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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986

By G C Staples

In the early days, water transport was used wherever possible. In 1888 a direct passenger and cargo service was commenced between Paeroa and Auckland. The "SS RUBY" owned by the Hauraki Steamship Co was the first vessel to commence this service and although her draught was six feet, she traded regularly to the centre of Paeroa, landing her freights and passengers in Wharf Street.

The paddle steamer, "PATIKI", was, from 1890 to 1900, frequently chartered to run both daylight and moonlight excursions on the Ohinemuri and Waihou Rivers. Her accommodation for excursionists was 400 with room for dancing. In 1892 the Northern Steamship Co built a vessel to run in opposition. During this period fares became very cheap, eg 2/6 return Paeroa to Auckland. Finally the Northern Steamship Co bought out its opponent.

In 1895 the "SS WAIMARIE" joined the service, and the "SS TANIWHA" in 1898. The full story of river transport can be read in Cliff Furniss' book, "Servants of the North".

On account of mining operations in the upper reaches of the Ohinemuri River, the river silted up in the lower reaches, preventing shipping reaching Paeroa. In 1901 the wharf was moved to Puke. Passenger services ceased in 1937.

Freight en route to the mining towns of Karangahake, Waikino and Waihi was transported by water to the Paeroa or Puke wharfs but then had to be transported by "road", there being no railway connection until after 1905. "Convoys" of wagons travelled over the rough roads. Turners Hill was negotiated with difficulty with up to 40 horses being used to get the heavy wagons up the grade. Even the heaviest and bulkiest machinery was conveyed by this means - huge boilers, engines, pumps, etc., for the mines.

In Paeroa the road from Junction Wharf to the Karangahake end of town became such a quagmire that rails were laid through the town. Goods were transported from the wharf on the tramway and than transferred to horsedrawn wagons. Clarkins well known wagons were operating from 1889, Brenans were blacksmiths and coach builders in the early days and later continued to operate a fleet of lorries. Beyond Karangahake lay the Gorge Road and there were often incidents along the narrow road. Even after the railway was completed the large items had to go by road because the rail tunnel was inadequate to accommodate them. The Waihi Goldmining Co's large tubular metal tanks had to be transported by Clarkin's wagons. At the Karangahake Bridge the load could not at first pass under the railway upper deck so the road was dug out and lowered two or three feet. Notwithstanding this, the goods were delivered on time.

At one time Mr Jack Clarkin was driving a seven horse team through the gorge. Just beyond the Woodstock dam, two logs came crashing down the hill side and frightened the horses. They swerved and went over the bank, with Mr Clarkin being pinned among the horses, one of which was badly hurt.

Luckily another wagon was handy and the driver was able to render assistance quickly. Both the horse and Mr Clarkin recovered and were back at work six weeks later. There were few places to pass in the gorge and heavier traffic was timed to pass through in a convoy. Traction engines were also used to haul heavy wagons from Paeroa to Waihi in the pre-railway days of the 1900's. The Gorge road at Karangahake was put through by the Ohinemuri County in the 1890's with a minimum of mechanical aids - workmen were sometimes suspended in cages over the steep cliff faces and blasting rock in such circumstances must have been very difficult. There is the story of a workman at another spot, holding up traffic when such work was in progress. The armed gold escort from Waihi happened to come along and upon hearing the command, "Stop. I'm shooting", they raised their arms pleading, "Don't shoot man!" During the 1930's the Main Highway's Board which had operated since 1924 widened the Gorge Road. During this period of widening work, traffic was diverted over the Rahu Saddle.

The story of Paeroa as a transport centre is recorded in the book "From Gold to Green", by M J Cotter.

Stories dealing with transport and roads which have appeared in the Journal are summarised as follows:

Clarkins Teams (1894 -1909)

No. 10

Page 21

Ohinemuri Railway

10

25

Horse Days

10

28

Coaching Stables of Deverell &Crimmins

11

30

Brenan. & Co

11

39

Motor Age Begins in Paeroa

12

35

Service Cars in the 1920’s

15

10

Water Transport

3

18

Horse and Buggy Days

6

49

Era of the Horse

5

19

Roading in Ohinemuri

8

19

Paeroa to Waihi 1894

8

21

Hazards of Early Motoring

21

28

Fords, Ferrys and Bridges

23

28

Where Have All the Ships Gone?

26

11

Travelling Around Waihi 1900’s

24

24

Turua to Auckland - Late 1920’s

28

14

Thames - Paeroa Railway

28

22

Memorable Rail Journey

29

7