|Waihi Railway Station - photo courtesy Chris Ball|
CONSTRUCTION OF PAEROA – WAIHI RAILWAY, BRIDGES, TUNNEL
First researched and written 2008 by Anne Stewart Ball, this in 2023 is a reviewed and updated version also by Anne Stewart Ball. For easier reading, have divided the article into two parts to put onto part of the past NZ history blog. The reference sources online have also been checked and updated.
1. Steel Horizons to Waihi - Paeroa Waihi railway Part I Decisions for a railway
2. Steel Horizons to Waihi - Paeroa Waihi railway Part II Construction of railway
There was not the technology we have today in 2023 to construct this railway, its tunnel and bridges. Even at the beginning of the 20th Century there was still not the mechanical means that there is available – no dump trucks, modern hiab trucks, computerised cranes, mechanised plate and rail track-laying equipment. Nor were there the helicopters that are used in 2023 to bring in heavy equipment items to difficult or remote areas.
f. The Railway Construction Contractors
Messrs John Anderson & Sons Engineers, Bridge Builders, Businessmen
Mr. H Butler Contract for Station Buildings at Waikino 59 59
Engineers and Surveyors
The following are some of others that through their professional expertise were contracted or employed to work on survey and construction projects for the Mining Companies or Syndicates, Government and Councils. In some instances, they brought previous long experience and involvement in construction of railways and tramways, for the Public Works Department, Councils and Private Interests in the Auckland Province.
There is an Index Plan of Karangahake Borough Waihi attributed to Hazard & Hazard which “shows amended borough boundaries, land blocks, roads, railways, rivers, dams, reservoir sites, races, water reserves, school reserve trig station and Crown Mines.60 60
The Haszard brothers were Henry Douglas Morpeth, Norman Frederick Johnston, Moore Fenwick and Reginald. All except Reginald were surveyors. He was a Member of the Australasian Institute of Mining Engineers. The firm at Thames in 1896, known as Haszard Brothers and Johnston, Mining Engineers and Surveyors, comprised, in addition to N. F. J. Haszard, Messrs. Reginald Haszard, Mining Engineer, Moore Fenwick Haszard, Licensed Surveyor and Walter Herbert Johnston, Licensed Surveyor and Mining Engineer. They carried out surveys in the Thames and Ohinemuri districts.6161
Stewart & Hunter
The civil engineering partnership of Stewart & and Hunter was formed in 1882 just after the 1881 restructuring by the Public Works Department. 62 62 Soon after establishment saw Beere, Harding and Roche, also working for them. Beere, Hunter and Stewart had all been involved with the survey and construction of the Thames – Waikato Railway, and the other railways of the Province, Roche on the Rotorua Railway. Purchas joined Stewart in the initial surveys and preparations of the Waiorongomai Tramway constructed for the Piako County Council.
In 1897 Hunter made a “flying survey” for a proposed light steam tramway (light railway) proposed to be constructed by the New Zealand Exploration Company at no cost to the Government. A 2ft guage, railway about 20 miles route running Paeroa – Waihi branch line to Waitekauri. 6363
Ashley John Barsby Hunter Engineer, Designer, Cartoonist
Hunter born in Kent, became a Cadet in 1871 drawing plans for the Public Works Department, Wellington. Later in 1873 Hunter moved to work with the Waikato Railway, where with Stewart, were responsible for design and construction supervision of the Ngaruawahia Railway Bridge in 1877 and Hamilton Railway Bridge 1880.
In the Stewart & Hunter partnership were the water tower designs and construction for the Rotorua Railway at Matamata, Tirau, Lichfield, Ngatira and at Cambridge. Also work with the Auckland Electric Tramways – design and track laying, the Paparoa Coalfields at Greymouth and the Auckland Harbour Board.
In addition to engineering and design skills, Hunter also was a cartoonist, appearing in the Auckland Graphic newspaper, Hunter founded with three others in 1877. Later, Hunter as cartoonist for New Zealand Graphic, Ladies Journal, and Youth Companion during the 1890’s, covered many of Seddon’s reforms in the cartoons. 6767
Mr. Henry (Harry) H Adams Mine Owner, Mine Manager, supervisor, contractor
Harry Adams, born at Auckland in 1853, arrived on the Thames Goldfield in 1867 and with his miner’s right organised, began work in his first goldmine – the Dublin. Over the years Adams built up a reputation for getting a goldmine working and saw him as director in many undertakings throughout the goldfields of the Coromandel Peninsula.
It was said that Adams gained the contract for construction of the first battery for the Martha Company at Waihi, bringing in the first machinery and timber. Firth and McCosh Clark called for Adam’s to establish the mine, battery and final stages of the tramway at Waiorongomai as manager. Adams constructed 12 batteries on the Coromandel Peninsula. (Either as supervisor, contractor or owner). Amongst those on the Ohinemuri Goldfields were the batteries for the Kauri Timber Company at Owharoa, the Woodstock Company at Karangahake, the Waihi- Silverton Company at Waihi, the Golden- Belt Company and one at Komata Reefs. It was also said that there was not a goldfield on the Coromandel that Adams had not worked upon, nor one who had worked more thoroughly 6868
Messrs A & G Price Bros
It was said that the first locomotives used on the Paeroa – Waihi Railway were built by Price Bros of Thames. 6969 The early years from 1868 of engineering workshops at Onehunga saw the brothers Alfred and George and John Watson involved with the manufacture of flax-dressing machinery. There was a first contract for the New Zealand Railway Department with the upholstery and decoration of railway carriages.
From these beginnings this company moved their engineering workshops to Thames in 1870. The company grew as it became heavily involved in supplying the needs of the goldmining, sawmilling and coastal shipping industries. Amongst the batteries supplied for the goldmining companies of the Ohinemuri area was the 100stamp battery for the Waihi Gold Mining Company at Waikino, the Silverton at Waihi and the Crown and Woodstock at Karangahake. 70 70
With an ability to diversify Price Bros became involved with locomotive manufacture. Their very first small steam four – wheeled locomotive produced was for the Waiorongomai Tramway in 1885. Not used by the Piako County Council, the locomotive was advertised for tender and found its way to Smyth Bros, sawmillers working Kennedys Bay area. The first of a Railways Department contract was secured in 1903 for 10 locomotives known as WF class (£2,800 each) From this contract, the supply of steam locomotives to New Zealand Railways continued to grow, the last being just before the depression when steam was overtaken by diesel. 7171
Prices continued to diversify. Today in 2023 the company is still an integral part of Thames and industry.
There were the steamers and newly opened Thames Hamilton Railway to bring the rails to Paeroa. Ballast to lay down once track formation had been completed, was obtained from local quarry sites. 7272
Like the gold processing plants, stampers and batteries of the Ohinemuri, construction was what could be said to be “sheer labour graft.” This is evidenced in the reports on number of labourers employed upon the railway construction. The 214 (later 240) on track construction and plate- laying in 1904.7373 It was miner’s pick and shovel, lift and carry.
This railway had a tunnel, which until completed there could be no completed route from Paeroa – Waihi. The Karangahake Railway Tunnel could be said to have been one of the most difficult engineering feats in the construction of this railway. 7474 It could also be said that it was no small railway tunnel constructed in that era.
Commenced both ends in 1900, the 1,188 yard tunnel with its grade of 1 in 50, an air shaft 600 feet in from Paeroa side, saw piercing, four years later in 1904. Not only did the Tunnellers contend with “heavy ground” – hard rock – but also copious water.7575 The method used the same as in the mine shafts of the area – blasting, pick and shovel, with hand trucks to cart away the stone.
Tunnellers throughout the world talk about the lives that are lost in tunnel construction, measuring the loss of life by the mileage constructed. Unfortunately, Karangahape Railway Tunnel was not exempt. It saw the loss of lives in its construction – David Dean in April 1904. Fred Shaw and Walter Ings in November 1904 as the result of a portion of a side wall slipping 76 76
In 1901 the Government did invest in the technology of the day – an imported stone crusher – to break up the stone from the tunnel and for ballast. 7777
There were three railway bridges constructed across the Ohinemuri River, one a combined road /railway bridge, the contract secured by J & A Anderson for £8771. 78 78
The Public Works Department called for tenders for two further railway bridges over the Ohinemuri in 1903, J & A Anderson again the successful tenderers. All bridges were reported completed at the beginning of 1905. 7979
Cost of Paeroa Waihi Railway
The initial estimate, by the time the first sod of the railway was turned at Karangahake was reported as being £82000. 8080
Based on the mileage of this railway of which reference sources quote varying lengths with some quoting 12 miles and some 12½ miles, this would have been based on the estimate, equated as per mile cost:
12 miles £ 6833.0.0
12½ miles £ 6560.0.0
Costs per mile for railway construction were a critical factor in that era.
The figures in the chart below have been compiled from the Public Works Statements 1899 – 1905 8181and from newspaper reports on these.
Feb 1889 – Successful treating of Crown Mine ore with Cassel Co’s MacArthur & Forrest cyanide process 8282
July 1895 - Mr. Welstead chairman of the Waihi Grand junction Syndicate in London, and one of the London syndicate which had taken up the purchase of the Woodstock, Talisman, and Try Fluke mines, affirmed a need for a light railway, Paeroa – Waihi. 8383
Oct 1895 - Hon, R J. Seddon, Minister for Public Works, in the Public Works Statement reported:
· Success of the Construction of pubic works under the co-operatlve system.
· Desirability to complete the Paeroa Thames section of the Thames Waikato Railway.
· Government had been approached in relation to the construction by a syndicate, of a light railway between Paeroa and Waihi.8484
Nov 1895 - The Te Aroha-Paeroa railway — approaches completion. Reported that when the Premier comes to open the section there is little doubt that he will then have a word to say on future railway extensions. A syndicate is ready oven now to undertake the construction of a light line, upon terms, feeling perfectly satisfied that the venture will be remunerative. 8585
April 1896 – Mr. R.R. Hunt taken up position of General Manager, New Zealand Exploration Company Auckland Goldfields. 8686
May 1896 - Before the Chief Justice, an application was made for leave to apply to the Patent Officer to amend the patent in connection with the cyanide process as in , England. 8787
June 1896- The Northern Railway League & Auckland Chamber of Commerce pass resolutions strongly urging upon the Government the necessity for a railway from Paeroa – Waihi. 8888
March 1897 – The New Zealand Exploration Company prepared to construct a steam tramway from Paeroa to Waihi, with a branch line to Waitekauri, without aid from the Government. Mr. Ashley Hunter C.E. (formerly of Stewart and Hunter, civil Engineers) made “flying survey” for the company of the proposed route – a distance of 20 miles. 8989
May 1897 - Hunt and Captain Norris attended Ohinemuri County Council meeting in connection with an application made by the New Zealand Exploration Company for permission to construct a light railway to Waihi from Paeroa. 9090
June 1897- Government issued instructions for survey of a light railway between Paeroa and Waihi Goldfield - a distance of 12 miles. 9191
July 1897 – Mr. J.J. Hay instructed by Public Works Department to make survey of proposed Auckland Goldfields railway Paeroa – Waihi. 9292
Sep 1897 – Survey of proposed Government railway Paeroa – Waihi has commenced. 9393
Dec 1897 - Public Works Statement - Hon. Hall Jones reported on Light railways in particularly Tasmania. Several applications for construction of light railways have already been made to Government: - Paeroa to Waihi. 9494
June 1898 – Reported Mr. J.J. Hay completing railway survey for Government railway between Paeroa and the Waihi Goldfields, a distance of about 14 miles. 9595
Dec 1898- Deputation meets with Prime Minister at Karangahake urging construction of Paeroa – Waihi Railway. 9696
Sep 1899- Public Works Statement- Hon. Hall Jones reported:
· A detailed survey had been made for a branch railway between Paeroa and Waihi.
A reconnaissance survey was completed for Government by Mr. Jas Stewart, M.I. C.E. for lines of railway between Gisborne and Rotorua and Gisborne and Opotiki. 9797
Feb 1900- Preliminary arrangements made for commencement of Paeroa- Waihi Railway.9898
Mar 1900 - Turning of first sod of Paeroa Waihi Railway at Karangahake 2 March 1900. 99 99
Mar 1900 – Start made on tunnel at Karangahake. 100100
Apr 1900 – Reported work of constructing Paeroa-Waihi Railway being carried out on co-operative system. 101101
|The railway and traffic bridge over the Ohinemuri river at Karangahake showing the Crown battery The New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal 22 March 1902, p553 Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19020322-0553-01|
Aug 1900 - Tauranga people to urge Government the construction of a railway from Gisborne through Opotiki, coast settlements, and Tauranga, to Waihi, to junction with Paeroa- Waihi Railway 102102
Sep 1900 - Public Works Statement – Hon W Jones reported
- work proceeded as far as the Karangahake Tunnel
- urgent need to open up areas of colony with light railway 2ft guage 103103
Mar 1901 - Work stopped on the Karangahake Railway tunnel – wages said to be 4s 5d & 5s 8d daily. 104104
May 1901 – Tenders called for contract - Erection of a Combined Road and Railway Bridge over Ohinemuri River, on the Paeroa-Waihi Railway. 106106
Jul 1901 – The Public Works Department accepted tender of Messrs. J. and A. Anderson of Christchurch -Ohinemuri River road / railway bridge contract.107107
Oct 1901 - The Public Works Department has imported a stone crusher for the Waihi – Paeroa Railway. 108108
Oct 1901 - Public Works Statement – Hon W Hall Jones reported
· Progress made with Paeroa – Waihi line - work now extends 6m 15ch
· The tunnel well in hand. 109109
Oct 1901 - Reported line now extends 6m 15ch. 110110
Feb 1902 - The Minister for Mines told a deputation at Thames early January that vote for the Paeroa- Waihi Railway construction works already been expended. 111111
Mar 1902 – Premier indicated over expenditure of £3000 on Waihi - Paeroa line.112112
Sep 1902 – Public Works Statement – Hon W Hall Jones reported - Expenditure on Paeroa – Waihi Railway.113113
Jan 1903 - Reported
· The line from Paeroa to Karangahake, principal township en route, will be opened for traffic as soon as station yards and buildings at Karangahake are completed.
· Ballasting of this portion of line just about completed,
· Suspension bridge over Ohinemuri River well in hand.
Sep 1903 – Tenders called for the Manufacture and Erection of the Superstructure of two more Bridges over the Ohinemuri River, Paeroa- Waihi Railway 115115
Nov 1903 – Paeroa Waihi Railway Bill
· Nov 3 First reading in Parliament of a bill to facilitate the construction of the Waihi railway. (Explanation - Waihi Gold Mining Company will purchase from Colonial Treasurer debentures to the value of £75,000.
· Nov 16 Second reading of Bill
Nov 17 Bill passed final stage. 116116
Nov 1903 Public Works Statement – Hon W Hall Jones reported
· Combined railway and road bridge over the Ohinemuri River at Karangahake completed.
· Section of the railway to-Karangahake just on the point of completion, and opened for goods traffic shortly.
· Beyond Karangahake work has almost been confined to the tunnel, which is now fully half done.
· Proposals with view towards completion of railway made by Waihi Gold Mining Company, under consideration by Parliament. 117117
NEW ZEALAND GRAPHIC, 7 SEPTEMBER 1901, PAGE 451 courtesy Auckland Libraries accessed 31/01/2023.
Sep 1904 - Reported 240 men employed at the present time on Paeroa – Waihi Railway 118118
April 1904 and Oct 1904 Fatal accident occurred in the Karangahake tunnel of the Waihi-Paeroa railway.119 119
Nov 1904 – Public Works Statement - Mr. Hall Jones reported
· Before the next Public Works Statement is delivered, probably the section Karangahake- Waikino, 3 miles 40 chains. 120120
By end 1904 Karangahake Railway Tunnel pieced through 121121
|Railway Tunnel at Karangahake Paeroa - Waihi railway Photo Chris Ball|
1904 Excavation and lining of tunnel completed 122122
Oct 1905 – Reported the new departure made a few years ago under which a company found the money and the Government undertook to build a railway between Paeroa and Waihi is being followed in the case of a railway between Waikaka and Gore. 124124
Sept 1905 – Public Works Statement – Minister Public Works reported
· Satisfactory progress
· Additional vote needed for completion of line 125125
Events on the railway after opening
The following are but some of the events which occurred in the first few years after the opening of the Paeroa Waihi Railway. Events which are now part of what could be said to be a “colourful “history of this railway.
Nov 1906 - Tunnel incident. Almost a runaway locomotive. 127127
Jan 1907 – Floods - owing to a slip on the Waihi Railway- people had to be rescued in carts from their houses. 128128
July 1909 - Three seizures of liquor made at railways stations in Ohinemuri district — two at Waihi and one at Paeroa 129 129 (The area voted “dry” in 1908)
1912 - The station, the Paeroa- Waihi Railway and Thames- Waikato the scenes of activity around the Strike at the Waihi Gold Mine. 130130
There are many other incidents also - some written which appear in the Ohinemuri & Districts Historical Journals and stories which are yet to be written. The farewells and welcome home during the World War 1 Years. Living in Waihi and travelling by train to Waikino each day for work in the Victoria Battery. The noise that must have been in this valley, with dozens of stampers going thump, thump - crushing up the quartz for that “colour of gold.” The dust that must have hung in the air.
The steam trains moving in a constant flow along the Paeroa Waihi route carrying quartz, coal, machinery and people. These early years were the era of steam. The scene of what was one of New Zealand’s largest industrial sites of its time. The place that saw many new technological developments implemented – electricity, cyanide processing, the water races and dams, the pumping machinery. The era that was tramways railways and steam locomotives.
Heritage Legacy of Paeroa Waihi Railway
In 1979 the end of an era of a working railway through the Ohinemuri Goldfields came to a close. For a number of years the route lay idle, just as did the Victoria Batteries at Waikino which closed in 1952. The sounds became different – no longer could be heard the industrial sounds of a gold mining battery or the "clacketty clack" upon the railway.
This writer’s own memories are of the stories told of those early goldmining and railway years passed down by those who had experienced the era then. The excitement seeing the “train” moving along, winding its way through the Karangahake Gorge. Watching with great interest what was once large buildings and structures slowly vanish leaving traces of remains to remind us of what once was an industrial gold mining area.
The memories , seen first hand in 1981 ,of yet another Ohinemuri Flood. A great rush of water moving down the Ohinemuri River, taking with it the shops at Waikino and the timber bridge.
Then another change was seen. Goldmining had returned to the area again with new technological methods of extraction and large dump trucks. For a short while mining at Golden Cross, up the Waitekauri Valley and still today in 2008 mining at Waihi. Confirming the stories passed down by those who knew that goldmining would return.
The "clacketty clack" sound returned. With the Goldfields Steam Train Society (now called Goldfields Railway Inc,) formed in 1980 restoring the railway Waihi – Waikino section. The former Paeroa Railway station being moved to Waikino and a railway was up and running again – this time as a heritage recreation activity.
A walking track was established on the Waikino – Karangahake section of the railway, including through the tunnel. An area where one can enjoy not only the natural scenery and views, but also some of the Industrial Heritage remains on the way and be fascinated by the workmanship of those early craftsmen who made those structures for gold extraction in those early days.
The heritage legacy there today in 2008 and 2023 is the railway route taking us through some of the remains of mining structures and buildings, water races, dams, and electricity lines from the former Hora Hora Power Station.
Lastly there is a reminder of those early times of some of the people involved with the decisions for this railway in the place names of the streets and roads of Waihi and Waikino – Seddon, Adams, Gilmour, Russell, Barry and Cadman. In the railway route a reminder of those early surveyors, engineers and labourers who worked with the resources they had then to leave what we have today.
“Those builders and dreamers of destiny Steel Horizons across the Land. “ASB
National Library of New Zealand Alexander Turnbull Library Archives NZ
Auckland War Memorial Museum & Auckland Institute (the library)
MOTAT (Museum of Transport & Technology – Walsh Memorial Library )
NZ Institute Surveyors
Paeroa & Districts Museum
Waihi Public Library
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113 Public Works Statement 190
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116 Paeroa- Waihi Railway Act ( 3 readings of Bill, then passed)
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119 In Alexander Turnbull Library, MS-Papers-5125 Shaw, Frederick Thomas 1871-1904 Papers
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122 In The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 5 (September 1, 1932) W. R. Davidson Minst C.E. Auckland District Railways: West of The Main Trunk—Fifty Years of Progress , Railways Department New Zealand Government Railways Department Part of: The Railways Magazine accessed 30/01/2023.
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128 FLOODS IN THE NORTH, Otago Witness, 23 January 1907, Pg 37 Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand, accessed 30/01/2023.
129 SEIZURES OF LIQUOR IN THE OHINEMURI DISTRICT. Evening Post, 8 July 1909, Pg 8 Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand, accessed 30/01/2023.
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131 FLOODS AT PAEROA. Grey River Argus, 13 June 1917, Pg 3 Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand, accessed 30/01/2023.
Information for this article has also been drawn from writer’s own Primary Source family stories, papers and photographs.About the Writer of this Article
Anne Stewart Ball is retired with a partner and in 2023 one ginger cat on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. Is currently writing a biography on her great grandfather – the James ( also known as Jas ) Stewart – civil engineer mentioned in this article. With a background in Research firstly at Ruakura Agricultural Research Station, followed by an addition of Adult Education in the Forest and Scrap Metal Industries, there is now time to pursue history research. Along the way is the opportunity to discover our wonderful NZ Heritage,on the Coromandel and follow the railway trails surveyed by those early Engineers & Surveyors. Most of all to meet some awesome people on that journey, for whom there is grateful thanks for a shared interest in Heritage.