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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 82

Railway Sidings [letters by C.W. Kerr and others to the Evening Star, Dunedin]

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Railway Sidings.

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Sir,—From the report of the proceedings of last night's meeting of the City Council I note that "Messrs Macassey, Kettle, and Woodhouse wrote pointing out that a railway line was being constructed along Jervois street, and requesting that operations should be stopped. If this was not done, application would be made to the Supreme Court for an injunction," and that the matter has been referred to a committee for consideration. A slight explanation for the benefit of those who are not behind the scenes will show the cause of this "wondrous philanthropy" and care on the part of Mr Kettle for the interests and welfare of his fellow-citizens.

Some months ago, when the main line of railway was moved from Crawford street to Cumberland street, it became necessary for the siding-owners at the south end of the town to have their sidings connected with the main line, and this was in a fair way of being settled when Mr Kettle came forward and requested the siding-owners to hold their hands free for a time, as the Dunedin and Ocean Beach and Peninsula Railway Company, for whom he was acting, was about being resuscitated : and, if he could arrange favorably with the Corporation, "his Company would like to make the junction and work the sidings" conjointly with the ordinary traffic on their line. This the siding-owners agreed to do, provided they could come to terms as to the price to be paid for shunting the trucks from the main line into the siding. "Mr Kettle thereupon applied to the Corporation" for permission to make the junction, and so far completed his arrangements with that body that a concession was granted him for fourteen years to make and work all railway sidings in the City, and empowering his Company to charge, if they thought proper, as much as 1s 9d per ton for the simple haulage of the loaded trucks for a distance of about 305 yards. This concession merely wanted the necessary signatures and seal of the Corporation to make it binding, when fortunate y the "little game" was frustrated by a complaint of the siding-owners to the Corporation. It was then found that this concession had been granted to Mr Kettle on the full understanding by the Corporation that he had arranged with the siding owners to work the sidings, and that he and they were acting in entire unison. On a meeting of the Tramway and Works Committee and siding-owners, called by His Worship the Mayor, to hear the complaint of the siding-owners and Mr Kettle's explanation, the latter gentleman then drew attention to a minute of the first Committee meeting, to the effect that "no concession whatever should be granted to his Company until he produced a letter from the siding-owners saying that they had come to terms. This he had not been able to do, and therefore the concession could not be granted." The fact was that Mr Kettle's figures were so high that he had been told fully three months previously that the siding-owners could not accept his terms, and that all negotiations between them were at an end. However, Mr Kettle saw that his game was up, and then agreed to take the concession, allowing the exclusion of the sidings at the south end of the town. The siding-holders then fondly hoped that they had seen and heard the last of Mr Kettle and his Company. Not so, however. After the above meeting the Corporation considered the request of the siding-owners, as previously made and on the "same plans" as were used by Mr Kettle; and after many meetings and much consideration the siding-owners were informed by the Corporation that, Jervois street not having been taken over by them, they had no control over it, and therefore could not deal with the matter of the siding. The Harbour Board being of opinion that the street "was" handed over to the Corporation, would not deal with the matter, and it then remained for the Government to lay rails, connecting a portion of the old line with the new, which has now been "done on Mr Kettle's own plan;" but not having been done by his own Company, he takes objection to it, and forsooth, threatens the Council that if they do not stop the work he will move the Supreme Court for an injunction, etc., etc.

This reminds me, Mr Editor, of the o d fable about "The dog and the manger." Perhaps Mr Kettle may have heard of it in his younger days.

—I am, etc.,

C. W. Kerr.

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Sir,—My attention has been called to a letter in your issue of Tuesday evening, under the above heading, written by Mr C. W. Kerr. I am at a loss to understand why Mr Kerr has rushed into print, and I would not notice his letter but for the fact that he has thought fit to make charges against me, which, as he well knows, are quite unfounded.

Some months ago Mr Kerr wrote a letter to the Corporation, making the same charges against me. I immediately asked the Corporation to hold an inquiry, at which all parties could be heard. An inquiry was held, and the following extracts from the newspaper reports of the proceedings of the Corporation will show that Mr Kerr utterly failed to make out a case against me :—"His Worship the Mayor said that he wished to take the present opportunity of saving that Mr Kettle, in their recent negotiations with him, had shown a desire not to be over-reaching, or to take advantage of any particular section of the community." Cr Fagan said he was glad this matter had been mentioned. . . . . In the negotiations that had taken place Mr Kettle had come out with clean hands, and had shown a desire to act fairly, straightforwardly, and above-board." "Cr Murray said that the negotiations with Mr Kettle and the Tramway Company had been of a most satisfactory kind,"

With regard to my firm's letter to the Corporation, alluded to by Mr Kerr at the commencement of his letter, the simple question to be decided is whether or not the action of the Government in the matter is legal.

—I am, etc.,

Chas. C. Kettle.


Sir,—In Mr Kettle's reply to my previous letter he attempts to shelve the question as to the wherefore of his sudden philanthropy by saying "the simple question to be decided in whether or not the action of the Government in the matter is legal." What I wish to show Is, that the question would never have been rained had Mr Kettle's company been successful in their negotiations with the siding-owners and the Corporation.

In his first paragraph he says I have thought fit to make charges against him which, as I well know, are quite unfounded. But facts are stubborn things, and I purposely withheld any allusion to the letter to the Corporation now mentioned by him, trusting that, as Mr Kettle's long and continued opposition to the siding-owners was of no avail, he would bury the hatchet and be satisfied. He, however, now calls for the publication of this letter, and, to please him, I now enclose a copy, It will be observed that that etter was written by me on behalf of the siding-owners, and bears the signatures of them all. Mr Kettle is quite in error in saying he asked the Corporation to hold an inquiry, an immediately the siding-owners found what was being done, two of their number called on the Town Clerk to see if the Press report was correct, and were favored by that gentleman with a perusal of the concession, and they thereupon waited on the various members of the Corporation and demanded an inquiry. These gentlemen one and all expressed surprise at Mr Kettle's action—this despite what was said by His Worship the Mayor and Cr Fagan at an after meeting, and now quoted by Mr Kettle. (By-the-bye, the etter now enclosed is that which Cr Fagan could not understand; perhaps he did not wish to.) If Mr Kettle had shown such a laudable "desire to act fairly, straightforwardly, and above-board," why not have gone at once to the Council and said : "Gentlemen, according to your minute, before I can get any concession over these sidings 1 must get a letter from the present owners saying they had agreed to terms. This I cannot do, and therefore withdraw my application so far as said sidings are concerned? " No, he only mentions this when his hand is forced, and in order to stop the reading of the letters from the sidingowners, and said he thought they were acting in very undue haste, when Mr Joachim aptly asked him would he have had us quietly wait on until the deed between him and the Corporation was signed and sealed, If Mr Kettle was acting so very straightforwardly, why, sir, did he not show fight then, instead of at once foregoing the only part of the concession that he expected his company would make money out of? Will Mr Kettle let me and the public know, not whether the action of the Government is legal—for I have no doubt the Government can look after themselves—but why he now seeks to get an injunction?

These sidings, sir, are now again connected with the main line and in working order, despite moat persistent and strenuous opposition from more than Mr Kettle; and the future purchasers of sections in the south end of the town, on the Harbor Board's reclamation, will be very pleased to know that no private body or company has a fourteen years' privilege to make and work all the railway sidings in the City. They would find it very different between arranging for a siding with such a company and the present siding-holders; the only condition of the latter being the payment of their proportion of cost of laying the junction, and the signing of the deed now existing between them and the shunters as to the details of working.

I am sorry that my position as factor for the siding-owners has necessitated my appearing inimical to Mr Kettle, and the same reason must be my apology for thus so engthily troubling you. However, this is my last on the subject.

—I am, etc.,

Chas. W. Kerr

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"To His Worship the Mayor and Councillors, City of Dunedin.

"Gentlemen,—We notice that your Council has adopted the report of the Tramways Committee, by which yon concede to the Dunedin and Forbury Railway and Tramway Company sundry privileges for a term of fourteen years, and amongst them that of the sole right to lay down sidings on the new streets about to be formed on the reclaimed land, and to work all the sidings now existing or that may be connected therewith. This has taken us entirely by surprise, and on inquiry we learn that this concession was granted by your Council to Mr Kettle, the solicitor for above-mentioned Company on the clear understanding (implied or otherwise) that he was acting in unison with, and jointly for, the present siding holders, as well as for the said Company, Such, however, is not the case, but very much the reverse, as it is ful y two months, if not more, since he was distinctly told that we were quite unable to agree to the terms offered by him for the erection and maintenance of the sidings and haulage of trucks, and that he must consider all negotiations in the matter at an end.

"In order to show you the extreme injustice that would be done, not only to the present siding-holders, but to others that will doubtless require them as the land is built on, should this concession be ratified, it will be necessary to go somewhat fully into the facts from which this result has been evolved.

"When it became known that Mr Blair was about to be removed to Wellington, the present holders waited upon him to consult as to a connection of the sidings at the south end with the new line of railway after the removal of the old line from Crawford street. At this meeting several suggestions were made, and Mr Blair's support obtained, as far as he could then promise; and Mr Kerr was deputed to look after the interests of the siding holder, and do what he thought necessary towards getting a connection made with the new line. Mr Kerr then had a plan drawn out showing the streets on rec aimed land, in accordance with the plans of the Harbor Board, and the various sidings as at present existing, with a scheme for their connection with the new line. He also had several interviews with the Board's chairman, Mr Ross, and their engineer, Mr Barr, putting this plan before them, and at once secured their support end that of the Board generally, Mr Ross going so far, in order to facilitate tha working of the sidings and do away with the sharp curve, as to propose a skew street in lieu of the extension of Manse street, which was at that time planned as in a straight line, and this same skew street is now finally determined upon. Mr Karr then prepared a plan showing the sidings connected with the main line by a line in the centre of the skew street, and that plan Mr Kerr, in a etter dated July 20, 1884 (as per copy enclosed), laid before your Council, requesting your consent thereto, and this was the first time the matter came before you. This letter was referred to the Works or Tramways Committee, and has up to this date not been replied to, and is therefore still before your Council. Several consultations ensued between the City Surveyor, Mr Barr, and Mr Lowe, the Engineer Working Railways, resulting in as many alterations and modifications of the original plan.

"Towards the end of July Mr Kerr proceeded to Wellington and interviewed Messrs Blackett, Blair, Maxwell, and Hannay, and obtained their consent to the scheme with certain modifications and restrictions; and on his return to Dunedin, early in September the matter merely wanted the adjustment of some minor details in the matter of curves, etc., and was in a fair way of being carried out to the entire satisfaction of all parties concerned, when Mr Kettle stepped in, causing a delay both vexing and troublesome.

"About 8th September this gentleman called on Mr Kerr explaining that he was acting on behalf of a new Company formed to take over and work the o d Peninsula and Ocean Beach tramway line, and inquired whether it would not be judicious to have the siding and tramways worked together as one system, as he was quite sure that, no matter what it would cost the holders to do their own hau age, his Company could and would do it cheaper. Mr Kerr informed him that there would be no objection to this provided such was the case, and agreed to take no further action for a few days until Mr Kettle could get sufficient data to enable him to make an offer on behalf of his Company. Shortly after this, at Mr Kettle's request, Mr Kerr attended a meeting of one of your committees, in order, as Mr Kettle put it, to strengthen his hands. At this meeting Mr Kerr, noticing that the members seemed to be under the impression that the siding-holders were already bound to Mr Kettle's Company, specially mentioned to His Worship the Mayor and the councilors present that he understand his letter was still before the Council, and that any proposition of Mr Kettle in connection with the sidings was only to be granted in case of their being able to agree together as to terms, etc., and this was at once assented to by the meeting and by Mr Kettle.

"Mr Kerr then obtained a tender from Messrs. Gibson and Smart to do all the haulage to and from main line and sidings, by horse-power, at 1s per truck and 3 pel truck for empties. Mr Kettle shortly afterwards tendered to do the same work at 4s per truck, or about 9½d per ton; and, on this being declined by Mr Kerr, Mr Kettle requested further delay to enable him to go into the matter, and some time after reduced his tender to 2s 6d per truck.

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"About this time Mr Maxwell, in a letter to Mr Lowe, mentioned several conditions that would require to be fulfilled by the siding-holders before the Government would connect their sidings with the main line—one of those being that in future they would require them to be all under the management of one responsible party or firm, with whom the Government would deal, instead of with so many individual holders as at present. At a meeting then called, these tenders and Mr Maxwell's letter were considered, and, it being stated that owing to one of the present siding-holders probably not wishing to go to any further expense with his siding, which would thus cause a decrease in the amount of traffic, upon which Messrs Gibson and Smart's tender was based, it was resolved that Mr James Anderson's offer of the same terms—viz, 1s per truck and 3d for empties (notwithstanding the decreased traffic)—should be accepted; and that Mr James Anderson be also appointed to take entire charge of the sidings, and be responsible to the Government for the carrying out of all conditions imposed by them. Mr Kettle was thereupon distinctly informed that his offer was declined, and that all negotiations were at an end between us and the Company. This was fully three months ago, since when we have held no communication whatever on the subject with him; yet, despite that, he gives you to understand that he is still acting in unison with us.

"During the time of negotiations with Mr Kettle the latter gentleman asked Mr Kerr if he would endeavour to get passed through Parliament a Bill, which would be necessary before the sidings could be made along any street, saying that, in the event of the siding-holders not being able to make satisfactory arrangements with his Company, the Bill would still be of service to us (the siding-holders). This Bill Mr Kerr sent to Mr Gore, and wrote to eight or nine other members requesting their support in having the Bill put through. A large number of letters and telegrams passed, ending in a telegram from the Premier, dated 10th October, as follows :—Matter not being overlooked; Minister of Public Works attending to it, and he hopes to be able to meet your wants without fresh legislation.' The result of this pressure was the receipt by Mr Lowe of a letter from the General Manager of Railways (copy enclosed) directing him to carry out the work himself, on getting a guarantee from the siding-holders to pay the cost of same, and on undertaking to sign an agreement with your Corporation when called upon to do so. This guarantee was handed to Mr Lowe on the 20th October, and he at once communicated with the Harbor Board and Corporation, asking their consent to the siding being laid by government. Several interviews and communications by telephone were held by Messrs Lowe and Kerr in order to hurry the matter forward, and at length, on the 28th January, Mr Lowe was able to reply to Mr Kerr, but in a manner which has been a complete surprise to one and all of us (copy enclosed). In order to show you more fully the very great injustice which would be done to us and future siding-holders by granting this concession to the Tramway Company, we append a few figures, showing the relative cost of Mr Kerr's scheme and the line as laid down by Government. Mr Lowe's estimate for laying the whole connection is £210; this amount, at 8 per cent., gives £16 16s as per annum. The number of full trucks over sidings per year estimated at 6,440, at 1s each, equals £322; and 4,740 empties, at 3d each, equals £59 5s; rent to City Corporation of five sidings, at £12 per annum, equals £60, or a grand total of £458 : any future siding-holders bearing their share of the first expense of £210. The charges under Mr Kettle's scheme would be—6,440 trucks at 2s 6d, equal to £803, leaving a balance on present traffic in favour of the Government laying the line of £347 per annum. But the concession to them now under consideration allows them to charge, if they think proper, 1s 9d per ton, say at five tons per truck, equaling no less a sum than £2817; and also £l5 per annum for rent, instead of £12, or a total in all of £2,892, against the previously mentioned amount, £458.

"The actual difference to us at present between having the goods carted to and from railway station and delivered into sidings is 1s 1d per ton, which, on 6,440 trucks, is £1,744, from which must be deducted the cost of maintenance and rent of sidings; but against this we have to accept all risks for loss or damage of contents. Of course, under the Government scheme, some small charge will be required annually for maintenance; but this will be something very trivial. Further, Mr Anderson would work the sidings by horse-power, which would be much more convenient to the sidingholders, and give no cause for complaint to the citizens generally; as would doubtless be the case were steam-power used, as intended by the Tramway Company.

"We think we have now shown you good and substantial reasons why this concession should be withheld from the Company, as far as railway sidings are concerned.

—We are, etc.,

Reid and Gray.

A. Imrie.

J. Anderson."

"Dunedin Iron and Woodware Co.

(Per William Henderson).

"British and N.Z. Mortgage Agency Co.

(Per G. Joachim).