Topic: Train journey from Darfield

Topic type:

From Darfield to Cass and the Whitecliffs line

Papers Past > Taranaki Herald > 23 May 1907 > Page 3 > OLLA PODRIDA. OLLA PODRIDA.

When the train leaves the Darfield junction, on the road to the West Coast, it skirts the Racecourse Hill, a low offshoot from the Malvern Hills, which gives the name to a run held in ancient times by the Matthaias family, and now farmed, or rather that part which was bought and, converted into freehold, is farmed by the son of another old settler, Mr Knight. But the glories of the runholder on the plains have departed and the holding of thousands of acres becomes the farm of hundreds.

The land about increases in fertility and the stones gradually disappear till about Waddiftgton the land is as good as need be. Passing Sheffield, we arrive at Annat. Here in the old provincial days was placed a reserve of 600 acres to be used as a recuperative farm for the horses used by the gold escort, which was to fetch the gold from the West Coast to the East, But the appearance of bushrangers made the banks shy of the road, and after a few trips the whole scheme was abandoned, the buildings disused, and the reserve was cut into small holdings and sold.

Further on is the town of Springfield. From here for many years have started the coaches to the West. Here was also the seat of a coal mine which was expected to be a permanent source of wealth to the district, but the seams were patchy, and although from time to time great spurts took place and much money was spent in development, amounting on one occasion to £30,000, the seams would always break and the money was wasted.

Now the mine is worked by one man and his son, who put out enough for the consumption of the immediate neighbourhood, but no export is attempted.

Further on, on the Coast Road, is seen the head waters of the first parent of all the water races which now thread the plains in all directions. The Kowai river, is dammed with a very substantial concrete dam, which is taken right across the river and is sunk many feet below the river bed in the shingle. The water is run through a concrete room, having openings on three sides, one the inlet, one for waste, the other leading into the race. All these openings are fitted with heavy regulating doors. The water runs at first through a tunnel about 4ft. 6in. by 2ft. 6in., egg-shaped, then opens on to a series of falls with concrete floors and side guides placed every few yards. When seen from the bottom, near Springfield, the water presents a beautiful sight as it runs over this immense waterfall, which extends two or three miles in a straight line.

Leaving Springfield, which for many years acted as the terminus of the line, the train enters on the newly opened portion towards the coast. After traversing some good land around the Kowai Bush, which, like all Canterbury bush, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, Otarama is reached. This place, being near the bush with some splendid scenery of the Waimakariri close at hand, is a favourite spot for picnicers from Christchurch.

Now are reached the cuttings and tunnels and viaducts which make this portion of the line so wonderful an enterprise for so small a country. Nowhere else south of the line would such a work have been undertaken, while the question as to whether, after all the expenditure, the line can possibly pay is even now not determined.

The manufacture of the Manawatu gorge line was child's play to this. Although the appearance is very similar, for beauty of scenery the Northern work is far in advance of the Southern. Here all the tunnels are lined with concrete blocks, the viaducts are over immense depths, the hills are precipitous, bare and stony, and where flat land is required it has to be picked out from the hillsides.

From Otarama to Broken River the whole work is one of difficulty, overcome at a vast expenditure, and will live long as a sight for tourists if it does not afford a source of income to the Government. Before the Exhibition was opened, the late Premier promised that the extension to Broken River should be opened in time for that event. As time went on and the day approached, ordinary work would not be sufficient, so two, and eventually three, shifts were run. After working night and day the work was completed and Mr Seddon's promise vindicated, at whose cost the public will one day find out.

here is at Broken River stabling for forty horses, the material for which had to be crossed at Staircase Gully over a Governmental wire rope. This work took seven months to complete and cost the owner over £100. This same rope and appliances were used in the Exhibition to work the airship. Broken River has a number of substantial four and five-roomed cottages, besides a township by. the river of shanties occupied by the people who attend the coaches and horses.

On arrival of the train which leaves Christchurch every other day, the number of passengers going forward is ascertained while the train is running and the requisite number of vehicles, each with five string horses, a start is made on the forty-mile journey to Otira, where the line from the coast is reached.

From the station at Broken River the road runs over a steep hill and winds down to the Cass, where it joins the old Coast Road, leaving that portion between Springfield and the Cass, which cost the Provincial Government thousands of pounds, to fall into, disrepair and ruin. From Broken River the line will pass through two or three small tunnels, then there is about sixteen miles of good easy con struction till tne foot of Arthur's Pass is reached, where the five-and-a-half mile tunnel has yet to be commenced. At present there are one hundred men working on this line, but it is said over forty will be discharged at the end of this month.

The owner of this coach service is Mr Cassidy, a regular old identity and a great friend of the late Premier. But while it is impossible to induce him to criticise adversely any of the Acts and ideas of the late Government, he considers the Land Bill most objectionable and he is a strong advocate of the freehold as a means of affording thrifty men a possibility of investing their savings in buying their own property.

Returning to Darfield the other branch leads to White Cliffs, though these are not comparable to those seen from New Plymouth. This line, having been originally laid with light metals, is only available for a light engine, and being constantly on an upward grade, causes much work in traction, the train from the engine to the guard's van shaking and wobbling worse than a city omnibus. This branch skirts the eastern slopes of the Malvern Hills and traverses what is left of the Bangor estate, which was cut up into small farms admirably, being well roaded and divided into paddocks of from 100 to 300 acres, with very fair land.

Then the Deans' homestead and Homebusb paddocks are passed. These holders, taking time by the forelock, have disposed of much of their estate, and now work themselves only about 3000 acres. At Glentunnel are situated a pottery works, brickfields and a coal mine, all worked by Deans Brothers, and probably cause them less anxiety than our altering land laws. Further on is Hororata, the seat of Sir John Hall and the locality of the work of the Gridiron. This estate has also been much reduced by sales and leases and will not afford much work if the Land Bill passes. The road runs on to the Upper Rakaia Bridge and thence to Mount Somers, and eventually to Geraldine.


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