive travelled at scarcely more than walking pace on the 2ft 6in (76 cm) narrow gauge line. Often the butt of jokes, the tramway was of great service to farmers and pedestrians and was fondly remembered for its annual conveyance of school picnic goers at the expense of sawmiller, Thomas Baigent.

The tramway suffered with the decline of sawmilling, and its end was hastened by a disastrous flood in 1904 which left bridges unsafe and washed out much of the line, or blocked it with debris. Newport gives an account of the establishment and operation of the tramway and records that it ceased operating in 1905. 16

Drownings continued to occur at the Takaka River crossing and the need for a bridge was frequently urged, but it was not until 1894 that a wooden bridge was built at Paynes Ford; it was opened in 1895, with appropriate liquid refreshments. The present concrete bridge is a short distance downstream, but abutments of the earlier one remain, and the line of the original road west of the river is still marked by several venerable poplar trees.