Friday, 4 April 2014

Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited

Management of the Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited , Local Consultant and Messrs J G White and Co Ltd, the contractors (back row, from left) Messrs F N Smock, A Brown, T Duncan (middle row) Messrs Dando, R A Wilber, A Hessell Witham, W St John Clark, H Rogers, Mr James (front row) Messrs J Reed, H Clifford Eddy, W S Turner, Paul M Hansen, Matthew F Carey, James Stewart, S A Mahood  ( photo 1902)

There’s something about a tram. I love the swishing noise it makes as one travels along. Going to Melbourne again got me to thinking about the things I like about Melbourne which of course includes the tram transport – one can “ ride a tram” in central city. 

In Auckland it is not as long distance as in 1902 - however the Wynyard Quarter is a start of the past NZ History of trams.

CBD Tram Melbourne Photo ASB 2014

Auckland Electric Tramways

In a Presidential Address written and read to the Auckland Institute in 1901, James Stewart C.E. was to say on electric traction and electric trams:

“In electric traction the last decade of the century has furnished probably the greatest revolution ever witnessed in the realm of applied science, although so far as Great Britain and the Continent of Europe are concerned it has only just commenced.”

He also was to refer to his “hope that before our meeting next year, on a similar occasion to the present we shall have a practical illustration of electric traction in our midst”.  ( Presidential Address in Transactions & Proceedings, Royal Society , 1901 )

This was the construction and implementation of Auckland Electric Tramways being referred to. After what could be said to be very protracted and very confusing negotiations, with the Auckland City Council for concessions to run an electric traction system, things were moving. (The endless debates over whether tramway construction should be undertaken by Private Enterprise or Municipal Authority. Then the endless debates over whether it should be private ownership, municipal ownership or a mix.)

The Electric Tramway Debate was no different to the Water Supply proposal of the 1860’s or the Railway Construction proposals of the 1870s to 1880s. It is known that Stewart with his philosophy of “the greater good for the greater benefit of many’ did support Municipal Ownership for an established system. As by way of profits, there would be money to maintain or construct other municipal works.
If one compares the original Water Supply proposal with that of an Electric Tramways System the concepts were very similar. ( Daily Southern Cross 03/04/1860, page 2 )  However the 1860’s Water Supply proposal was turned down by Provincial Council because of an aversion then to private enterprise and perceived powers of the Provincial Superintendent.

The Electric Tramways system survived the early debates. The Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited, formed in March 1899, obtained the deed (dated 28 June 1900) which delegated powers to the Company under the City of Auckland Electric Tramways Order (No 1). ( Progress, 01/02/1906,page 80 )

The other suburban authorities followed with agreement and the outcome was Auckland got an extensive Electric Tram system. Progress reported the following in 1906:
“The British Electric Traction Company, Limited, were appointed consulting engineers, and in July, 1901, contracts were placed with Messrs. J. G. White & Company, Limited, for the whole of the traction construction, overhead line, feeder system, and power station and plant. Subsequent contracts have been made with the same firms for the cars and the condensing system. The consulting engineers kept the construction and equipping of the car depots in their own hands.” ( Progress, 01/02/1906, page 80 )
The Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited was headed by General Manager Mr. Paul M Hansen; Matthew Carey was appointed Electrical Superintendent. James Stewart C.E. was involved as local consultant engineer, a position he held until final retirement in 1912 (aged 80 years old.)
Paul M Hansen In The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.

“A System that surpassed all Dreams & Schemes”

The Auckland Electric Tramway System – new transport technology for a new century. An engineering feat in itself to rip up the old horse drawn tram tracks and lay the new electrified track system – twenty nine miles of them, both formation and permanent way - ( a “Spaghetti” network system of rails and electricity) To build a Power House and Electricity Reticulation supply for the tramway – fourteen months of rapid construction from September 1901 to November 1902.
                                           The Power Station Photo in Progress O1/O2/1906, Page 80
                                                                 Papers Past, National Library NZ
There was still not the technology in 1901 as we have today in 2014. No modern computerised cranes, dump trucks and motorised track laying machines, motorised concrete trucks or Hiab trucks. Again sheer “hard labour” graft – picks, shovels, handcarts, lift and carry. There could be no “over runs” on contract time because Private Enterprise was constructing and “over runs” meant huge costs. The newspapers in December 1901 reported 250 men involved in track laying for the Auckland Electric Tramways, with further work suggested for another 150 once work was fully underway.

Opening day in November 1902, when Sir Dr. John Logan Campbell drove the first tram, drew huge crowds. It was fitting that he drove the first tram, given his long years of support and involvement for tramways and railways. Forty two years on from that very first wooden tramway built from the Drury Coalfields to Slippery Creek. One that he as Chairman and Director of the Waihoihoi Coal Company Ltd and Stewart as Contracted Engineer to design the Tramway, had been involved with. It was said the two were pretty elated about this new Electric Tramway System.

Stewart, as local consultant Engineer with the Auckland Electric Tramways Company Limited was involved with the Tram Depot at Epsom , the Ponsonby Car Depot, and workshops, along with track laying. It was said the last work was documentation for the Mt. Eden and Mt. Roskill extensions. It was said that the rapid construction progress and the success of the tram transport once up and running, surpassed even his initial dreams and visions of such a system.

                                                    Auckland Star 6 January 1902 p8 Advertisements Col 8
                                                                  Papers Past, National Library NZ

             Car Sheds at Ponsonby - Progress 01/02/1906 p81
Twenty seven years later:

A PONSONBY LANDMARK GOES.—The last wall of the old Ponsonby tram barn was demolished on Saturday. Th... 
[truncated] Auckland Star,  20 May 1929, Page 10 Papers Past, National Library NZ 
The Auckland Electric Tramways Limited who constructed and ran the Auckland Electric tramway until 1919 was a private enterprise. In July 1919 it passed to the ownership of the Auckland City Council and then in January 1929 the operations were taken over by the Auckland Transport Board.

Reference Source:
1 . The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.
2. Stewart, Graham. The end of the penny section : when trams ruled the streets of New Zealand. Rev. enl. ed.Wellington.N.Z.: Grantham House, 1993.
3. In Transactions & Proceedings NZ Institute ( Royal Society NZ ) Volume 34, 1901, Art. I.—Presidential Address. , By Jas Stewart C.E

4. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Kauri Gum - the industry and the gumdiggers from on the Coromandel Peninsula

Kauri Gum

Occasionally after a storm one is fortunate enough to find a piece of kauri gum on the beach along the eastern seaboard Coromandel coastline- not often but a treasure when found.

Kauri gum features in the stories passed down via family on the Coromandel Peninsula. Kauri Gum provided income for Maori and European alike. Families came to the gumfields of Parakiwai, Whangamata, Wharekawa and Tairua valleys to find that sought after product. They came for several weeks, sometimes from places like Katikati, or further afield, following the tracks of long before -  along what be came known as the gum diggers' trail.

An unknown correspondent writing an article to the Bay of Plenty Times in 1892 described Whangamata itself as:

“ unknown to the outer world except as a gumfield, and indeed a more dreary looking place one can scarcely fancy.” ( Bay of Plenty Times, 04/11/1892)

This gum field, thought by some to be dreary, was a popular destination for firstly Māori Gum Diggers and their families from various tribes. Later years saw gold miners and farmers turn also to gum digging in lean or slack times.
 There were no baches nor holiday homes  such as we see today - gum diggers camped out - at  times only a tent or if fortunate a hut ( often referred to as a whare ) in the bush. The whare was made from local material - flax, raupo, fern. The floors were of dirt.

                                                    An example of a bush hut
                                                       AT A BUSH CAMP IN THE WAIKATO, NORTH ISLAND
                              in N.Z. Otago Witness , Issue 2798, 30 October 1907, Page 46
                                           courtesy Papers  Past, National Library NZ

Meals on the open fire or perhaps even a camp oven. Camp   ovens were said to turn out excellent bread and scones ( according to those oral family stories passed down). A search of newspaper advertisements show camp ovens in the 1800's were a popular item listed in ships cargoes inward. Made of cast iron they had to come from Great Britain. A newspaper article from the Auckland Star in 1941 gives a  description of these camp ovens:-
                       OUTDOOR STOVES Auckland Star,  Volume LXXII, Issue 301, 20 December  1941, Page 12
                                                      courtesy Papers Past, National Library NZ
Although most of the gum diggers were men, some women and children of the Maori gum diggers went also. The camp for them would have been hard work for as well as cooking, from the stories passed down, they also helped with gum sorting.

Kauri Gum 

Kauri Gum comes from the Kauri Tree. (Agathis australis) and is really a resin.

Giant Kauri of them all - Tane Mahuta in 2014 Photo CRB
With thick bark excessively resinous, and from the smallest of wounds would flow at first a colorless “turpentine”. This resin would harden on exposure to air.

Colour varied from dull white of fresh gum found on tree branches ( sap gum ) ,to the rich brown of “fossil gum”, dug at times from depths of 6 to 7 feet below the soil surface. Sometimes this, “fossil gum”, said to have been formed from old forests destroyed by fire, was translucent or transparent. It was this, that was particularly sought after by gum diggers of the 19th Century (1800s) for it was this grade of gum that paid the best prices. It was also said that gum from the East Coast was of highest quality and paid best prices – East Coast being that of the Coromandel Peninsula.

Early shipping records from 1858 show cargoes of gum returning from Whangamata and Tairua. The cutter Ringdove which carried cargoes of mill equipment to Tairua for the first sawmill in 1865 bought cargoes of kauri gum back to Auckland.

Some of the kauri gum cargoes from Whangamata between 1860 and 1872 were:-

From Whangamata Arriving Auckland some Gum Cargos 1860 - 1872 

Gum - Tons
8 June 1865
DSC 27/06/1865 p4
Sept 1865
DSC 21/09/1865 p4
Sept 1865
DSC 25/09/1865 p4
Nov 1865
14    Whangamata &  Thames
DSC 03/11/1865 p4
Feb 1866
DSC 19/02/1866 p4
Feb 1866
DSC 19/02/1866 p4
Mar 1866
DSC 12/03/1866p4
Mar 1866
DSC 12/03/1866 p4
Apr 1866
DSC 14/04/1866 p4
May 1866
DSC 08/05/1866 p3
May 1866
DSC 12/05/1866 p4
Aug 1866
6 bags
DSC  06/08/1866p4
Aug 1866
DSC 18/08/1866 p4
Dec 1871
DSC 18/12/1871 p2
Aug 1872
DSC 07/08/1872 p2
Chart Sources: Shipping Records & Reports in Newspapers –Daily Southern Cross – compiled by Anne Stewart Ball 2010

  The Daily Southern Cross, 1865 reported the following for Port of Auckland:-

CLEARED OUTWARDS. 8 — Elfin Queen, 12 tons, Nicholas, for Whangamata, with 2 packages and 1 parcel drapery, 10 bags rice, 6 bags sugar, 4 packages groceries, 1 bundle pannikins, 6 camp ovens, 1 box soap, 2 boxes candles, 1 case sardines Passengers— 2 (Daily Southern Cross 9 August 1865, Page 4)

In the 1860's there was no wharf at Whangamata as there is today in 2014, to either unload or load cargo such as kauri gum.

Uses of Kauri Gum

Before European Settlers came to New Zealand, Māori found kauri gum to have a number of uses:-  

  • As kindlers or good fuel for fires.

  • Lit as a torch -great for attracting fish

  • The soot from burnt gum used in tattooing.

  • Sap gum used as “chewing gum”.

During the 19th Century (1800’s), kauri gum was exported to world markets where it found a ready market.

Kauri Gum was used: -
  • in manufacture of paints, lacquers and varnishes,
  • a substitute for amber in manufacture of mouth pieces for pipes and small ornaments.
  • in linoleum manufacture
  • Jewellery -where it was thought by some to be equal to amber.
 Kauri Gum brooch - Flower
Kirk wrote in 1889 that :-
" After being dug up it is carefully scraped to free it from dirt, and when sorted according to quality it is packed in cases for the English and American markets. The scrapings and dusts are usually sold for the manufacture of "fire - kindlers."
(Kirk, 1889,p 154)

Little wastage of the actual kauri gum once it reached the merchants. However Kirk was to write in his report to Government as Forest Conservator that there was much wastage of resin when felling kauri for timber.

As early as 1843  ( not long after the influx of European settlement from Great Britain ) kauri gum was being hailed as a future export resource ( Daily Southern Cross, 12/08/ 1843 ) Just over a year later in December 1844,  the firm of Brown & Campbell organised one  of the  first commercial shipment from Auckland to England  of 3 tons of kauri gum aboard the Bolina . (Daily Southern Cross, 14/12/1844)

It was in the 1840's that the early  merchants advertised in the newspapers, seeking kauri gum for purchase – J.S. Polack, D Nathan, Gilfillan, Graham, S. Brown.

During those early years of European settlement, a number of experiments went on locally, looking for other uses of kauri gum. With the advent of steam there were attempts to mix kauri gum with coal to drive the steamers.

An enterprising  Mr. Robert  Bleazard, owner of the Auckland Steam Bucket, Tub and Chair factory, devised a varnish from kauri gum to finish the buckets made. ( Daily Southern Cross,17/06/1862)  Bleazard's first factory caught fire. However in 1862 Bleazard won a prize at the Great Exhibition for the varnished buckets. So too did Coombes & Daldy for specimens of kauri gum. By August 1865 Bleazard had set up a first sawmill at Tairua with Seccombe.


Gum Digging on the Eastern Seaboard

 Kirk wrote that maximum price gained for East Coast gum in 1888 was £51 whereas for ordinary gum maximum price was £42 per ton. - the figures having been supplied to Kirk by Messrs Brown & Campbell.  (  Kirk, 1989, p. 155)
Kirk wrote further that based on 1886 figures of gum (resin) exported, each gum digger averaged 4 tons and for that would have received from £80 to £100 at least.


The Gum Digger

There was little needed to set up as a gum digger. All the equipment that was needed was a gum spear to test the ground. A spade to dig, a sack ( also known as a Pikau ) and a knife.

The sacks were stamped with the initials of the respective gum merchants. Sometimes there were complaints of these being crossed out or removed.
There were two ways of obtaining the gum : -
  • As Bennett describes in the book, Tairua - gum-bleeding of the tree itself. 
    ( Bennett, 1986 )
  •  the other more widely used method , gum digging in the swamps, ferns and manuka covered lowlands  to a depth of up to six feet to recover that fossilized resin of higher quality.

                                                             Gum Digging
                                       Untitled Auckland Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 284, 1  December 1898, Page 24
                                                            Papers Past, National Library New Zealand

 When gum digging was finished there was still the cleaning, scraping and sorting to do.

       Kauri Gum Digger - In The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, Bold Century, Auckland:The New Zealand Insurance Company Limited, 1959.

The Gum Stores

There were several stores on the Eastern Seaboard over the years from the 1860s. These stores supplied the gum diggers with tea, flour, sugar and other requisites. The store owners bought the gum which usually was on behalf of the gum merchant.
The first store in the Tairua valley was said to have been that owned by the sawmill when it opened in 1865.
The first store opened about 1872 in the Whangamata Valley was that owned by Mr. Finlay McMillan. McMillan and was followed by another owner - Jack Sainsbury in the 1880's History records the store at  Whangamata being taken over in the 1890’s by Robert Henry Watt and came to be known as Watt’s Store, over the years following.Robert Henry Watt's father had been a friend of Dr. John Logan Campbell.
As well, history records Say’s Store in Wentworth Valley  Both McMillan's and Say's Stores  also traded in supplies to gold miners, timber felling crew along with the  gum diggers.

It is said that during the 1880’s Te Kooti established a trading store at the small village of Parakiwai to provide supplies to Maori Gum Diggers in the area and to bring in an income for himself.

Down near the harbour mouth of the Wharekawa Harbour , on the flat below Maungaruawahine was a store, bakery and Post Office. ( near where the Youth Hostel is today in 2014.) This helped service the gumdiggers, the timber workers  who worked for or contracted to Leyland & O'Brien, and gold prospectors in the area.

  • Binney, Judith, Redemption Songs, Auckland University Press with Bridget Willams Books Limited, 1995 
  • Kirk, T. F.L. S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889. pp 154-156.Whangamata Writers Group. 
  • Waves - New Writing from Whangamata. Wellington: Steele Roberts Ltd, 2005. pp 107– 111 
  • Williamson, Beverley M. Whangamata - 100 Years of Change. Paeroa, New Zealand: Goldfields Print Ltd, 1988. p 17, p23. 
  • Bennett, Francis. Tairua. Morrinsville: Arrow Press Ltd, 1986.  
  •  Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand.