Cross Creek and the Incline.

Cross Creek, about forty miles north-east of Wellington, is on the railway line at the foot of the Rimutaka incline. The settlement consists of a railway station and enginesheds, and a number of railway employees’ cottages, with a schoolhouse and master’s residence. It is seven miles south of Featherston, where the settlers get their stores, etc.

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Cross Creek station yard, [1910s] National Library of New Zealand. Reference Number: APG-0147-1/2-G.
View of Cross Creek station yard, with the end of the Rimutaka Incline visible at the extreme right. Railway houses are seen on the left of the railway track; a locomotive, and items of rolling stock. Taken in the 1910s by A P Godber.

The place is so situated amongst the hills that in winter it gets only about an hour’s sunshine in the day. The hills around, once heavily wooded, now present a partially cleared appearance. Cross Creek runs through the settlement into Lake Wairarapa.

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Cross Creek railway yards – Photograph taken by Albert Winzenberg, Between 1897-1899. National Library of New Zealand. Reference Number: PAColl-4307-001

The Rimutaka incline, which is the steepest piece of railway line in New Zealand, extends from Cross Creek railway station to the Summit, a distance of nearly three miles. The grade is one in fifteen, and the line winds round the hills to the Summit, sometimes with rather dangerous curves, till it rises from 273 feet above sea level at Cross Creek to 1144 feet at the Summit. The railway here is constructed on what is known as the Fell system, with an additional central rail.

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A mixed train with four engines on the Incline. Te Papa collection.

When a train reaches Cross Creek from the north, the ordinary engine is detached, and a Fell engine for every eight loaded waggons and van, or every four carriages and two vans, is attached. These engines can each draw a load of sixty-five tons up the incline. An incline van with special brakes is also hitched on. The train then proceeds up the incline at the rate of five miles an hour….. The centre rail is gripped on each side by wheels revolving horizontally underneath the engine. There are two pairs of these wheels on each engine, pressing in towards each other.

Inc_engine 2

This Fell engine was built by the Avonside Engine Co. Ltd. at Bristol, England in 1875. Two horizontal wheels can be seen between the rail and the piston rods. These gripped the centre rail at a pressure of 3 tons per square inch. The Fell was, in effect, two engines in one frame and made a distinctive sound – a double chuff.

When descending, the centre rail is gripped between cast iron blocks fitted under the engine [and brake vans] so as to press towards each other. The friction is so great that, after taking a heavy train down, these blocks are so worn that they have to be replaced. A workshop with a stock of these blocks is therefore part of the plant at Cross Creek, and fitters are kept to replace the blocks as required.

The ascent is made in forty minutes with a passenger train, and the descent in twenty minutes. In two places where the train crosses deep gullies, the line is protected by high wooden fences to break the force of the gusts of wind that at one time, before this means of protection was devised, blew part of a train over the embankment. [September 1880. Three children killed, another died of injuries later].

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Windbreak fences at Siberia embankment. Photo: Burton Brothers. Te Papa collection.

The line is now, however, well secured against such possibilities. The only inconvenience suffered by passengers is the rather awkward dip of the carriages, and the delay in getting over this three miles of country. The Fell system was first tried on the Mount Cenis line in Europe, but is not used elsewhere in the world, as far as is known, except on the Rimutaka incline.

Text: Extracts from the New Zealand Cyclopedia 1897.
Note: the spelling of ‘Rimutaka’, which has no meaning in the Maori language, was officially changed last year to ‘Remutaka’, which means ‘sitting down to rest’.

The Incline route closed in 1955 after modern engineering technology drove an 8.8km tunnel through the mountains. Fell engine H199, which supported track gangs laying the line in 1878, was there again to help them rip it up 77 years later. Then it was donated to the people of Featherston where it sat in a children’s playground for the next 20 years, slowly rusting away. The other five engines were scrapped.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.

To be continued.

Old Whaling Days

Friday Flashback to 1983.

In my post about Wellington’s friendly whale (9th July), I mentioned that New Zealand’s last shore whaling station closed as recently as 1964. This is how it looked nineteen years later.

Whaling station 1 web

It sits in Fisherman’s Bay, Arapawa* Island, Marlborough Sounds, on the edge of Tory Channel. East Head and the exit to Cook Strait are in the background. If you travel from Picton to Wellington on the ferry today you’ll see what’s left of it from the port side.

The station was established in the 1920s by Joe Perano, a local fisherman who decided to go after something bigger, and the business continued with his sons in charge after Joe’s death in 1951.

Whaling station 2-2

It was a calm summer’s day when I visited but the corrugated iron cladding creaked and banged with every puff of wind that wafted in from the Strait. It has been removed in the years since then, leaving only the skeleton of the processing factory. The Department of Conservation took responsibility for the site in 2010.

Whaling station 4-2

A rusting harpoon head that should have been in a museum was just lying on the floor among the rubble. The Peranos are credited with introducing the explosive harpoon to New Zealand, followed by an electric version. I don’t know which this was – it had a hollow core – but it looked brutal.

The island has a long association with shore whaling. An easy walk back down a dusty track from here brings you to the neighbouring bay, Te Awaiti, where John Guard and Joseph (George) Toms established the first shore station in the country in 1827.

Te Awaiti 2-2

Guard moved to Port Underwood about three years later, leaving Toms – “a noted disciplinarian” – to rule over the unruly in the small settlement. He was known by several names during his life, a fact that has spawned numerous confusing and confused web pages.

Toms family grave 1-3

The fenced grave site at Te Awaiti for George Toms, son Joseph and his wife Harriet.

You can rent self-catering accommodation on the island, where the Perano family once had a farm, but be aware the only way in or out is by boat (or helicopter if your budget stretches that far) and there are no shops. Bring you own food supplies.

* Arapawa Island has been known officially by the more phonetically correct spelling of Arapaoa since 2014. Most of the web sites I’ve seen haven’t caught up with that yet.

The Clifton Bridge

Following my last post featuring the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I’ll stay in Bristol for a couple of days.

clifton-bridge

Postcard by Raphael Tuck and Son. Set number 1454.

This vintage illustration, dating from 1904, shows Brunel’s masterpiece looming over the river Avon at Hotwells with several excursion paddle steamers berthed at the landing stages. A scene buzzing with activity before the steamers retreat down river with the tide.

In complete contrast, here is a photograph of the same area as it appeared from the bridge in 2007.

hotwell-quay

The old wooden stages sit abandoned and rotting alongside Hotwell Road. If you aren’t familiar with Bristol, you may wonder how this area got it’s name. The curved building on the left, known as the Colonnade and built as a shopping arcade in 1786, holds the answer in a plaque mounted on the wall – “Out of the river mud near this spot rose the famous hot spring that brought many visitors here in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries in search of health and entertainment. Two pump rooms stood near here. The first was demolished in 1822 and its successor in 1867.” Find more detail in Mark Gee’s informative article about Hotwells’ Georgian history.

In the bottom left corner of the photograph, beside the Colonnade, you can see the concrete-reinforced facade of the Clifton Rocks Railway, opened in 1893.

Detail of the reinforced facade of Clifton Rocks Railway, Bristol, England.

A group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers has been working to retrieve the history of this unique piece of industrial heritage from rubble filled tunnels. Check their progress on their web site and maybe become a ‘friend’ of the organization. It’s been a registered charity since 2008.