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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

Observations Respecting the Proposed Railway

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Observations Respecting the Proposed Railway

Mills, Dick and Co., Steam Printers Dunedin Stafford Street.

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Harbor-Side Railway.

"Capital is as free as air!" says one; "You must not interfere with private enterprise!" says another. Thus an open course is left to all sorts of schemes. Now, I quite agree with the above remarks; but not without some reservation, or safeguard.

Let private enterprise flourish, the more the better; but let public rights and properties be respected. Let also public life and limb be regarded.

I am free to assert such consideration has not been shown by the parties proposing to construct a Railway down the side of the Harbor along the Peninsula.

First, as regards public rights, I hold that neither the Government nor the Harbor Board can consistently sanction such a line; it would be in direct violation of their duty as conservators of the, public interest vested in them. How can it be shown to be just and fair to give a private company the power of taking into their own hands the frontage to the Harbor for nine miles, with limits of deviation 100 yards wide, giving them a right over no less than 334 acres of the Harbor, including eight acres out of Anderson's Bay?

Again, how can it be shown that due care is taken of public property if a Railway is sanctioned, not merely running along the side of a road which is about twenty feet wide, but crossing it at curves and in cuttings, the road being bounded on one side by a high bank or perpendicular rock? Oh, say the promoters, horses become accustomed to a train!

But Low stands the case with a person quietly fishing from the bridge at Anderson's Bay? Will not horses become accustomed to him? On the contrary, it is deemed permanently dangerous, and must not be done, therefore it has been forbidden by authority in the 'Provincial Gazette,' and transgressors are told they will be prosecnted.

Speaking of the danger connected with level crossings, what answer did one of the company give? "Oh, you old gentlemen are more tenacious of life than young ones!" Another, being remonstrated with respecting the danger attached to the sudden appearance of a train round a curve in front of a horse, being such as would be sure to kill somebody very soon, coolly answered, "Never mind!" But I do mind; not for myself, it is entirely on public grounds that this is written. After inspecting the plan, I feel in page 4 duty bound, to sound a note of warning, otherwise, should the line be made, and a fatal accident happen, I should seem to have connived at manslaughter.

It is not my intention to notice the objections to the proposed line, merely in a general way. To make the matter plain, it is necessary to enter into particulars, and go through in a practical manner, examining step by step, as it were, the effect of such a line. And here it is right to state that the information about to be given is compiled chiefly from the plan of the Railway deposited in the office of the Registrar at the Supreme Court.

Let us commence at the junction with that part of the scheme known as the Ocean Beach Railway; but before doing so, there is another point to be noticed, showing the animus of the company. Not long before the plan of the proposed Railway to Portobello was deposited with the Registrar, viz.. the 20th April, 1866, a petition wrs taken throughout the Peninsula, and signatures obtained thereto, under the representation that the course to be adopted was quite an open question at present; thus many names were obtained under false pretences.

Starting from the Junction, and going close by the road across Anderson's Bay, and touching the side of the road, which is bounded by a high, perpendicular rock as far as Grant's Braes, there it crosses a little bay; and then across the public road, entering a cutting 20 feet deep and 66 yards long, where there is a curve of 6 chains radius.

Be it remembered, the road was formed by prison labor, representing public money; a bridge at the Bay erected at public expense; and the portion merely crossing Anderson's Bay had cost £1,900 long before completion, having to be raised and improved afterwards at considerable cost. A heavy additional expense was also incurred at Grant's Braes: a large gang of prisoners being employed there for some time.

Particular attention should be directed to the above cutting and curve—it is a perfect trap! A rock 20 feet high on the inside of a curve 6 chains radius,—the cutting 66 yards long,—no chance of seeing ahead. A carriage, it might be, just at the entrance, or even entering, as a train came rumbling through.

Passing on, the road is rendered dangerous all the way by the line being close to it, and in some places crossed by the Railway.

There are also other curves of the same radius, interfering more or less with the road. It may also be remarked, that the whole line of public road, now formed down that district, is included within the limits of deviation, and at the mercy of a company, if successful in their application.

In favor of this scheme of Railway, it has been stated, that it would be a vast boon to merchants and others now resident in Dunedin, by enabling them to erect villas all over that side of the page 5 hill. This is a fallacy; as very few people would be inclined to climb up the slope to the height of seven or eight hundred feet. Whereas if a line were taker, something like two-thirds of the way up, it would give facility for building, either above or below, thus being of far more advantage to all property along the slope, than down at the bottom.

As regards a line to open up the Peninsula, it is evident there is great difference of opinion respecting the proper course to be taken;—some say down the harbor-side; others think it would be less expensive to take the line down the centre;—but these hasty conclusions, in the absence of necessary data, savor of self-interest, rather than mature deliberation.

No one can form a correct idea of what course should be taken throughout, or the traffic to be expected, or the probable cost, without first obtaining some definite data to go upon, to gain which, as an early writer said, "Various borings should be made, for the purpose of obtaining geological knowledge of the substratum; flying levels should be taken of three or four lines; traffic takers employed, and every possible information collected, as a preliminary measure, then all should be open for examination by the land owners and the public before more expensive measures are adopted, always remembering that publicity gives confidence."—(Peter Lecount, R.N., C.E., F.R,S., late of the London and Birmingham Railway). What is a Railway intended for? Surely to give the greatest possible amount of accommodation to the public. Again, how can this object be so well effected as by the adoption of a course, in a central position, giving facility for traffic from either side throughout the greater portion of its length?

The known resources of the Peninsula are various and due examination will bring more to light. The great question at present seems that of practicability. Some people look at the high range of hills, and at once conclude it is impossible to take a Railway near them; nevertheless, lines have been taken through as rugged a country, and this is no case for despair. Steeper gradients are now adopted than in the early days of Railways.

Two or three courses present themselves for examination. First, let a line diverge from the Ocean Beach Railway, about 30 chains south from the Bay Horse Hotel, pass round the abrupt rock, then go in nearly a straight line for some distance, rising about 1 in 50, then making a slight curve, and passing under the main road above the Presbyterian Church; (N.B.—The step of the Church is 122 feet above high-water in Anderson's Bay, and the ridge of the roof 30 feet more, or 152 feet, giving good data to guide both ways;) on again, just below Shiel Hill, curving across that property, and again passing under the Portobello Road, and going behind Shiel Hill Hotel, it would then proceed without difficulty to the hollow of the main road, South of Captain Stewart's residence, again passing under the road and getting on the Harbor side of it; there page 6 is thence no obstacle for some distance; but without data to guide it would be unsafe to venture any decided opinion beyond that point.

Those who have been down the road towards Portobello, and witnessed the beautiful and varied scenery on the Peninsula, can form some idea of what a Railway would effect by traversing the main portion of its length, in an elevated position, opening up the country, which at present is only thinly peopled, in consequence of its isolation from the main land.

Steam-boats on the Harbor are unavailable to an extensive district; they only serve those who reside near its border; those located high up the slope find it more convenient to take the road, and all persons living on the ocean side of the range of hills are quite excluded from availing themselves of any boats that may be on the Harbor. This remark implies with equal force to a Railway down, by the side of the Harbor, which would only be of service to those who already enjoy the convenience of water communication. If a central course be adopted, and stations placed in convenient positions, then villas will be erected on either side of the line, and townships laid out, boarding-houses built for invalids or visitors to Otago. Passenger and general traffic will increase.

Although all the advantages or disadvantages of different lines cannot be enumerated with accuracy in the absence of definite information, still some of them may be stated, so as to give a tolerably correct idea of their comparative merits and demerits; and should it prove, after due examination, that a Railway crossing to the ocean side of the ridge, opening up all the beautiful country in the Sandfly Bay District and the Maori Reserve, before descending to Portobello; should this be found calculated to entail more extra expense than would be sanctioned by the increased returns that might be expected from the varied local resources of the district under improved circumstances, then let the line descend gradually, and keep on the Harbor side of the range, giving a station some-where in the neighbourhood of the residence of Mr. John Mathieson, which, with a good road to it from the present main road, would be a great boon to the whole neighbourhood.

There is one item I omitted in its right place, viz., the limits of deviation at the side of Anderson's Bay include a portion of the Government Reserve 454 links wide, and 1000 links long, of high rock, containing four acres and a half of fine building stone, public property.

I must state, distinctly, that I am not in any way personally interested as to what course may be pursued; but have felt strongly that it was my duty to the public to give such information as I could collect, and having done so, I now take leave of the subject, feeling quite aware that if there are any persons who are only influenced by interested motives, they will visit me with condemnation; but that is a secondary consideration, or rather no consideration—quite immaterial.