The Old Waitaki Road Rail Bridge

"The Old Waitaki Rail-Road Bridge"

Otago - South Canterbury, New Zealand

Timaru Herald 2nd February 1877 pg 3

The most extensive bridge in the whole line, and the finest bridge in New Zealand, is that over the Waitaki. The total length of the bridge is about three-quarters of a mile. It is composed of iron cylinders and girders, and planked and railed with wood. The cylinders are 2 feet 9 inches at the lower end, and they were sunk by the pneumatic process. The average depth of the cylinders is about 22 feet below the ordinary water level, the water being 12 feet in the deepest part of the river. The spans of the bridge are 33 feet. The cost of the bridge was £70,000 the Government importing the iron, and Messrs McGoven, Hunter and Bruce erecting the structure and finding the other materials. The bridge took twenty months to build, and was completed a little over a twelve month ago. Opened 1st June 1876. photo

What decade is this photo?
An early solution to the problem of cost was to build a bridge for combined use by rail and road traffic. From the Glenavy side.

The old Waitaki Bridge was opened 1st June 1876 and demolished in 1956. The new road bridge was opened in 1956 followed shortly after by the new rail bridge.  Note the telephone insulators to the right. Found the photo from "Rails in the Hinterland."  The photo was taken late 1955 through the windscreen of an Austin Somerset driving north towards South Canterbury. Don't know what type of car the other one is. You had to drive very slowly, could get a puncture and you had to straddle one rail. "Rattled alright!" Note the water tanks, elevated at the far end, in case there was a fire on the bridge.

Railway Stations. Otago Witness 19 May 1895 page 15 In 1859 the Canterbury Provincial Government set aside lengths of country as reserves at the request of the Railway Commission. Seventy acres of land for the Timaru railway station and yards were gazetted on 18 September 1863 and all the land necessary for a main line through South Canterbury between the Rangitata and Waitaki Rivers. Bridging the rivers was one of the principal difficulties and one of the most expensive items of construction on the railway and was necessary to combat the "New Zealand Disease"  - drowning.

Otago Witness, 12 August 1887, Page 28
Rambles through New Zealand. Some notes by the way. By D. Wright, Dunedin.
Rev. W. S. Green on New Zealand If one had a dozen summers to spend in New Zealand " (says Mr W. S. Green in his "High Alps of New Zealand "), " I believe they could all be passed in breaking new ground and in the enjoyment of scenery of the most varied beauty."
    I frankly admit that when being driven across the Rakaia river I felt rather timid. The bridge is a mile and a-quarter long, and is the only one for trains, buggies, horsemen, and foot passengers. A person is stationed at each end to regulate the traffic and to open and shut the gates, otherwise the danger would be alarmingly great.

Road-rail bridges are bridges shared by road and rail lines, as an economy measure compared to providing separate bridges or in this case the bridge was built before the automobile was invented but it was still designed to carry road traffic. Road and rail may be provided with separate tracks, in which case trains may operate at the same time as cars. Alternately, road and rail may share the same track, in which case - like a level crossing - road traffic must stop when the trains operate. The old Waitaki bridge was replaced by separate road and rail bridges in 1956 and the bridges will always remain a vital link between Otago and Canterbury. 2001 photo. Today the Waitaki Bridge is 914 m long. The Rakaia road and rail traffic was separated in 1939. Today the Arahura River - between Greymouth and Hokitika - single level rail and road bridge. The Seddon - Awatere River bridge is a - two level, road under rail - to be separated in 2007.  Another long bridge in the South Island is the 700 m long Waiau, in North Canterbury. 

Waitaki bridge, the royal train heading south.
25 Jan. 1954 - The Queen heading to Dunedin.

By 1871 the main south road to the Waitaki had been metalled road from Timaru.  Over three years the railway line between Dunedin and Christchurch was built with construction not only progressing south from the Christchurch end and north from Dunedin, but also from the intermediate ports of Timaru and Oamaru in both directions. The railway between Waitaki South and Oamaru was opened on 27 September 1875
Christchurch and Timaru were linked on 4 February 1876 painting
Timaru and Oamaru was opened the 1st February 1877 when the extension to Makikihi linked up with the line from Christchurch and the difficult section between Oamaru to Dunedin was not open for traffic until 7 September 1878.  All that remained was the Balclutha-Gore link, which was opened on 22 January 1879, completing the Main South Line. Glenavy was first known as Waitaki North. In 1890 name changed to Glenavy in honour of Prime Minister Hon. John Ballance who was born at Glenavy, Country Antrim, Northern Ireland. Further south, the Dunedin and Port Chalmers Railway was opened on 1 January 1873 as the first railway in the country to adhere to the new national gauge. 

North Otago Times Friday 2nd February 1877

Length by length the breaks in our southern railway system are being filled in. Yesterday a portion of out Main Trunk Line and a feed thereto was opened. A proposal of a railway running through the length of the South Island was initiated. To the dwellers of South Canterbury and in the district of Waimate in particular, it is one of infinite moment; enabling, as it does, land to be broken up and brought under cultivation which otherwise have remained comparatively barren, and the fruits thereof brought into market and bartered for coin of the realm. It means the ability for hundreds to occupy with profit what was only held by units previously. Cheap means of transport for produce means to the agriculturalist the difference between overflowing abundance and the bare necessaries of life. The lands of New Zealand have no natural highways in the form of rivers, to transport merchandise either inland or the produce of the soil to the highway of the sea.

Timaru Herald 2nd February 1877 pg 3

The last piece of the line to be finish was between the Makikihi and the Waitaki. The total length of line between Timaru and Oamaru is 52½ miles. The seven miles between Timaru to Pareora were constructed by Messrs Alan and Stumbles., a  local firm the next 15 miles by David Proudfoot, of Dunedin. The next 15½ miles by George Pratt of Waimate and John Whitaker of Dunedin, the former doing the formation and the latter doing the plat laying and the last 15 miles, between Waitaki and Oamaru by Messs Allan and Stimbles. As regards to the buildings, those at
Normanby were built by Messrs Ogilvie and Jones of Timaru. Those at Otaio, Makikihi, Hook and Waimate junction built by George Folmer of Timaru. Those at Waiho and at the Waimate branch ones by Thomas Parsons of Waimate. The Waimate Branch line is 4½ miles in length. There is another branch line nine miles south of Waitaki which extends westward to Duntroon. All bridges were built on the truss principle, the materials being iron bark, and spans 40ft. In Messrs Allan and Stumble's contract there is a bridge over the Saltwater Creel and Pighunting Creek, the former 586 feet long, and the latter 342 feet. In Mr Proudfoot's contract there is the Pareora bridge, 1324 feet in length; the Otaio bridge 840 feet, the Makikihi bridge 780 feet, and the Hook bridge 112 feet; and in Mr Pratt's contract there is a small bridge over Deep Creek another over Waimate creek and one over the Waiho river which is 1069 feet long. Besides the bridges, there are a lot of culverts on the line, and several swamps had to be drained by side ditches. The first seven miles of line, southward from Timaru, was heavy, running as it did through the Pareora Downs, but on the other parts of the line no engineering difficulties were experienced. The railway was carried out under the supervision of Mr G.P. Williams, Resident Engineer, the Assistant Engineer being Mr G.L. Meason. The cost of the line, exclusive of the Waitaki bridge, was about £2,250 per mile.

Timaru Railway Station  - 7 September 1907. The wool stores are in the background to the left.

Excursion to Oamaru. The morning opened beautifully, giving promise to a fine day. The train presented a very striking appearance. it was composed of some of the brightest carriages and the engine decorated with flowers and evergreens and flags and 300 excursionists in their holiday attire. and with the lovely weather that prevailed al nature appeared in its best attire. Between Timaru and the Pareora river the line runs partly through the downs, and partly along the level ground which stretches between the rising land and sea. the landscape here is decidedly tussocky; After crossing the Pareora, the country gets more level, and extensive cultivations and plantations of the Canterbury and Otago Association come into view as St. Andrew's station is reached. Between Otaio and the Hook is an immense area of grain, some of which is cut, and the remainder looking healthy. After crossing the Hook the train runs on Mr Studholmes's property until it reaches the Waiho. Reached in 20 minutes after nine. Waimate Junction reached. On the south side of the Waitaki the country belongs to Mr John Mclean. The land here is level, and mostly in its virgin state. Before reaching Awamoko junction the train has skirted several farms and between that point and Oamaru all the available country is under crop. The crops were very poor compared with those on the north side of the Waitaki and upon inquiring the reason we learned that rain has not fallen inn North Otago in sufficient quantities to do any good for nearly six months. The view upon entering Oamaru is very pretty. The train reached Oamaru station at 10:25 am, having made the journey from Timaru in 3 hours and 20 minutes. The excursionists at once began to take a view of the place, the fine architecture, houses are principally built of local white stone, of the buildings and the Breakwater.

Distance of various stations enroute from Timaru:
Normanby 4½ miles
St Andrews 10¼
Otaio 14¼ miles
Makikihi 18 miles
Hook (siding) 21¾ miles
Waimate Junction 24½ miles - a George Troup design
Waiho 31 miles
North Waitaki 37½ miles - Morven
Oamaru 52½ miles

Wise's N.Z.: 1948: Was 24 miles south of Timaru, in Waimate County, with a post, telegraph, and money order office and one hotel. It was the junction for the Waimate-Waihao Downs railway.

North Otago Times, 5 February 1877, Page 2

We made the Waiho at 8.24, and crossing the sometime dangerous river by a substantial girder bridge, see away to the right front the Willows Farm, and the Grand Stand of the Waimate Steeplechase course. About, this locality are some magnificent crops of wheat, and a little farther on we came in view of the rapidly-crowing township of Waimate, its roofs glistening in the sunlight, and its neat-looking white houses looking very attractive with a background of mountain and forest. At 8.42 we drew up at the Junction with the Waimate Branch line, where were in waiting a four-horse coach, and numerous expresses, &c. , ready to convey intending visitors to the thriving and pretty little town. I noted, by the way, that the Waimate Branch line curved northwards into the main line, as if on the assumption that the principal traffic will go in that direction, one which I think will prove to be unfounded. One can understand the Moeraki line should curve in towards Palmerston, but why both the Waiareka and Waimate branches should run away f torn Oamaru is another of those inscrutable things which pertain to the ways of Governments and Engineers. This is the proper place to mention, that the timetable notwithstanding, the Waimate Branch Line is not yet open for traffic, although it it expected to be during the month. About a minute after our arrival at the Junction, the down train from Timaru, consisting of an engine and six carriages, arrived, the engine being gaily decorated with evergreens and garlands of flowers, with two Union Jacks crossed in front, and it was remarked as singular that our engine and train had no decorations whatever except those of the interior of the carriages, comprised in the happy faces and gay attire of the ladies and children. The down train was pretty full of passengers, among whom were noted many old friends and acquaintances, prominent among them being one of the most respected of Canterbury's old identities, in the person of John Ollivier, looking good-humored as ever, and in capital preservation. The two trains resumed their journey simultaneously at 8.57, the passengers by the "down" receiving an addition of one by a desertion from ours, Mr Shrimski, M.H.R., at the last moment making sudden dash with his impedimenta, in the shape of valise, hat-box, &c, from the one to the other, and very nearly losing his passage by either. We of the "up" made Makikihi, the most southern point of traffic until to-day, at 9.14, ten minutes late. Here there are some grand crops of wheat, oats, and barley, not to be surpassed anywhere between Oamaru and Christchurch, and there are some very pretty peeps of scenery. Hence the line runs very near to the sea beach, and we are soon within sight of Timaru ; the first object which strikes the visitor on approaching the town being the Hospital situated on rising ground to the left of the line. It is a much larger building than the sister institution at Oamaru, and is built of bluestone, with white stone dressings. Two large wings are just now in process of addition to it, the material used for the new portion being concrete. The building stands in, apparently, extensive and well-kept grounds. We arrived at Timaru almost punctually to time, and found that the day was being kept as a close holiday. The short stay made here (15 minutes) did not admit of doing the town, but we picked up here an old Oamaru resident, on comparing notes with whom we found that he described it as a prosperous looking place, but behind Oamaru in point of architectural beauty. Comparing the two towns, his opinion was that Timaru has advanced to about the stage of the Oamaru of five years ago. The railway station is a miserable affair for a town of the size ; huddled into a corner, the buildings are cramped, small, and inconvenient, and our hungry and thirsty passengers were disappointed to find that the refreshment rooms are as yet only in posse, some of the framework being in process of manufacture. Here we changed carriages, with the usual hunt for small baggage, and left again for the North at a few minutes before 11. Pasting the Washdyke we noticed to the left the works of the N.Z.M.P. Company, and at Washdyke Station the junction with the Timaru and Pleasant Point Railway. By the bye there appears to be a lagoon at the mouth of the Washdyke and it looks so like a promising harbor that one wonders whether the assistance of art could not be successfully called in, in the same way as at Kakamu, by constructing works which would keep open an entrance. Near Arowhenua, a little farther north, there are some fine crops, and soon after passing this place Temuka comes in sight. It looks quite a considerable town from the rail, and is remarkable for the number of handsome bridges — railway and road — which span the Opihi, and other streams in its neighborhood.

Leaving Timaru, heading north Feb. 1967

There are also some very pretty bits of scenery here, and some very neat, comfortable-looking dwellings of the villa and cottage ornee types. At Winchester, which we reached at 11.29, there is considerable cultivation, and the crops look magnificent. This is the station for Geraldine, which lies away to the left front, apparently embowered in trees, and backed by high, bold-looking mountain range. At the Orari, ten minutes ride farther, there is a substantial, comfortable looking brick hotel, to which, as we stayed here five minutes to water the engine, there was a perfect stampede. By this time the day was excessively hot, and many of the passengers were suffering from thirst, and a glass of water was difficult to procure at the stations; a couple of water tanks sat the Orari were a welcome exception, and there were eagerly resorted to. Hence to the Rangitata, there is very little but tussocks to see. The river is spanned by a fine bridge, on the south side of which we passed the down train from Christchurch, which appeared to have some 100 passengers or so aboard, and then after crossing the river, ran through country, until reaching Long Beach, where we came upon some very fine crops, principally of wheat, and already in stock. Ashburton was reached at a quarter to 2 o'clock....

Timaru Herald Tuesday May 30 1876 pg 8

The Great Southern Railway - Another section has just been completed - that between Timaru and the station at Pareora which is situated about two miles south of the river. On May the 5th a special train for the purpose of enabling Mr Higginson, Superintending Engineer of the colony, and Mr Warner, engineer of the Canterbury railways, to make an inspection with a view from taking it over from the contractors. Mr Stumbles, one of the contractors, and Mr Jones the station master were present. The Engineers passed the section. A distance of 11 miles is ready for traffic.

Otago Witness, 14 September 1878, Page 8

So far as what are technically known as "works of art " are concerned, the main line presents nothing of a very striking character. The greatest structures are the Blair bridge over the Clutha River, and the Waitaki bridge. The Waitaki bridge extends over a straggling shingle-bed river, and is of a mile in length, but as it is built close to the river, and the spans are only 33 feet, it is chiefly remarkable for its great length.

Timaeu Herald 6 Oct. 1883 pg3bTimaru Herald, 6 October 1883, Page 3

The new hotel which has been built for Mr Jas. Watkins, late of the Rangitata Hotel, at the above-mentioned place was completed a few weeks ago, and the furnishing is now well advanced. The building is placed on the Waimate side of the Junction, opposite the old hotel and railway station, is of wood with corrugated iron roof, the eaves of which project well over the wall, and are supported by cantilevers, and is two storeys high. The facade is very imposing. A range of segmental-beaded windows divide the upper portion, whilst in the lower part there is an exceedingly well finished verandah with curved roof. The verandah is flanked on each side by two neat-looking bay windows. Going in at the principal entrance one enters the large bar-room, which is placed as near as possible in the centre of the building. The bar is nicely finished, and behind it are arranged the necessary shelves, whilst in front are placed two very commodious seats. Directly underneath the bar is a large cellar, concreted throughout, the situation of which is a handy one, and does not interfere with the rest of the house. To the right o£ the bar is a private parlor, 14ft by 12ft; dining-room, 14ft by 18ft; and ladies' coffee-room, 14ft by 8ft; to this latter is attached a small but convenient lavatory, fitted up in the most complete manner. The private parlor commands a fine view of the surrounding country, and is furnished with suite in cretonne, is tastefully carpeted, etc., the whole appearance of the room being very home-like. Between the rooms mentioned is a hall seven feet wide, out of which springs the principal staircase leading to the upper floor. The hall and stairs are covered with oilcloth of neat design. To the left of the bar is the public or bar parlor, 11ft by 12ft; a men's dining-room, 16ft by 16ft and another staircase, narrower and not so elaborately finished as the one first mentioned. All these room are well furnished of course, ...  From the above description some idea will be gained of the size and conveniences provided in the Junction Hotel, which the enterprising proprietor, Mr Watkins, has good reason to be proud of. The way in which the house is divided into a public and private one shows plainly that his long experience has taught him that the rough and ready days — the " good old days," as identities love to call them — have gone by, and that the time has arrived when the taste and convenience, of two classes of travellers must be studied. We think most people will agree with us that in his attempt to meet the wishes of both classes Mr Watkins' architect has succeeded admirably. The public and private rooms are perfectly appointed in every respect and even the most exacting will find but little cause to grumble. The architect for the building — which has cost altogether over £2000 — was Mr W. J. N. Upton, of Temuka and Timaru, and the contractor Mr Gillies, of Oamaru.

Jarrah - Eucalyptus marginata - today jarrah, a heavy wood, can be found in old bridges, wharves and fences on Otago, recycled for flooring and beams of some homes in Queenstown and Oamaru. It looks black but if you pull off a splinter the wood is reddish. The Watiaki is a braided river with an old, 1882, hardwood, one lane, bridge crossing it further up stream at Kurow. Looks like jarrah and carries very little traffic for State Highway 82 and links Hakataramea with Kurow. A 2 lane bridge is planned to replace it in 2010 -2014.

Otago Witness Saturday 13 April 1872 pg12

Arrivals - Pakeha, 173 tons, Paterson, from Le Vasse Bay, W.A., 2nd ult., Master, agent. Passenger: Mr Properjohn. She berthed close handy to the Railway Jetty, in order to discharge her piles (jarrah sawn timber). She brings news that the brig Our Hope was to leave Western Australia the day after her for Otago also, with piles for the jetty. The barque Midas was to sail in about three weeks afterwards, from the port of Bunbury, for Lyttelton, with jarrah timber for the jetty there.

April 10 - Warwick, ship, 1005 tons, Skinner, from London, 12th January; Start Point, 20th January. Bright Bros., agents. Passengers: J.S. Gray, S.E. Evans, and 5 in the steerage. Voyage account. col 2. Cargo consisting principally of railway plant. The p.s Geelong proceeded outside and towed her in at half-flood to the Quarantine anchorage, where she brought up until the powder portion of her cargo to be lightered.

Otago Witness Saturday April 27 1872
Arrival -April 20
Our Hope, brig, 237 tons, Payne, from Geographe Bay (Western Australia), 15th March, via Melbourne, 4th inst. Proudfoot, Oliver and Ulph, agents. Passenger: Mr Crosbee. Voyage account. Rode out a gale in Geographe Bay which proved disastrous to the Midas on Sunday, the 10th March. Mr Stevens, who had been sent by Mr Connor and Mr McKay to Western Australia to select the cargo of the Midas, and who intended to return by that vessel, was a passenger, along with Capt. Cummings, of the ill-fitted vessel, by the Gothenburg - informs us that after the wreck he with others had to travel through a bush track to Perth, from thence back by another track to King George's Sound, 260 miles, thus forming a triangular route. Three or four vessels had gone on shore in Champion Bay during the same gale. The wreck of the Midas was sold at auction, her load of timber for NZ was just completed. Sold for £400 to residents there. Her cargo consisted of 100 piles, each 70 feet long and a quantity of sleepers and other timber. The Twilight and Wild Wave were also driven aground. No lives were scarified.

Otago Witness Saturday August 3 1872 page 20
Wreck of the brig Our Hope.
Oamaru Times, July 19th
This brig has again been exposed to danger and disaster. For some time she has been lying in the Roads discharging her cargo of girders for the Waitaki bridge. Early on the morning of yesterday, being exposed to a strong N.E. wind, and having parted her chain at 9 a.m., she let go her second anchor with 90 fathoms of chain. She still kept dragging until half-past three when she struck heavily twice. The captain concluded to go on shore. At 10 o'clock Capt. Sewell, the Harbour past signalled her to go to sea. She was unable to do, the swell being too great and the wind contrary. The Jane Ramsey, schooner, laden with timber, observed the signal and put to sea. Towards four o'clock the brig hoisted colours signifying her intention of coming on shore. The Rocket Brigade proceeded to the spot, fired a line and those on board were landed safely. The crew consisted of the captain, and mate, six able seaman, one ordinary, cook and steward, and a boy. A female was on board. The cargo is insured for £4000 and the brig for £1200.

Otago Witness March 16th 1872 pg 8
The Warick, which is expected to arrive in six weeks, has on board 150 tons of rails, 38 tons of rail fastenings, ten sets of switches and crossings, and a quantity of platelayers tools. The same vessel is to bring a large quantity of material for the Waitaki Bridge.

Otago Witness 2nd November 1872 pg 15
In the ship Palmerston, which is expected to arrive on or about the 5th of next month, are three locomotives for the Clutha Railway and 270 tons of material for the Waitaki bridge. The Bulwark, which arrived at Auckland a few weeks ago, after a sevens' voyage, has on board 310 tons of material for the Waitaki bridge, and 225 tons of permanent way material. She will come down to Otago to discharge this.

Otago Witness Saturday 14 Dec. 1872 pg15
The tender of Messrs Mills, Guthrie and Gresswell, for the conveyance of material for the Waitaki Bridge, from the ships Bulwark and Palmerston at Port Chalmers to the site of the bridge, for the sum of £2250 has been accepted by the Minister for Public Works.

North Otago Times February 8th 1876

The immigrants per Shakespeare, from Hamburg to Wellington - Were received into Barracks here ex Shakespeare per Taranaki, number 55 souls and among them 36 single men, the rest consisting of families. Among them are 8 masons, 1 painter, 1 tailor, 1 baker, 1 cabinet maker (wife and 2 children), 1 groom ( wife and 5 children) 1 agricultural laborer (wife and 1 child), German; 15 navvies and 15 harvestman. With the one exception mentioned, they are all Italians. Of the navvies, some will be taken on at the Breakwater, and the rest are likely to find employment on Messrs Culling and Munro's contract on the Waitaki - Moeraki Railway.

North Otago Times April 10th 1876 pg2
The Cockney Navvies of Otago.
The Bleeders - Or how the navvies bled storekeepers. - by a Navvy who didn't.

A Cockney storeman, ran a peripatetic railroad store, with canvas flapping. The words - spoken in the pure, unadulterated dialect of the "Seven Dials" - were pregnant with meaning, and the group of navvies to whom they were addressed well knew their import. Already the new tramway had gained a most unenviable notoriety, as a resort of one of the most heterogeneous mixtures of the industrial element that ever laid siege to a Government undertaking in the Province of Otago. Fishmongers who had granted in Billinsgate, certified members of the London Pharmaceutical Society, indigent draftsmen, decayed barristers, veterinary surgeons, bankrupt photographers, soldiers, sailors, sweeps and dustmen, yielding manfully to the pressure of circumstances, had assembled on this field of labour, and were seeking to recruit their fortunes. Just as there was a mixture of professions, so there was a mixture of nationalities, but if there was one place better represented, than another it was the world's metropolis. Probably on no public work in New Zealand had there ever before been such a congregation of Cockneys. One of the bosses - Yankee Ned - was so impressed with the fact that he decleared "the tramway stunk with them." A long the line nothing but the cockney dialect, full of the choicest adjectives, was spoken. Everything - from the sun, moon, and the stars, downwards - had a sanguinary appellation, and in ordinary conversation the term "bloody" gradually became a descriptive necessity. A local store keeper, a Scotchman, Mr Pickles, had thriven so well on the spoils of Cockatoos and unsophisticated roadmen, that he received the navvies with open arms. "The Bleeders," one after another, were entered in the day-book, and transcribed into a clean page in the comprehensive and compendious ledger. Many of them had to be furnished not only with food, but also with tents and blankets. Of course "The Bleeders" were delighted. "The Bleeders" smoked their pipes of peace and drinking flasks of brandy and bottles of beer. "The Bleeders" got out on the plains, a temporary canvas store had to be erected for their special accommodation under the supervision of a Cockney cousin, Gerkins. They consumed tobacco by the pound and beer and porter by the dozen. Cases and barrels from the parent store appeared and vanished like an illusion. Repeated rumors of a "Sacking match" resulting in a series of convulsive struggles between picks, shovels, spirit levels, and crowbars, in the presence of the Railway officers, tend to induce mania. Then came the reduction of wages from 9s to 8s per day. Five of the navvies decamped without settling for their stores. It was necessary to close the branch establishment and further credit was discontinued. That evening the Navvies Camp on the edge of the river was the scene of a moral entertainment. "The Bleeders" prepared for a regular clearing out; tents were pulled down, and swags were rolled up. All were equipped for the road, some with new drawers, others with new shirts, and all with new boots. Billies, saucepans, and provisions were disposed of under the hammer, Cockney Tom, officiating as auctioneer. There was an alarming sacrifice of stores, jam, salmon and other tinned preserves going off at about one-third their cost price. A start was made during the night, and next morning eight Bleeders were on the road. They had to call on the inspector of the works for their vouchers, and also to pass the store of Pickles.

Railway Workshops, Christchurch 1876

Did you wait for crossing time and travel over the Waitaki Bridge as a kid? There was a gateman at each end to stop cars when train was coming. The bridge rattled like empty milk bottles when you drove across.  Or did you walk across it with a mob of sheep, the horse and gig and peer down through the gaps between the planks and growing giddy with the tumultuous din and motion of the turbid waters beneath.  There was little motor traffic but horses and carts had to follow the mob. When I was a kid I crossed it in a train and later in a car. Had to straddle over one rail and go very slow. Could get a puncture. The one at the Rakaia was the same. Rattled alright. The Rakaia was upgraded into separate bridges before the Second World War. Today the Rakaia bridges are approximately 1750 metres [ 1.1 miles (1.8 km) of 40 feet (12.2 m) span] in length and are the longest road and rail bridges in New Zealand.

Henry Lapham, b. 1852 Tasmania, was a New Zealand schoolteacher. However, he was almost certainly born in Australia and spent some time on the Victorian goldfields. He was the brother of and collaborated with Susan Nugent Wood, who was 16 years older than him, if his year of birth was 1852. The Lapham family lived in Tasmania and Susan's birth and that of several other siblings, including Charles Henry Lapham (b. Spring Bay, Tas., 1847) is recorded in the Colonial Tasmanian Family Link.... d. 1887 N.Z.

Otago Witness 25 February 1882 pg 26
by Henry Lapham.
The town of Ashburton is but a small place, and a stay there of two days was amply sufficient to enable me to see all that was to be seen. It is situated on a bare, shelterless plain, with - very far off and indistinct - a range of blue hills. Lines of eucalyptus and hedges make a pleasant change. The wind swept across the plain, piercing one's bones with its chill. There is a public recreation-ground opposite the railway station, with in one corner a large pond of by no means clean water; dysentery carries off numerous victims every year. I happened to remain a Sunday in this town, and was pleasantly surprised by the sound of a little peal of bells belonging to the Episcopalian Church. Indeed, a very short stay would enable anyone to decide that the Church of England was here the leading denomination. All the chief men of business, the leading members of the society, belonging to that sect, just as in the south of the island Presbyterians are predominant. Ashburton has a rather good town hall (a wooden building), an excellent court-house, and such shops as one might expect to find in a well-to-do country town. The railway station is large and from the bustle and stir of engines running up and down there must be a lot of business to get through. The offices, waiting rooms, &c. are commodious and very comfortable. The High School is an excellent institution. The headmaster is a young Tasmanian, who some years since took the Tasmanian degree of B.A., and afterwards carried off high academical honours at Cambridge. [The Head master of the High School that was mentioned would have been Charles Hogg who was there from 1881-1887] There is a fairly good cricket ground, though at the time of my visit the ground in places was very bare, the turf having been destroyed by caterpillars. There is also a lawn tennis ground, kept in fine order, and well patronised by players of both sexes. There are some pretty private dwelling-houses on the outskirts of the town. The hotels are fairly well kept, and their number is more than sufficient for the size of the town.

A pleasant trip of a few hours will complete the journey through to Christchurch. There is not much to be seen en route. Away to the right is the hazy line of far blue hills, with gray plain between; some long shingly stream-beds, intersected with thin threads of water in the summer time, but which in winter would be powerful, destructive, foaming rivers. There are spanned by excellent bridges - one of which, indeed, is the largest in New Zealand, upwards of a mile in length. There are some pretty wayside stations; then the trees become thicker; far away is the distance smoke of a large town; the Cathedral spire shines in the sun, and in a very short time we are drawn beside the railway-station platform, Christchurch. ......

...Christchurch [I did not type it out]

Before leaving the city lamps are lighted in all the carriages for the trip through the tunnel. The trip occupies only a few minutes - less than a quarter of an hour - but it seems woefully long time of half-suffocation, with every window fast shut to keep out the smoke and ash-dust, and it is pleasant to flash out into sunlight again, with on the left hand a view of the Bay shut in by steep hills, the ships at anchor, and on the right the houses of Port Lyttelton. There is a Reading Room here, not very large, nor very imposing as to outside appearance, nor too munificently supplies with books, but which is made free to any traveller who likes to use it, and is a very pleasant place to pass away the tedious hours while waiting for the steamer to sail. 'The Port,' as it is generally called, is a picturesque little place, climbing to the hill-side, with the railway-station below, and a few yards further the Union Company's boat, with steam up, ready for a start.

Otago Witness, 10 November 1909, Page 87
An innovation at the Oamaru Railway Station Refreshment Rooms is causing considerable, irritation among inexperienced travellers. For the sum of 6d, hitherto, one was supplied, with a cup of tea and a sandwich and the instructions to leave the cup and saucer in the train for collection farther up the line. Now, however, one is called upon to pay 9d, for the cup and saucer, "money returned when crockery is returned." The average tourist has not a great deal of facility for the personl return of a cup and saucer which he has carried with him a distance of say, 30 miles, so that the innovation (says the Timaru Post) is simply in the nature of supplying him with twopence worth of crockery for ninepence.

The South Island Main Trunk passenger services, the Southerner, ceased on 10 February 2002 and the last regularly steam-hauled expresses in New Zealand, with JA locomotives hauling the Friday and Sunday night expresses until 26 October 1971. All other steam-hauled expresses were replaced on 1 December 1970 by, Southerner, which was hauled by DJ class diesel-electric locomotives. The train would leave Christchurch, stop at Timaru for a couple of minutes, just allowing enough time to pick up a 'Timaru Herald' and below Palmerston stop on a double track and wait for the train heading north. The crew would exchange so the engineer and steward and stewardess would return to Christchurch and the Invercargill crew return to Invercargill. It was a wonderful train trip passing across the Canterbury Plains, viewing the snow capped Two Thumb Range, Caroline Bay, enjoying morning tea on the train, viewing Moeraki, the coastal inlets, Otago harbour and pulling into the Dunedin's fine huge Railway Station with the beautiful stained glass windows and flooring in the foyer. 

Southerner's final days
Timaru Herald 5 February 2002
By Janine Burgess

The Southerner will make its final journey on Sunday but for a group of Strathallan Life Care residents a trip to Oamaru yesterday was a chance to reminisce. A total of 39 residents and staff members travelled to Oamaru on the Southerner for lunch before returning yesterday afternoon. The Southerner service was one of TranzRails passenger services Australian buyer West Coast Railways didn't want. Despite central and local government attempts to keep the service running a viability study confirmed the service was uneconomical. Strathallan Life Care general manager Jan Hyde said given the Southerner service was set to finish, for many of the residents this was the last opportunity they would have to ride the train. She said it was an opportunity for the residents involved to reminisce seeing trains had played a major part in their lives. Many had travelled to school and work on trains and one couple had even done their courting by train. The viability study on the Southerner prepared for the Ministry of Economic Development indicated passenger numbers would have to increase by about 90% for the service to be a worthwhile venture. The Southerner was granted a reprieve earlier this year after central and local government put up $240,000 by way of subsidy to keep the service running while the viability study was carried out. The study indicated the Southerner carried only a small percentage of visitors to the south – only 2.1% of domestic travellers. The report found there was more than enough coach and air services to handle those travellers. TranzRail spokesperson Alan McDonald said after the last trip on Sunday the Southerner and carriages will be transferred to the new owner of the passenger service. Mr McDonald said there had been a brief increase in the number of passengers using the Southerner service after the "use it or loose it" message was delivered, but passenger numbers have since dwindled to unprofitable levels. Anyone hoping to use take part in the end of an era on Sunday however is out of luck, the Southerners final journey is fully booked.

2006. A shadow remains over the New Zealand passenger rail service. Will the "Overlander" -  Auckland to Wellington, remain on track. The comparativeness of steel on rail against rubber on road gets more difficult every day, economically it is harder and harder to maintain. If it is tough today it will tougher tomorrow. As long as there is tourism and a lot of heritage and wonderful scenic routes of New Zealand, people will ride, preferably on beautiful restored steam engines just as people ride on a four masted sailing ship in Sydney Harbour. Let's keep this train rolling!

Suggested Reading:

Illustrated London News ?1886 Waitaki Railway Bridge

The Waitaki River, a broad, shallow and uncertain stream divides Canterbury from Otago.


Maori translation of 'Tangiwai' means 'Weeping Waters'
On Christmas Eve each year the express train slows as it crosses the new bridge across the Whangaehu River, and the driver throws a bunch of flowers into the water. A card reads: 'In memory of all who died at Tangiwai on Christmas Eve, 1953'

"From fine wools to fine wines, fossils to gliders, rock art to turbines – history, like the mighty Waitaki River, just keeps rolling along. "
M.C. Feb. 2007.

Otago Witness 19 November 1881, Page 10
At a late hour on the night of the 11th the Ashburton railway and traffic bridge crossing the Ashburton River was reported to be on fire. The stationmaster visited the place on an engine, and found that the flames had got a good hold of the woodwork but with assistance he managed to put it out. It is supposed to have originated through some careless smoker throwing down a match and igniting some dry horse dung on the bridge.

Timaru Herald
Bridge renewal 26 January 2010
Community leaders are welcoming plans to upgrade Kurow's old wooden bridges to two lanes. Transit New Zealand's initial proposal was for the 127-year-old structure to remain single lane, but after consultation with the community, it confirmed the bridges will feature two separate lanes, as well as a cycle and pedestrian crossing. There had been increasing pressures on the bridges, due to heavier vehicles using them more frequently, as well as high river flows. Kurow chief fire said he was delighted. "For safety reasons alone. This will allow easy access during emergency situations." Meanwhile, Mr Hey said the bridges would be closed for maintenance, after high water reports of up to 980 cubic metres per second flowing into the Waitaki River in the last week. The bridges would be closed for a week from February 7 between 7am and 7pm, with vehicle access allowed for 10 minutes on every hour. He said the repairs were "routine", and ensured the bridges' safety.

Timaru Courier 25 March 2010 pg6
Swaggers, prime ministers and pigs visit junction hotel

HOTELS in the early days were much more social centres of rural communities than they are today now that there are so many other options available. The Studholme Junction Hotel appeared soon after the railway (1876), as a natural and complementary asset, not only for accommodation but to serve the community that grew around the railway station. It was built of totara by Matthew Sherwin, of Waimate, for James Watkins in 1883. The only problem with the hotel, for railway passengers anyway, was getting to it, as a barbed wire barrier was a massive deterrent, perhaps because the government remembered the conviction and fining of J. Nash in 1878 for being drunk in a railway carriage there. It was reported in July that year that ‘‘an underground communication is about to be commenced between the rail• way platform and Watkins’ hotel’’ but this did not come about. The barbed wire barrier was eventually dismantled and a small railway access gate was built. The imposing overhead bridge was built about 1910. For many years, until the local hall was built in 1912, the hotel was the venue for heavy — and social — debate on the issues of the day. The story is told of ‘‘King Dick’’ Seddon, prime minister at the turn of the century, stopping on his way to Dunedin. He arrived unannounced and unexpected at Studholme Junction. He did not have much time but had an eye for an opportunity to do some campaigning. Seddon jumped down from his coach, unhitched one of the hacks outside the hotel, mounted it and rode up the front steps. The horse pounded across the veranda and into the public bar. A great shout went up when King Dick was seen in the saddle, swinging his hat and shouting that they must all come outside and listen to him. As sales at the sheep and cattle yards were usually held fortnightly, the hotel was a good ‘‘watering hole’’ for buyers, sellers and stock agents, while the directors of the saleyards company found the tranquil atmosphere of the hotel good for business, and monthly meetings were held in a side room. Sale days were naturally extremely busy and the bar was chock a block with people. Great fun was had and many a line of sheep or cattle changed hands a second or third time for the day in the convivial environment. In the early years of the 20th century, when swaggers roamed the roads, publicans had to beware of their tricks. One Ned Slattery (‘‘the Shiner’’) is recorded as having obtained two empty jars at Studholme to torment publicans further north with his switch from spirits to water. He was carrying one jar in his swag and the other in his hand when he entered a Timaru pub run by one Paddy Phelan. He put the empty one on the bar, asking for it to be filled with whisky. This was done but he then discovered he had lost his money on the road or perhaps it had been stolen. He left the bottle on the bar promising to pick it up when he had found his money. He asked for a brandy on the strength of the whisky he was going to buy and, when the publican turned to get it, Shiner switched the whisky for a jar of coloured water or perhaps tea. He left promptly, muttering to one of the others, ‘‘I bet after he uncorks that jar he’ll be a week at confession — he’ll swear that hard’’. The Honourable McKay was a remittance man who travelled with the Shiner at one stage. He had lost an eye in an accident and a brother in Eng• land had sent out an artificial eye for him. Unfortunately it came nowhere near to matching the good eye, which gave him a very interesting appearance. He fitted it himself but it fell out rather easily, something he turned to his advantage. He would cough as he bent over another drinker’s glass of beer and into it would pop the eye. No one seemed to want to drink from a glass with a swagger’s eye glaring up from the bottom. However, the owner of the eye had no compunction in downing it, as he demonstrated in the Studholme hotel. While the hotel inevitably had a few rough customers, one in particular stands out. The Studholmes of ‘‘Te Waimate’’ had sent a consignment of pigs to the railhead but the yards were built for cattle and sheep, not pigs. One boar, sensing his days were numbered, made a break for freedom through the gap in the railings.  Once out, he made the most of his temporary liberty and rushed straight into the hotel, causing considerable consternation. In his excitement he tumbled down the stairs into the cellar, where he made quite an impact. As a last resort it was decided that the escapee had to be shot and this duly happened in a sordid scene of broken glass, spilt liquor, blood and general chaos.

It is Hurunui Bridge 1937, up in North Canterbury

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project