So I have Part 1 of a series of articles appearing in the NZ Railway Observer No.346 this month. It covers the line from Cromwell to Alexandra and the reason I decided to go in this order is the likely keen level of interest in the Cromwell Gorge in particular. The article will probably be reproduced on the web site directly in due course, but not on this blog.
Part 2 for Alexandra to Ranfurly is going to have a bit more about Alexandra that was uncovered in the course of the still-ongoing research into Alexandra’s numerous industrial sidings. It is being written for NZRO 347 which is due to come out in two more months. As part of the research I started to draw yard layouts for all the yards for this section, and got as far as Omakau before deciding I was going to run out of time. However the work needed to get the maps done for Part 1 has been completed and I have another three weeks to finish Part 2 so I have decided to carry on drawing the yard maps for Part 2 as there should be enough time. The remaining yards to complete are Lauder, Auripo, Ida Valley, Oturehua, Wedderburn and Ranfurly. Most of these have already been laid out from the chainage charts and just need checking to see if any new information has come in from aerial photos. In several cases the aerial photography available is either too fuzzy, too young or not yet available to improve on the chainage chart based guesswork (sometimes quite accurate, sometimes not) so those maps which can’t be improved will just have a little notice on a corner of them saying they may not be accurate.
There are quite a few ballast sidings in this section, but not enough information in the majority of cases to see where the sidings exactly went into the pit. So in all these cases, the actual siding track will be replaced by a station which states the point on the main line where the siding came off. But every endeavour will be made to accurately draw the boundaries of the ballast pit. A lot of these pits were only used during construction. It was only the Doigs, Chatto Creek, Tisdalls, and Hyde pits that stayed open for any length of time (the last two were mutually exclusive), and they were all gone by 1964. The purported realignment at Auripo is something I keep eyeballing, but aerial photography old enough to confirm the suggested 1950s date simply doesn’t exist, so the file in Archives New Zealand that probably addresses the area would have to be consulted; however, it is in Wellington rather than Dunedin. So like other details that are hard to nail down, that one will be addressed as best as it can be. After all I am telling the history of a line in only 10,000 words, which is not enough to make a book; if it was a book I would do a lot more research, but I can’t and won’t do that.