2 weeks ago

Fitzgerald's Town

miles of tramway was

miles of tramway was £21,000 to which £4,000 was added for rolling stock, horses and other necessary equipment. It was intended to form the line along the centre of existing roads with iron rails on wooden sleepers, and constructed so as not to interfere with ordinary traffic. The Superintendent was willing to support the project 6 and in his address to the Council in October 1869 stated that the proposal deserved favourable consideration because of the volume of grain produced in the district. Although there were differences of opinion as to whether there should be a tramway or a light railway everyone agreed that some form of rail transport was needed. Rolleston apparently thought a light railway would be more efficient, whilst others, including A.C. Knight MPC, believed that cost restricted the choice to that of a tramway. Knight expressed this belief in a humorous manner at a harvest dinner when, responding to the toast to The Provincial Council, he claimed to have heard at a similar occasion that after a few glasses of wine the diners enthusiastically supported the idea of a light tramway with a narrow gauge. After a few more glasses it was proposed to have a light, narrow gauge railway and after still more wine the choice to have a full blown railway was unanimous. Sadly, though, in his opinion it could only be a tramway 7 ! The Provincial Council had already agreed that a tramway or light railway line between Rolleston and Southbridge was needed and the Superintendent was empowered to purchase the required land if the Colonial Government agreed with the proposal. The Council also accepted the requirement of central government that the gauge was to be 3 feet 6 inches rather than the 5 feet 3 inches used in Canterbury at the time. In the meantime, the volume of grain carried to Christchurch and Lyttelton was increasing. Early in 1871 special trains arrived daily in Christchurch carrying as much as 180 tons of grain, of which up to 432 tons had passed through the tunnel to Lyttelton on its way to export markets. There was increasing traffic to Rolleston at harvest time when most farmers in the area would take their produce to the railway station for carriage to Christchurch. This was convenient for the farmer, but a worry for the Springs Road Board because the main roads to the station passed through their district. The cost of maintenance was high. In 1870 the Board asked the Provincial Government for a special grant 9 of 300 pounds towards the forming and metalling of about 40 chains of Maddisons Road and the ongoing maintenance of parts of it since it was the main road to the station and was used most frequently by farmers from the Ellesmere district. The damage resulted because the weight carried by the wagons caused their narrow wheels to cut into the road 74

surface. The following year there was a similar request when the Board asked for 100 pounds to repair the road from Selwyn to the Rolleston Railway Station which was swampy and almost impossible to use. Pressure for the construction of branch lines continued. The unemployed of the Selwyn district made their point at a meeting by supporting the idea of a branch line from Selwyn Station to Leeston. At a suggested cost of 6000 pounds it would pass through the heart of the wheat growing district to become one of the most useful in Canterbury. Its construction would also provide employment for those without work 10 . Later in the year a crowded meeting at Leeston 11 discussed the matter with W. Pember Reeves, Resident Minister for the Colonial Government, with Provincial Councillors Colonel Renzie De Brett and W.E. Jollie, and the Provincial Secretary, W. Kennaway. Although there was general agreement that a railway line should be constructed, some still worried about cost and because of this it was proposed that the line end at Leeston rather than at Southbridge, a proposal quickly dropped when Reeves emphasised the need for unanimity if the General Assembly was to support the matter. The meeting also had to decide on one of two suggested lines for the railway put forward by the Provincial Surveyor. The first, Plan A, proposed a line of rail from Rolleston along Maddison’s Road, crossing Selwyn Road to follow the Tramway reserve before turning south at Weedons and Selwyn Road to eventually run parallel to the Lincoln – Leeston Road before turning towards Southbridge at Leeston, a distance of about 18½ miles. The second, Plan B, about two miles shorter, followed a line south from Rolleston along Swamp Road to the Selwyn River, where it joined the proposed line of Plan A. Plan A was considered to be the best option because the line would pass through the most productive land, but because the government thought that Plan B was preferred, they planned accordingly This was a misunderstanding and after some uncertainty the option of Plan A was adopted. 75

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