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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 68

The New Zealand Midland Railway Coy., — (Limited)

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The New Zealand Midland Railway Coy.,


A General Account of the country through which the Midland Railway runs, and of some of its Principal Productions; also Descriptive Notes as to the Company's Exhibit in the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889.

The construction of this railway on the land grant system has been undertaken by a Company formed in England for the purpose, which has contracted to complete the line of 235 miles within ten years. Although 17 miles are now finished and opened for traffic, the work has been delayed pending settlement of negotiations between the New Zealand Government and the Company as to details of the contract which required amending. These being now completed, the works are being pushed ahead again with vigour.

Contracts to the extent of £150,000 for formation of permanent way hare been let within the last few months, and tenders for work costing a similar amount will be called for immediately, to be followed by further contracts as quickly as the of the undertaking will permit engineering skill to cany it through.

The Company is to receive grants of land as each section of line is completed to the extent of about 50 per cent, of the cost of such sections.

The Route of the Railway lies from the Government line at Springfield, near Christchurch, on the East Coast, to Brunnerton, near the port of Greymoute on the West Coast, and thence in a northerly direction via Reefton, until it joins Government line running from the Port of Nelson southwards to Belgrove.

Economic Value.

The Railway is calculated to be of great importance to the South Island of New Zealand. Uniting as it will several centres of population, its construction will being not only the ordinary benefits of railway communication to a district hitherto almost isolated, but it will have the peculiar advantage of connecting districts of totally dissimilar character. On the one side there is a pastoral and agricultural country a food-producing country, but with little timber or mineral,—on the other a district containing timber, coal, iron, gold and many other minerals in abundance. Interchange of traffic between the two must therefore be considerable and permanent.

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The scenery of the country traversed by the line is of the most varied and picturesque character, and when it becomes more known must draw sightseers from all parts of the world. There is to be found along the route a combination of Alpine forest, lake, and river scenery which is unsurpassed in the world. The Otira Gorge Arthur's Pass, is already known to some extent as one of the chief sights of New Zealand, but the lake and river scenery of Westland, being off the beaten track, are almost unknown to the ordinary tourist.

Lake Brunner, the beautiful, with its mild and sunny climate, its charming variety of forest, stream, and mountain scenery, is undoubtedly well adapted for a fature health and holiday resort for thousands of pleasure-seekers and careworn business men from Australia and other countries.

Lakes Kanieri, Mahinapua, Rotoiti, and Rotoroa vie with Lake Brunner in beauty; and indeed the whole of the district traversed by the line, its richness of foliage, its wealth of ferns, and its variety of minerals affords as wide and attractive a field for exploration to the botanist and the geologist as to the gold-seeker or to the mere Cher for beautiful scenery.

The Company's Land Grants.

The area of country benefited by the construction of the line, and in which the Company may select its land grants, is shown on the map which accompanies the Company's exhibit of timber, &c.

This area contains a large extent of pastoral, and a fair quantity of agricultural had, besides very extensive tracks of valuable forests.

The forest land, which otherwise would be useless, will, with railway communication yield to the Company a large revenue from the timber, which is of splendid quality, and can easily be brought to market. There will also be a source of profit from royalties on coal and other minerals (other than gold and silver) which are already known to exist in large quantities in the district and the production of which will be promoted by the cheap and speedy means of transit which the railway will afford.

The policy of the Company with respect to its laud grants is to encourage settlement by selling the land in suitable blocks at fair market prices to bond fide settlers, and to this end a series of auction sales have been instituted at which the lots are [unclear: cked] down to the highest bidder, the terms of payment being extremely easy. The first of these sales took place recently and was a pronounced success—34 lots being sold out of 39 offered; realising a total of £18,955 for 16,154 acres, prices ranging from 18/-to 95/-per acre. The Company is also prepared to treat privately for the sale or lease of any of its lands, and also to grant licenses to sawmillers to [unclear: timber] on royalty. Full information to be had on application to the Christchurch effect of the Company.


[unclear: Official] papers state that the whole of the West Coast of the Middle (i.e. South) [unclear: d] from end to end is one immense forest, and the yield of timber is very high. Professor Kirk reported to the Government that "on the flats and lower levels the [unclear: rage] may be estimated at 40,000 superficial feet per acre for red and white pine."

The Company's Exhibit, which is composed entirely of marketable timber, and [unclear: of] "specimen" pieces, is complete evidence of the splendid quality and great [unclear: ty] of the timbers grown in this district. The supply is practically inexhaustible. [unclear: g] the purposes for which the various woods are specially adapted are house page 50 building, bridges and constructive works of all kinds, piles, sleepers, carriage materials, street paving blocks, joinery, furniture making, Venetian blinds, and for all ornamental purposes.

With the construction of the railway and consequent facilities for export, the [unclear: low] price at which this timber will be able to be placed on the Australian markets will ensure the opening up of a large and profitable trade, as in no part of the Colony is there now such a supply of marketable timber within such easy reach of a port.

Attached hereto is a short description of some of the kinds of timber grown in the district which can be exported in large quantities, and are sure eventually to find a ready sale in Australia and elsewhere as well as in New Zealand. The particulars are taken principally from Professor Kirk's Work on the "Forest Flora of New Zealand."


In hardly any part of the world is such a variety of minerals to be found as is this portion of New Zealand.

To prove this it is only necessary to refer to the "Hand-book of New Zealand" by so high an authority as Sir James Hector, K C.M.G., F.R.S., &c., but it may also be useful to quote from the report on the subject of this Railway, by Mr. Blair M.I.C.E., Assistant Engineer in Chief to the New Zealand Government, in which [unclear: to] states that valuable though land and forest may be, "the minerals are of far greater importance than land and forest together. From Nelson, down the West Coast [unclear: is] Otago, there is scarcely twenty miles in which minerals of some economic value have not been discovered."

The map accompanying the Company's exhibit gives accurate indication of the varied and widespread character of the minerals already known to exist; but it is generally admitted that, owing to the density of the forest, and rough nature of the country, a very small portion of the district has been prospected.

Gold mining has been for many years the mainstay of the district, and it will be observed from the map that a large portion of the country is auriferous. Although some of the older alluvial diggings are supposed to be worked out, the use of [unclear: m] modern appliances for mining—in place of the very primitive methods which [unclear: h] fore have alone been used in this district—will enable many of such diggings to be again worked at a profit, and give employment for many years to men and capital It is also most probable that fresh fields will continue to be discovered from times to time as the district becomes opened by settlement .

Quartz-mining is as yet in its infancy in this district, and offers a large field [unclear: for] the employment of capital and scientific mining knowledge and experience.

Attention has of late years been redirected to the auriferous deposits on [unclear: the] beaches of Westland—rich gold being found there intimately associated with magnetite (the "black sand" of the diggers), and the ordinary sand or shingle, along the coast for some 400 miles. Dredging claims are now eagerly sought for, and almost the whole of the sea beaches as well as those of the gold-bearing Westland are pegged out; the owners for the most part merely holding at present to satisfy themselves as to the best plant to use. This branch of goldmining requiring special machinery, commends itself to capitalists as being out to the province of the ordinary "digger." The ultimate success of the industry seems assured; if pursued with caution and with thorough prospecting of the ground large profits, will no doubt result. With improved mechanical appliances for raising and washing the sand and shingle, the lower and richer "leads" of gold which have never yet been worked—owing to the difficulty of contending with the water on the old system—will no doubt soon be made available.

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Coal.—Though not so widely distributed as gold, coal is found in very large quantities within the district. The chief deposits now worked are near the towns of Greymouth and Westport. Coal is also found at Reefton, Mokinui, Upper Buller Owen, Kanieri, etc. Of late years the output from this district has greatly in increased viz.,—from 55,000 tons in the year 1880, to 322,000 tons in the year 1888. New Zealand coal cannot yet be said to be introduced into the Melbourne market, trough Greymouth coal sells there for 2s. 6d. to 5s. per ton more than is given for the best Newcastle, N.S.W., coal. This is for gas making. The Westport coal is highly esteemed for steaming purposes, and has already been much used in ocean-gang steamers. Quite recently the Chief Engineer of H.M.S. Nelson reported on it very highly as a steam coal, and the Calliope incident is to recent and well-known to need comment.

Three Companies holding leases of valuable coal areas on the North side of the Grey river, are now taking steps to open up their mines and to bring their coal to the port of Greymouth, whence it can be profitably placed on the Australian markets.

The quality of these coals being proved to be excellent, and the supply being sufficient for years to come, there is every reason to predict even a more rapid expansion of the coal industry of this district in the future than has been seen in the past, particularly as many capitalists are now making inquiries, with a view to investing in the district. Analyses of the various coals can be obtained from the N.Z. Midland Railway Co., Limited, at Christchurch, N.Z. A Feature of these coal scams is that many of them are outcropping, and can be won by driving without sinking. Coke of the highest quality is made from the Greymouth [unclear: seal]

Other Minerals.—As an inspection of the Company's maps will show, a great [unclear: riety] of other minerals have been discovered in the district. The only ores as yet proved to exist in payable quantities, in addition to those already mentioned, are [unclear: copper], and antimony. Recently some rich specimens of silver ore have been found in the Owen district, on the Buller River, and the indications seem to point to the existence of payable silver in that and other localities. Also at Mount Rangitoto, [unclear: Ross] there are indications of considerable quantities of silver, but combined with [unclear: d] and other metals in such a way that no method of separating them which has yet been applied has been successful. No doubt a suitable process will ere long to found. Lead, tin, zinc, and other metals, also excellent building stone, marble, and mineral springs, are known to exist in the district, but have not yet been turned to account.

Description of the Principal Kinds of Timber Exhibited in the Midland Railway Court.

Red Pine, Rimu (Dacrydium Cupressinum).—Frequently attains a height of 100 feet, with a trunk of 60 feet free of branches. Diameter, 2 feet to 4 feet and sometimes 5 feet. It is of a deep red colour, well grained and handsomely figured. In strength nearly equal to English Oak. It is largely used for general building purposes and owing to its fine figure, is especially suitable for mantelpieces, panel work office fittings, cabinet work, and the manufacture of furniture of all degrees of excellence.

White Pine, Kahikatea (Podocarpus Dacrydioides).—Height, 60 feet to 100 feet and frequently up to 130 feet, with trunk 70 feet or 80 feet free of branches. [unclear: cter]. 1 foot to 4 feet and sometimes 5 feet. The timber is firm, compact, [unclear: gh] strong straight in the grain, and of fairly even texture. The growth being [unclear: d] it is easily seasoned, and it is very durable except in damp situations. It makes very superior flooring, lining, shelving, framing of houses, studs, and other inside [unclear: rk] it is also largely used for all kinds of boxes and packing cases, and is much Superior to Baltic white Deal for general purposes. Like the Red Pine it grows in great abundance, and can be brought to market at exceedingly low prices.

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Black Pine, Maitai (Podocarpus Spicata).—Attains a height of 80 feet, with a trunk 35 feet in length and from 2 feet to 4 feet in diameter. The timber is of great value on account of its smooth even texture, strength, and extreme durability. [unclear: It] is heavy and close grained, but easy to work, and is extensively used for bridges and constructive works generally, house blocks, framing, joists, weather-boards, [unclear: sleep] piles, &c. House blocks and fencing posts have been found in excellent condition after being down for 15 or 20 years or more; it is also now becoming much used for cabinet work, and looks very handsome when polished. This must not [unclear: be] founded with Miro, sometimes termed Black Pine, which is a much inferior Wood

Silver or Westland Pine, Manoao (Dacrydium Westlandicum).—Height, 40 feet to 50 feet. Trunk from feet to 2½ feet in diameter, sometimes reaching 3 feet and even 4 feet. Although not of so large dimensions as the other pines, this [unclear: is] of the most valuable timbers in the Colony owing to its extreme durability. It is straight and even in the grain, dense, firm and compact, of great strength, [unclear: tough] and elasticity, is highly resinous and shrinks but little while seasoning. It is suitable lor bridges, wharves, and constructive works, and is used with best results for piles and sleepers, being almost imperishable. As it is often handsomely figured and mottled, it is much used for furniture, cabinetmaking, veneers, and [unclear: ornam] purposes generally.

Yellow Pine (Dacrydium Intermedium).—Height, 40 feet. Trunk from 1 feet to 2 feet in diameter. The timber is of a reddish yellow, resinous, straight in the grain, firm, compact, and, though smaller in dimensions than the Westland Pine a also extremely durable and may be applied to the same purposes.

Red Birch (Fagus Fusca).—Sometimes upwards of 100 feet in height with trunk 2 feet to 4 feet in diameter. The wood is straight, even, and compact in the grain of great strength and toughness, and very durable. It is highly valued for [unclear: sleep] wharves, bridges, house blocks, framing, joists, weatherboarding, fence posts, &c., and being easily worked might be used for joiners' work. Well grown trees split [unclear: rea] and might be extensively substituted for Tasmanian palings.

Black Birch (Fagus Solandri).—Height, 60 feet to 80 feet and sometimes 100 feet, with trunk 50 feet free of branches. Diameter, 2 feet to 4 feet or more, The wood is tough, strong, and, if properly selected, very durable. It is of a pale red or greyish colour and sometimes handsomely figured; the heartwood is black and irregular in outline. It is largely used for bridges, sleepers, fencing and gate [unclear: pe] &c. Owing to its great strength it will carry enormous weights.

Totara (Podocarpus Totara).—Height 50 to 60 feet and sometimes even [unclear: as] as 100 feet, with trunk 2 feet to 6 feet in diameter, 35 feet and occasionally up to 60 feet free of branches. The wood is of a deep red colour, is clean, straight in the grain, compact, and of great durability, it is well adapted for all architectural engineering purposes, and is one of the best timbers in the Colony for telegraph poles. For marine piles it is unrivalled as it resists the teredo, and is Superior to Australain jarrah. Occasionally handsome mottled specimens are found, which [unclear: an] valuable for veneers and ornamental work.

Rata (Metrosideros Lucida).—Height 30 to 60 feet, with trunk 2 feet to 6 feet in diameter. The wood is heavy, compact, tough, and of great strength. It is largely used in shipbuilding—knees, crooks and timbers, of all sizes being readily obtainable also used for trenails, for the teeth of geared wheels, and for the framing of railway waggons, with the best results. As a substitute for hickory in the manufacture [unclear: of] vehicles for wheel rims, shafts, &c., Rata promises to become exceptionally useful, [unclear: as] it is capable of being readily bent under steam.

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Cedar, Kawaka, (Libocedrus Bidwillii).—Height 50 feet to 70 feet, with a trunk 1½ to 2½ feet in diameter. The wood is of a red colour, remarkably straight in the grain is very light and somewhat brittle. It is of great durability in all situations, but is net strong being indeed one of the weakest of New Zealand timbers; it appears, however, to surpass Totara in durability and may be used for the purposes for which Totara is usually employed, except where great strength is required. It has been used for piles, house blocks, fencing posts, sleepers, weather-boards, &c. it closely resembles Californian Red Wood, and appears in every way suitable for the Manufacture of Venetian Blinds, for which purpose that timber is usually imported, while it can be supplied at a fraction of the cost.

Black Maire (Olea Cunninghamii).—Height 50 feet to 70 feet, trunk 3 feet to 6 feet in diameter. For combined strength and durability this is perhaps the most valuable of all New Zealand timbers. The wood is deep brown, the heartwood being often streaked with black, and highly ornamental. It is dense, heavy, compact straight and even in the grain, easily worked and takes a good finish. It is valuable for the framing of railway carriages and waggons, as a substitute for [unclear: etal] bearings for heavy shafts, framing of machinery, agricultural implements, &c. Old specimens are often beautifully streaked and figured, and are used for veneers and ornamental turned work, as napkin rings, bowls, egg cups, &c.

[unclear: Honeysuckle], Rewarewa, (Knightia Excelsa).—Attains a height of from 70 feet to 100 feet with a trunk 1½ to 3 feet in diameter. It is an ornamental timber of great strength, but not very durable when exposed, is usually of a deep red colour, straight in the grain, and beautifully mottled. It is highly valued for all inlaid work, tables, writing desks, &c., as well as for all kinds of ornamental turnery.

Hinau (Elæocarpus Dentatus).—Height 40 feet to 50 feet. Diameter of trunk 1 feet to 3 feet. The timber is of a light, dull brown colour, the heartwood darker, often nearly black. It is tough, strong, and durable, and is used for bridges, culverts, sleepers, piles, survey pegs, &c, with good results.

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Printed at the "Lyttelton Times" Office, Gloucester, Street Christchurch.