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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69



At the end of the last financial year, 31st March, 1889, there were 1,769 miles of Government and 140 miles of private railways in operation in New Zealand; and 164 miles of Government and 32 miles of private lines under construction. Of the Government railways in operation, 661 miles are in the North and 1,108 in the South Island.

The New Zealand railways are equipped with 272 locomotives, 512 carriages, and 8,156 wagons.

The expenditure on the 1,769 miles of Government railways open last year has been £13,472,837, or an average of £7,616 a mile: this includes all charges connected with the construction and equipment of the lines.

The revenue from the Government railways for the year 1888-89 was £997,615, and the working expenses £647,045. The balance of £350,570 is equal to a return of £2 12s. per cent, on the capital invested. Four of the principal lines, to an extent of 1,165 miles, pay interest ranging from £2 18s. 9d. to £6 12s. 6d. per cent., the average being £3 4s. 7d. on a capital of £8,675,381.

Prior to 1870, when the colonial public works scheme was initiated, 46 miles of railway had been made and worked by the provinces—17 miles in Otago and 29 miles in Canterbury. Of the remaining 1,723 miles, 1,599 miles have been set out and constructed and equipped since 1870, and 124 miles purchased from private companies.

The main lines in the South Island have ruling gradients of 1 in 50, the sharpest curves being 7½ chains radius. Some of the principal lines in the North Island have 1 in 35 gradients and 5 chain curves; and in crossing the Rimutaka Range there is an incline of 1 in 15 on the Fell central rail system, two miles and a half long. The gauge of the railways throughout is 3ft. 6in.

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Some of the formation works on the New Zealand railways are very heavy, particularly at the Rimutaka Range and in the Manawatu Gorge, in the North Island, and on the lines leading out of Dunedin and the Otago Central Railway, in the South Island. Bridging also is a large item on the Canterbury Plains, where the other works are exceedingly light. The largest single work on any of the railways is the Moorhouse Tunnel, nearly a mile and three-quarters long, between Lyttelton and Christchurch, which was carried out by the Provincial Government of Canterbury.

Most of the bridging on the railways first made was of timber, but now all the principal bridges are iron girders on masonry or iron abutments and piers. Latterly all the bridge ironwork has been manufactured in the colony, everything from heavy castings down to bolts and rivets being done locally. Since the initiation of this system in 1883 about 4,900 tons of ironwork for road and railway bridges have been manufactured in New Zealand.