Midland Line [2E]: Rolleston-Arthurs Pass 5: Springfield 2: Springfield Deviation 1 / Springfield Colliery 1

Today’s focus is the Springfield Deviation and Springfield Colliery. Both were referred to in my first article about Springfield. Here is the map again from that article:

Since my visit to Archives New Zealand this week I have been taking a look at both of these matters and have enough information to furnish this post although the full detail for both is not yet known and may be cleared up further on my next research visit.
The Springfield Colliery appears to have been established about 1876 and is presumed to be located at the top centre of this map where there is a railway siding running from the former Springfield yard. This period preceded the construction of the railway to Springfield which made it difficult for the coal mining company to get their coal to markets. The Midland Line or Malvern Branch as it may have been known at that time was opened to Sheffield (or Malvern) in 1874 and the more immediate construction priority at that time was the linking of this branch to the Oxford Branch via the Waimakariri Gorge. However, the extension of the railway to Springfield was pushed forward in the latter part of the 1870s and was officially opened in January 1880. The line to the Springfield Colliery was referred to as a “branch railway”. The line would have joined to the original route of the Midland Line as shown in the above.

The colliery branched out into brick and pipe making soon after the mine opened, this being established in 1879 by which time the railway extension from Sheffield was well in hand. The township of Springfield was at this time known as Kowai Pass. The extension of the railway did not bring complete happiness to the mining operation, which by 1884 was complaining that the rates of railage were excessive. Similar concerns were being expressed by owners of mines in the South Malvern area where more coal mining had been commenced, a meeting of the Industrial Association having been convened in Christchurch at this time. It would appear the Colliery railed its coal to Christchurch for general sale at its premises there close to the South Town Belt of that time. By 1894 and certainly earlier there were suggestions that the company’s financial viability was questionable. However little more is known about the facts of the operation except that the colliery appears to have closed down in 1916 and the siding line was removed except for the first curve that was left in place as a siding in the railway yard. The length was slightly less than a mile which corresponds to the approximate length of the siding as shown on these maps. This in turn is based on a land corridor marked in property maps. Track layout at the terminus had a loop and backshunt. In addition to the coal mine it appears an adjacent clay pit was served and clay was also railed out. After the rails were lifted the formation was converted to a road.

There is hopefully more to come from additional research as there is little information so far to confirm the exact locations shown and it is generally difficult to confirm the details which are now over 100 years old. 
We now turn our attention to the main line deviation at Springfield. The deviation of the Midland Line at Springfield commenced in 1921. The authorisation for it was obtained by a Parliamentary Bill, the Railway Authorisation Act introduced on 23 October 1919 and the details published in the “Press” newspaper the following day read thus:
“The Railways Authorisation Bill….gives authority for contracts for the construction of certain lines….these are: (Abridged)
  1. North Auckland Main Trunk Line – An extension of the authorised line from the left bank of the Wairoa river to a connection with the existing line near Ngapuhi; length about 39 miles.
  2. NIMT – branch line from Otorohanga along the right bank of the Waipa river to the south boundary of Block 7, Mangaorenga survey district; length about seven and a half miles
  3. NIMT – a deviation between Plimmerton and Paekakariki; length about 22 miles
  4.  East Coast Main Trunk – A branch line from Wairoa to Waikokopu; length about 22 miles
  5. Teroti-Opunake – An extension of the authorised line from Opunake to a connexion with the existing line at Moturoa; length about 35 miles.
  6. Midland – a deviation at Springfield along the north-eastern side of the existing line between the 29 mile 19 chain post and the 31 mile three chain post; length about one mile seventy-four chains.
  7. Greymouth-Point Elizabeth – An extension of the existing line from a point about three miles forty-five chains from Greymouth for about two miles fifty chains in a northerly direction.
  8. NIMT – a branch line to connect with the Kaihu Valley railway commencing in Block 7, Maungaru survey district and terminating in the town of Dargaville; length about 14 miles.
  9. North Auckland Main Trunk – A deviation of the authorised line westward from the 117 miles 14 chain post to the 121 miles 15 chain post.
  10. Waikokowai Branch – A branch from the Huntley-Awaroa railway to the Rangiriri survey district; length about seven miles.
We can see the Springfield deviation listed as Item 6 in the above. Item 2 referred to some sort of ballast siding or tramway. Item 3 is an odd description but it does seem to be an early reference to the Tawa Flat deviation. Items 7 and 10 were connected with coal mining. Out of the above only item 9 stands out particularly because I will need to research further to try to confirm the exact location involved, a quick look at the Quail Atlas not confirming anything in particular.
Again so far we have little information about it, in particular the reason for it is not known but a likely situation is that there was limited room for the railway yard then required at Springfield to allow for a probable expansion in the traffic with the imminent opening of the Midland Line through the Otira Tunnel. When Springfield was first opened in 1880 the prospects for the Midland Line were decades away (in fact more than four) from completion. The railhead eventually reached Arthurs Pass in 1914 being further delayed by the Otira Tunnel works and the line was eventually opened in 1923. It is likely the deviation was considered and planned for many years prior to construction but so far the only information relates to the actual construction timeframe. We do have confirmation to date of the original route at least partly following the suggested line above and also drawings of the original station layout but not enough information so far to confirm the exact position so as to be able to map it, and we hope that further research at Archives will be able to confirm some of these details. 
The land required was taken by proclamation in mid-1921 and construction works commenced in June that year. The work was pushed ahead fairly rapidly and within 12 months the track was laid in the new Springfield yard. Compensation claims over the land taken for the new route went to court and were finally settled in 1923.