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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969

By Oliver Pipe

One of my first memories of Waihi, as a boy of perhaps six years of age was that on our way home to the East End from the Convent School, we would call in at an empty shop past the Church of England where a man would spray us with some vapour. We would then go up to No.4 Shaft and have the process repeated. We had no idea what it was all about, except that it was something for nothing. Of course I later learned that it was a precaution against the "Big Flu Epidemic" that swept N.Z. and most other countries after the First World War.

Another interesting place for us to visit was the old Central Hotel on the corner of Kenny Street and Barry Road. There is a Kiddies Playground on the site now. This Hotel had been closed for years and was in the charge of a resident caretaker named Barricot. He used to hunt us away when he caught us peering through the Bar-room windows. Everything inside was heavily festooned with cobwebs. I believe this hotel was eventually moved to Rotorua.

If we came home from school via the Recreation Grounds we could walk along a nine inch water pipe carried on trestles, as far as the Junction Powerhouse. After coming from the pumphouse at Worths creek to a Dam located outside the Powerhouse at the Junction, the water was used in the Boilers to generate steam or as some cooling system connected with the power generation. It would come out of the Powerhouse quite hot, and would be cooled by passing through a series of shallow ponds before flowing back into the main Dam to be used again. Some of this pumped water was also used to wash the Clinkers and ash away from the grates or firebars under the horizontal Boilers.

The main Dam which was ten or twelve feet deep and quite large, was a favourite swimming place for East-enders winter and summer, as it was always quite warm.

The Powerhouse used slack-coal to fire its boilers. This was carted on drays from the Railway Station by Mr. Porter and his son Jock, who still lives in Waihi. There were a series of concrete bins each about 12x12x7 with a steel door but the coal was dumped in through movable planking on the top. When full the bins of coal were saturated with water, presumably to prevent combustion till the coal was barrowed to the boilers.

From our backyard in Dobson St. we could see six sets of Poppet Heads - the constructions that carried the winding gear over the shafts. Two of these were The Junction and The Extended, which was an air shaft sunk for the purpose of getting extra air into the underground workings, or for expelling foul air from the same. Some Shafts were downdraft and some up draft but how this was caused I do not know. We could also see the Poppet Heads at Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6. Other Shafts in the east end at this time were The Consolidated, The Favona and one in Roycroft St. which only seemed to wind a type of Pumice but no Quartz that I remember. The old definition of a Mine, as a hole in the ground that fools put their money into, certainly applied in our end of the town.

Also very handy to our house was The Junction Battery, which was a blaze of light at night. The Battery was built on a series of ledges on the hillside. The Quartz from the Mine was carried to the Crushers on the top level, in skips on an elevated Ropeway suspended from towers thirty or forty feet high.

The Junction was a fairly modern Battery. After the Quartz was crushed, it gravitated down the hill via the Tube Mills, Vanner Tables, Sand Tanks and finally to the Settling Tanks, before being elevated to the Cyanide Tanks for the necessary agitation and treatment before the final process of extracting the Gold and Silver.

The Vacuum Washing and Concentration Plants and Refinery were all on the bottom level along with Blacksmith, Carpentry and Engineering Shops. Then came the Powerhouse and finally alongside the Pit head was the Store where all the spare parts for Mine and Battery were kept. It was quite a large complex spread over many acres, but today it is hard to discern where all this stood, as nature has covered up most of the scars. The Junction was unique, in that its Poppet heads were built of steel, like a giant Meccano set, whereas all the Martha's shafts had wooden poppet heads over them.

The big disadvantage that the Junction Company had, was that they had no access to a Sludge channel to dispose of their tailings from the Battery. (The Martha at Waikino disposed of theirs into the Ohinemuri River). However, this problem was overcome by running the sludge tailings into a series of ponds, and when this had solidified sufficiently, it was trucked away by a small electric train and tipped down a Winz into the underground workings, from whence it was again trucked into various parts of the mine where Quartz had been extracted. An ingenious method of disposal, but fairly costly, I imagine.

The Mine Manager's house at the Junction was a very palatial place, in our young eyes, with lawns, rose and vegetable gardens and a large well kept and well fenced orchard, which we found difficult to rob, as the gardener, a man named Grant, was very keen on his job. We found that by distracting his attention in one part of the garden or orchard, some of us were able to scale the picket fence, and take some of the forbidden fruit.

There was also a large Stable and a detached Billiard Room, while in one corner of the property was a Reservoir, (probably for fire-fighting purposes,) which was stocked with trout. On looking back one cannot help thinking how graciously the Managers lived. On Union Hill there were, for officials, three or four large Company houses, which also had well kept grounds and orchards which we used to visit in our meanderings.

To be continued: [see Journal 12: East End Memories - E]