Monday, 12 September 2016

Local government politicians are the real villians in transport inequality

Great piece here about cycling, however if you delve closer they seem to be shifting the blame onto central government and attempting to paint their pro-road policies as the source of all the issues we are having with transport in the city. NIMBYs also cop a fair amount of blame.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Napier Gisborne Line: Aerial Photos [3]

A big slip at Tunnel 6 is an ongoing issue in the Esk Valley. The hillside is slipping all around this area and has been doing so for many years.

The Mohaka Viaduct. The road is impeded where it passes under the viaduct due to the placement of one of the pylons.

Mangaturanga Viaduct just north of Raupunga.

Kopuawhara Viaduct.

In 2015 here is a new slip developing at 346.5 km between Tunnel 15 and 16.

During the construction of the line in February 1938 a major storm caused a flood at Kopuawhara Construction Camp which was washed away with the loss of 22 lives. The monument to this event still stands almost directly opposite the 347 km peg.

Washout at Tunnel 22 about the time the line closed.

Big Hut washout with extensive slipping in the hills around the areas. 2012 approx.

The hump in the track is the bypass of Tunnel 24 put through mid 1950s when the hillside was sliding so much that the tunnel collapsed under the pressure. In fact the hillside is still on the move here towards the sea as can be seen to the right.

Another trouble spot around 356.8 km where some material has slipped down onto the tracks in recent years.

South end of Beach loop where the washout occurred in 2012, with again evidence of more problems.

There's been a lot of trouble here at Wharekakaho Stream over the last four years.


Napier Gisborne Line: Some Aerial Photos [2]

Recent photo of the Waikokopu foreshore with protection works for the railway line.

The triangle at Wairoa. The Swifts meat works siding went off the end of it and was removed some years ago.

Ravensdown Fertiliser depot at Wairoa. It's not clear if this was replenished by rail in recent years of operating the line.

Wairoa River Bridge.

Nuhaka River Bridge. The wooden piers that were susceptible to teredo attack were replaced with concrete after the bridge collapse in 2005.

Centre (1950s extension) part of the Waipaoa River bridge. Due to severe flood scouring of the original and 1950s extension parts of the bridge in the 1988 Bola floods, the bridge has only been patched up due to the high cost of repairs not being economic. Trains are limited to 30 km/h and one locomotive at a time, and must stop running whenever certain levels of river flow or wind speed are reached.

Napier Gisborne Line: Some Aerial Photos [1]

As the debate continues to rage over the future of the Gisborne line, here are some aerial photos from the best quality that Land Information NZ or National Library has to offer.

Whites Aviation shot of Waikokopu. The station was at the far end of the big curve and the port must have still been somewhat usable at the time (1951) although once the railway was completed it became nearly superfluous. Note to the right the concrete blocks needed along the foreshore to protect the railway embankment.

Whites Aviation view of Opoutama in 1951, station  platform and shelter shed. Scoble (see reference list) seems to suggest the name was also used at Kopuawhara a little further up the line. This station seems to have been mainly for passenger use without a siding but small lots of goods may have been handled on an unattended basis until the 1980s. The closing date for passengers shown as 2002 must have been for specials.

Ravensdown Gisborne depot, one of a small number of sidings still operational in the area when the line closed.

Prime sawmill, another siding but the mill was closed some years earlier. A wood processing plant was to have been established on the cleared site to the left but work was stopped around 2008.
A washout at 348.9 km which must have happened since the line closed. If the description I received is correct then this location had old railway wagons as a retaining wall under the embankment which have collapsed into the river.
A new washout developing at Wharerata Walkway Station in this 2015 photo.
The area known as Blacks Beach around the Mahia Peninsula showing the erosion that is threatening the road and will affect the railway. The area above the track at this point is where the big slip came down in 1957 that closed the line for 2 months.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Gisborne line fragile and damage prone

Well with a little help from some friends I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of Chris Woods' out of print history of the railways in Eastland, "Steaming To The Sunrise", published 20 years ago. Now this book contains a lot of detail about the history of the construction and operation of the Gisborne Line. Here is a summary of key maintenance timelines as gleaned from it along with my other sources.

  • 1938, February: Major flooding on the incomplete line washes out culverts and embankments. Eskdale bridge completely collapses. Construction camp at Kopuawhara washed away with death of 22 workers.
  • 1938, May: Repairs to previous flood damage undone by further major flooding.
  • 1955, July: 100 metres of track pushed out of alignment by major slip at Waikokopu, causing closure for 10 days.
  • 1955, end: Line diverted at Tunnel 24 due to continual movement of hillside towards sea causing tunnel lining to crack. Tunnel eventually collapsed the following year.
  • 1956, December: Major slips at both ends of Mohaka tunnel. Repeat instances in subsequent years lead to portal extensions in early 1960s.
  • 1957, August: Huge landslide at Waikokopu closes 300 metres of track. Estimated 1 million tonnes of material slid downhill after prolonged rainfall. Reconstruction work takes three months in all, with line completely closed for the first four weeks.
  • 1977, June: Major rainfall and flooding causes severe damage to 27 km of track between Paritu and Muriwai. Repairs require the shifting of some 300,000 cubic metres of soil throughout the Whareratas. The line is reopened to limited freight traffic almost two months later, but repairs to a standard suitable for passenger traffic are not completed until early 1978.
  • 1983: Storm damage closes line for two months.
  • 1988: Cyclone Bola cuts railway in 69 places with slips and washouts. Napier-Wairoa section reopens after two months of repairs. 100 metres of embankment at the south end of the Waipaoa River Bridge is washed out requiring the bridge to be extended 145 metres in total. Although the line is finally reopened after 8 months of closure the passenger services are not reinstated. Several piers under the south end of the Waipaoa bridge are badly scoured by the flooding but to save on repair costs, only the former southern abutment is underpinned with new piles. The result is a bridge with a new permanent speed restriction of 30 km/h, an axle load restriction of 14 tonnes, a weight restriction banning more than one locomotive on the bridge at a time, and regulations requiring it to be completely closed whenever the wind speed or water level exceeds certain limits.
  • 2005, May: Nuhaka Bridge collapses while under repair due to teredo infestation of wooden piles. Installation of new concrete piers allows reopening of line after some two months. 
  • 2012, May: Major weather event causes three significant washouts in the Whareratas and the embankment is undercut by ponding at Wharekakaho Stream north of Beach Loop. Kiwirail estimates repairs at a cost of around $4 million. Decides to mothball Wairoa-Gisborne section of line. Napier-Wairoa remains open but is mothballed at the end of the year due to insufficient freight traffic.
  • 2015, June: Gisborne City Vintage Railway is given operating rights over Muriwai-Gisborne section subject to completing track repairs. Replacement of sleepers and rebuilding of several small bridges is eventually completed later in the year at a cost of more than $200,000 which has to be raised from grants and other external funding sources as the railway society has no money.
  • 2016, May: Gisborne District Council estimates a cost of around $45,000 to repair potholes at a level crossing on the section of line operated by GCVR. The railway society is unable to fund the work leaving the council to pay.
  • 2016, June: Further problems at Wharekakaho Stream near Beach Loop require a long reach excavator to be brought in to unblock the culvert under the railway line.
The above are the most major of the events that have happened on the line. We know that there have been additional other times when the line has been closed for periods due to slips happening and we also know that there has been a lot of damage to the railway formation alongside the Kopuawhara Stream where a lot of weatherproofing would be essential to address this damage in years to come. In addition there is another major issue along the line at Blacks Beach near Mahia, where erosion has cut into the ground below the highway which the railway is next to. Sooner or later this will result in the railway being undercut. The state of the Waipaoa Bridge is a major issue the next time there is a really big flood in the river, and the next flood control scheme for Gisborne appears to require the bridge to be raised higher which is likely to be an unaffordable expense for Kiwirail. The hillside at Beach Loop is constantly sliding towards the sea hence the work needed at Tunnel 24.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Questions raised over Gisborne District Council's forestry management in Whareratas

It is well known that the damaged culverts on the NGL were blocked by forestry slash washed off adjoining land and that this slash is repeatedly washed into waterways during flood events in the Gisborne region.

Merv Goodley of Mahia wrote a letter to the Gisborne Herald that is reproduced on the Napier-Gisborne-Railway.co.nz website (NGR Shortline Establishment Group). Like others he has asked sharp questions about the GDC failure to properly monitor and enforce proper land management policies on the likes of Juken Nissho.

In 2014 Kiwirail stated they would take action against a landowner following a washout of track on the Napier line caused by forestry slash washed down into a culvert under the track.


Thirty years ago I moved to Mahia on the corner of Mahanga and Kaiwaitau roads opposite the Kopuawhara Bridge.
Our property is a 16 acre lifestyle block which we have endlessly worked on. We have great neighbours and love the lifestyle.
To watch our neighbours suffer from unbelieveable quantities of pine slash that again came down from Juken NZ Ltd’s Wharerata forestry, and read a comment from Sheldon Drummond that this was “an act of God”, beggars belief.
The huge clean-up bill from the 2002 “act of God” event fell mainly on Wairoa District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council ratepayers, and impacted on the wetlands for years.
The Wairoa council has cleared the Kopuawhara Bridge of slash three times at ratepayer expense.  This time it will require a claw-type digger plus trucks to cart the slash away.  Why should this be at the expense of Wairoa?
Close inspection of this occurrence revealed 95 per cent is pine slash including hundreds of logs three to five metres long, some over 10m and clearly off skid sites with clean saw cuts both ends.
The log jam is 450m in length, 30m wide and 2m deep, Juken NZ has a digger on-site to clean up alongside two other machines, no doubt funded by the regional council.
How much did the regional council spend on the 2002 clean-up?  I believe the Juken NZ contribution was one digger and a few bundles of posts, while the rest was on us ratepayers.
My neighbour is Pah Nui dairy farm, milking 1500 cows.  Regional councils impose rules on dairy farms involving ongoing monitoring and compliance.  Pah Nui spent over $1.5 million in an effluent pond and strict monitoring conditions – fair enough.
Where is the control and monitoring of forestry?
Sheldon, through this column will you tell us the Juken NZ contribution towards the removal of this slash, and the intention for the balance above the bridge waiting to come down in the next flood?
I invite you, your executives, Meng Foon, Wairoa Mayor Craig Little, chief executive Fergus Power and regional council chairman Fenton Wilson to visit the site, meet at our place and see if we can find a solution to an ongoing nightmare and ecological disaster.
My neighbours are third generation farmers.  In time they may be forced from their home for events beyond their control, but well within control of others.
We accept flooding has to be managed in this location.  However, forestry slash is something new and only started to occur since the 1990’s.
What rules are placed on Juken NZ to ensure planting and logging practices do not result in slash spewing into streams and rivers after high rainfall?   What monitoring and compliance is carried out during and after logging forestry to ensure rules are working and being complied with?
To say that slash spewing into our rivers, clogging up waterways and inundating sensitive lagoons and estuaries is “an act of God” is gibberish.

Further damage alleged to Whareratas section of Gisborne Line

An interesting letter was recently published in the Gisborne Herald by one Merv Goodley of Mahia concerning the likelihood of further damage to the rail line between Wairoa and Gisborne. . 



Here are some aerial photos showing some of the damaged areas of the line.


At upper left is the Wharekakaho Stream, a location where a blocked culvert was identified after the March 2012 weather bomb event where floodwaters had partly undercut the embankment, track however was left intact. Further south we can see evidence of significant water flows and erosion of the track sides.


This is the north end of Beach Loop and we can see a lot of erosion around the track both above and below.


This area just south of Beach Loop has been on the move for years but is looking pretty serious at this time.


Just to the north of the demolished Tunnel 24. The tunnel was removed in the mid 1950s because of a landslide in the hill it was driven through.

This photo joins the one above showing significant erosion all along this section of the line.


Undercutting of the embankment at Wharerata Walkway station.

Significant embankment erosion at 349 km. My guess is this is the location referred to where railway wagons were used to reinforce the track which have now collapsed into the river.


Hillside above the track collapsed about 5-6 years ago at this location between Tunnel 16 and Bridge 265. The line was operating at the time and the slip took about a month to clear.


Even in 2011 it was clear there was a slip developing at the north end of the Kopuawhara Viaduct. It has continued to grow since then.


Undercutting of embankment into the river just south of 347 km.


Blacks Beach, the site of the 1957 slip referred to in the letter. The road is being undercut by the sea due to erosion which also threatens the railway alongside.

The significant parts of the letter include the following quotes

I was lucky enough to go into the Kopuawhara headwaters in a four-wheel-drive vehicle from JNL’s Wharerata headquarters, and saw a lot more blowouts that have occurred since the intial damage in March 2012. At one spot, 10 or so years ago, the then rail operator packed one blowout with railway carriages to hold the line in place. Those carriages are now laying some 40 metres below the track in the river bed. I would say to fix the rail line in the Wharerata area alone, for the long term, would cost $60 million to $80m. One area would need a viaduct system to solve the unstable land, two years to complete just fixing the damage. Look at Black’s Beach slip August 12, 1957, 19 bulldozers to clear 87m track one month day and night. Any part of Black’s Beach could slip under the line into the sea as it is so unstable there. The situation is the same at Beach Loop, Paratu, Kopuawhara Valley, Waikokopu. Is it true that the Mohaka Viaduct needs over $2m spent on it for painting alone? Then there are all the other bridges and crossings etc.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Lufthansa Airbus A380 inaugurates San Francisco route


The first clip is a Mighty Planes feature on the Airbus A380 which inaugurated Lufthansa's Frankfurt-San Francisco service.


The second clip is the Lufthansa A380 landing at San Francisco that I published in a previous post about four weeks ago. The flight crew were the same as in the previous clip and with certain similar details it is possible to speculate this might have been the actual same flight but the clip itself does not confirm that in any way.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Horahora Power Station

Horahora was the first power station on the Waikato River and was built to provide power to the Waihi Gold mines. This began to operate in 1914 with a 50 kV power supply line stretching over 80 km from the plant.



The power station was submerged beneath Lake Karapiro in 1947.

Here is the general area from LINZ aerial footage.


The power station was in the area towards upper right where there is an island in the lake.


The old NZMS1 map of the area. It's possible the road used to run a bit to the west of where it is now.


Internet sourced photo showing the east abutment of the power station dam with the steps leading down to the submerged powerhouse. This photo came from the blog posting linked below.


The power station and supply line cost around 212,000 pounds at the time, which in today's money is about $32 million. As it happens the mine had already peaked by that stage so the full capacity of the station was never used by the mine. The Government took over the station in 1919 but did not actually pay for it until 1934 at the original price, which was a rather generous scheme as by 1934, the original price had appreciated to 277,000 pounds. In 1924 the station was increased in size and transmission lines were built to Auckland. The copper and other metals from the generators was salvaged from the depths of the lake in 1971.

Monday, 29 February 2016

An-12, An-124

The first clip is an An-12 which is a multi camera clip showing several different aspects of the flight at once. The An-12 dates from the 1950s being roughly equivalent to the C-130 and still flying today.



The second clip is another An-124, both clips are from Air-Clips.com




Antonov An-225

First clip was made in 2002 and covers the early years of operation as a Buran lifter, mothballing and second career as a commercial freight haulage aircraft.


Second clip is from Air-Clips.com and shows an actual flight of the An-225




Monday, 8 February 2016

Selwyn-Rakaia on the Main South Line

This post covers the Main South Line between 46 to 69 km and the stations of Selwyn, Dunsandel, Bankside Loop, Bankside and Rakaia. Some of the maps are shown at full size while others are thumbnails. You can see the thumbnailed ones at full size by clicking on them.


Commencing at the Selwyn end we have Bridge 25 at the Selwyn River. The Selwyn River has been crossed by two railway lines in New Zealand: the Main South Line and the Southbridge Branch. The Whitecliffs Branch avoided a crossing by running on the east bank of the river between Glentunnel and Whitecliffs.

Selwyn station was located near the well known level crossing of State Highway 1. "Dates and Names" (J Scoble, 1982) records that the station opened in 1867, and was closed to freight traffic in 1940 and completely in 1963. It would therefore appear to be the case that the station's last role was for passenger traffic. The above diagram is based on the 1942 Canterbury Maps aerials and therefore would show the station as a passenger only facility. There were no other buildings visible on the 1942 image but there is reasonable certainty of the siding for the goods yard that must have been on the north side of the line. Selwyn was originally known as Selwyn South; Norwood was originally known as Selwyn North. The location of a station called Selwyn Bridge is currently unknown, but may have been nearby. Scoble records that it was open for a six month period in 1867. The closing date of Selwyn Bridge coincided with the opening date of Selwyn.

Between Selwyn and Dunsandel are a number of small bridges.

Dunsandel is located at about 50 km, about 3 km south of Selwyn. Scoble says the station opened in 1873 and was closed fully in 1982. The main level crossing for the township originally was placed at Hororata-Dunsandel Road, to the east of the station, but since closure it has moved to Browns Road which passes through the former station site. The reason for this has not been researched but may have been to increase stacking distance for heavy vehicles at the crossing, taking advantage of a kink in State Highway 1 where it passed around the former railway yard. Because of this road going through the centre of the railway yard, this is the most likely reason why there are no substantial remains left at the site today.


 South (or west) end of Dunsandel.


The Tramway Road curve is a prominent feature of this map. The road was never more than a reserve so far as I know, insofar as no tramway was ever laid, but would have gone through to Southbridge. Tramway reserves are common around Canterbury, probably because it was settled around a time when railways had not yet fully taken over in the UK. Very few general freight tramways were actually constructed in the province, on the other hand bush and mineral trams existed just as they did in many other parts of the country.

Just past 53 km we have the Bankside Crossing Loop. Scoble does not record any details of this location. It is approximately 1200 metres long so can cross very large trains.




Bankside Crossing Loop is the second location to use the Bankside name but is several kilometres north of the old Bankside station, which is covered below.





Between Bankside Loop and Bankside, there has been established for about ten years the Synlait Dairy Factory. Although it must have been established near the railway line strategically, it does not use the railway at present. Because of the heavy road traffic accessing the plant, the roading and rail layout at this point have both changed. The former level crossing of Old South Road was moved to Heslerton Road and the railway line was diverted to increase the stacking distance for vehicles between the railway and the Main South Road intersection.




At about 59.5 km we have the original Bankside station. According to Scoble it opened in 1880. Passenger traffic ceased in 1966 and it was fully closed in 1970. The highway was originally diverted around the station but since closure, the highway has been straightened which puts it on the alignment of the former station access road. Like Dunsandel, this is probably the reason there are no substantial remnants obvious today.



Bankside was the site of a railway ballast pit. Just when this was in use is not clear but a reference has been found to it from the Papers Past website when a coronial inquest was held into the death of a railway workman there in 1905.


One of the more interesting features of Bankside is its role during World War II. Due to the threat of a Japanese invasion in 1942, the Government decided to increase the number of airbase facilities in New Zealand. Bankside was chosen as the location of a secret fuel dump known by the codename AR16. A large bunker was constructed to hold a fuel tank with a capacity of 750,000 gallons (about 3.4 million litres) which was served by a railway siding from Bankside station. Fuel from trains was pumped via a pipeline into the tank, and was discharged by another pipeline to a tanker loading bunker adjacent. The area was planted in pine trees for camouflage. The tank and all other equipment along with the siding were removed a few years later but the tank bunker is still intact today and is being reopened as a historical site.


The Bankside fuel depot was constructed as a reserve supply for the secret Te Pirita airfield which was built further inland near Greendale.


The airfield at Te Pirita was constructed secretly between 1942-43. There were three runways laid to service US bombers (B-17/B-24). Only a few test flights ever landed there and it reverted to farmland after the war. Until about 2008 it was still possible to determine the location of the runways quite clearly on aerial footage, however since then the land has been converted from sheepfarming to dairy production and most remaining traces are now gone.


The AR16 depot and adjacent land to the south of Bankside was pine plantation and became part of the Selwyn Plantation Board's holdings. In the early 2000s all the plantation was felled and the land converted to dairy production. This eliminated most remaining traces of the fuel depot apart from the tank bunker.


Continuing south from Bankside the railway line is crossed by Bridge 30, an overbridge of State Highway 1. This bridge appears to have been built as part of the replacement of the Rakaia River combined road-rail bridge with separate road and rail structures about 1940.

The Rakaia River railway bridge dates from around 1940 when it replaced a combined bridge. The original dated from the 1870s. It is the longest railway bridge in New Zealand at 1744 metres, with 143 spans.



Rakaia Station was to the south of the Rakaia River. Scoble writes that it opened 1873 and was closed to passengers in 1970 but does not record a date for the full closure. There was a siding loop which served several private freight depots at the south or east side of the line. There was also another siding to a premises just to the south or west of South Town Belt. I haven't drawn any proper diagrams because Canterbury Maps does not have any aerial coverage of most of Rakaia. There was formerly a road crossing the railway near Dunford Street (our family ancestors did have relatives who settled in the area so the street is probably named after them as our family's surname is very rare in New Zealand). This has been changed into a foot crossing in more recent years.

Rakaia was the junction station for the Methven Branch which closed in 1976. The kink in Thompsons Track where it formerly crossed the branch line has since been straightened.

As a family, for many years we used to travel on Thompsons Track from Rakaia to Ashburton Forks, where after crossing the North Branch Ashburton River bridge we would turn onto Ashburton Staveley Road to reach Staveley, where a group of our church families booked the Presbyterian-Methodist campsite for our New Year holiday for about ten years. During these times I remember the formation of the Methven Branch alongside the road almost as far as Lauriston, although it was probably pulled up by the time we first made the trip. Sometimes we did in fact take a different route from Christchurch through Yaldhurst, West Melton, Aylesbury, Charing Cross and Hororata, which featured three fords of the Hawkins, Waireka and Selwyn Rivers. All three of these rivers have been bridged in more recent years by the Selwyn District Council. This route was a shortcut onto State Highway 72, the inland route from Darfield to Winchester via Rakaia Gorge. It joined SH77 near Methven and SH79 at Geraldine. More recently the section of SH72 from Darfield to the Methven turnoff has been incorporated as part of SH77 going to Ashburton (whereas SH77 used to just go from Ashburton to Methven) and the part of SH72 south of Methven has been changed to a local road.

Anyway thanks to Philip Moore and his website nzrifle.com also Wings Over Cambridge and others for additional material and historical data about Te Pirita and the Bankside fuel depot.