Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993


[see also in this Journal: Paeroa's Tramways and Tram-car - E]

By J A T Terry

The queries of Mr Malcolm on the Paeroa tram in issue number 36 [see Journal 36: Paeroa's Tram Car - E] prompted me to complete an article I had in preparation for I too require answers.

With copies of the Ohinemuri Gazette not available before 1896 the first reference I could find to a tramway in Paeroa was in the issue of 4 April 1896 which covered a report of the Ohinemuri County Council meeting of 2 April. At that meeting a letter was read from Messrs Miller and Porritt on behalf of clients seeking permission to lay a tramway from the Puke Landing to Puke Road.

The County Engineer reported on the proposal at the meeting on 7 May (Gazette 9 May) when he said he could see no objection and pointed out it would doubtless be of good service and would reduce the cost of maintaining the Junction Road. Earlier the Gazette (7 March) had reported on a public meeting at Paeroa to discuss the state of the Junction Road which it was considered, unless urgently metalled, would by winter be impassable for drays or coaches and next to impassable for pedestrians. There was no mention of a tramway or of any proposal for such.

On 1 June 1896 in a letter to the contractor for the line, Mr P Lanigan, the County Engineer (Gazette 5 December) laid down conditions for its construction. There was also another party interested in constructing a tramway. At the Council meeting of 2 July (Gazette 4 July) a Councillor suggested that if Mr Lanigan did not proceed with his tramway within 14 days, whether the Waihi Gold Mining Coy. as a temporary measure, would be allowed to put down a tram line from the Junction Wharf to the railway station on the pathway of the Junction Road. While the Council agreed, nothing further was mentioned of the proposal. This was no doubt because Mr Lanigan had commenced work. (Gazette 4 July.)

It is thus evident that the Council had given approval for the tramway to proceed. By 22 July the Gazette reported that the formation from the Junction Wharf up to the railway line was finished and the laying of the rails was rapidly being pushed on.

The next report in the Gazette was on 29 July and here the name of the Ohinemuri Tramway Company first appeared when it was reported as having purchased two passenger cars and 12 trucks which had belonged to the Grahamstown and Tararu Tramway. On the afternoon of 14 August the line had reached the Royal Mail Hotel at the corner of Belmont and Wharf Streets. On Friday 21 August the two passenger cars were brought up from the Junction to just beyond the firebell so they could be painted and put in working order. The next day the Gazette stated that it was not intended to proceed with the line past the firebell but to put men on the line from the Junction to make it good and strong.

The morning of Tuesday, 1 September 1896 saw the tramway opened. The Gazette (2 September) said that the Company had made a first and very secure start. The two passenger cars met the Waimarie at the Junction and brought up 36 passengers, an extra train having to be run for the luggage. For the return journey of the vessel, which left at 12.30pm, only one car load went down. Ten days later a crowd watched as the cars left the Royal Mail Hotel to take passengers for the SS Paeroa as the cars were lighted by lamps both inside and out. For the comfort of passengers it was intended to provide cushioned seats.

Charges from the Junction Wharf to Paeroa terminus were notified in the Gazette of 29 August. General merchandise, 3/- per ton; timber, 6d per 100 super feet; parcels under 5lb, 6d; over 5lb and up to 56lb, 1/-; Passengers, l/-single, return 1/6. By mid September the Company notified that goods brought up from the Junction wharf would be delivered to customers as required. There were no extra charges.

Now here we come to an interesting point. Under the Tramways Act 1894 Orders authorising the construction of Public Tramways (those intended for the carriage of passengers) could only be applied for by a local authority (which could delegate the authority once granted by the Governor) and only if the decision of the ratepayers had been ascertained.

At the Council meeting of 3 September the Council considered the Company's application for a tramway. The Council agreed to grant the concessions asked for by the Company but left out the use of steam power for the present. Once Captain Morris, in whose name the conditions were drawn up, notified his acceptance, they would be advertised in the local papers.

The Notice duly appeared in the Ohinemuri Gazette of 12 September. It stated that the Council was to apply for an Order authorising the construction of a tramway from the Opukeko Creek on the Puke Road, running along the Puke Road to Belmont and Normanby Roads ending at the north bank of the Tawa Stream, a length more or less of three miles. Provision was made for stations, sidings and passing places, rails to be 40lb iron, gauge 3'6", the line to be worked by horse power. Details of construction were itemised. When the Order was granted it was the intention of the Council to delegate its authority to construct the line, to Captain George B Morris.

However by 12 September when this Notice first appeared, a tramway from the Junction into Paeroa town was already built and working but the Notice referred only to a tram from Puke along the Puke Road. So what of the Junction tram. Had an Order been given earlier? The Te Aroha paper which faithfully recorded the happenings in Paeroa and is complete for 1895, failed to mention any application for a tramway. When the engineer reported to his Council on 7 May on the application to lay a tramway on the Puke Road he said it would reduce the cost of maintaining the Junction Road. There was no hint of a service on that road but commenting on the Council's discussion, on 3 September the Gazette referred to the work the Company was prepared to carry out on the tramway from the Junction and Puke. As we have seen the Notice made no mention to any line from the Junction. I could find nothing in the N Z Gazette of any Order in Council being granted to the Ohinemuri County Council for any tramway in Paeroa between 1894 and 1897. It does seem this line was constructed without any Order.

Let us revert to the running of the tramway. Business must have failed to live up to expectations for in the Gazette of 30 September the Company announced a general reduction in its tariff. Commenting on the reduction, the paper remarked, 'At these prices the cars should be crowded as no one ought to grudge paying sixpence to be saved the walk up or down the Junction and as the Company are arranging to proceed with the laying of the tram line on to the bridge in the upper township, the increased distance to which these rates apply will be more appreciable. We are aware that the Tramway Company since they commenced operations have had many difficulties inseparable from a new undertaking of this kind but the indomitable energy and tact of Mr Pierce Lanigan have so far enabled them to overcome them, and when the public fully realise the many advantages which the scheme will confer, we have every confidence the tram line will prove a success'.

The difficulties were not stated but the Gazette in reporting on the opening of the tramway did refer to the many difficulties and obstructions faced by Mr Lanigan. In a letter to the Gazette (17 October) the Tramway Manager alluded to rumours but assured the public that things were progressing. When rails arrived no time would be lost in laying the lines to the Paeroa - Te Aroha bridge where a depot for receipt and delivery of goods would be erected. Steps were also being taken for further concessions which would bring the tramway to Karangahake. He also stated that the present tramway to the Junction was but temporary and adverse criticism was neither kind or fair and mentioned that deficiency of capital did not apply to the Company.

If the tramway to the Junction was 'but temporary' just what did that mean? Certainly the County Engineer was not happy with the state of the tramway. To his Council on 3 December he reported that the work was not being put down in accordance with the conditions he had laid down in a letter to Mr Lanigan on 1 June and he considered the present condition of things was dangerous to all traffic. No indication was given as to the faults.

Maybe the Company was trying to economise on its track work for despite the assurance given by the Tramway Manager in his letter to the Gazette, it does appear the Company was having financial problems. The Gazette (17 October) stated that during the coming week arrangements would be made by which outstanding liabilities of the Company would be liquidated and matters generally put on a satisfactory footing. Three days earlier the Gazette carried a notice in which the Tramway Company invited tenders for advertising on its carriages.

On 9 November the Company made its first call for halfpence per share. If it was having money problems it was not stopping the Company from extending the tramway. The Council agreed the Company be allowed to use the County Road as far as the Crown Mine near Karangahake provided it did not interfere with public traffic. Following this resolution the Council advertised (Gazette 19 December) its intention to apply for an Order for the extension of the tramway from the north bank of the Tawa Creek near Mackaytown to the Crown Battery at Karangahake, a distance of 2½ miles.

No doubt mindful of the need to conserve their road from the heavy traffic to the mine, the Council on 14 January 1897 agreed with its Chairman that the tramway had done good service in times of emergency in the past and should be given every opportunity to carry out their contemplated extensions to the Crown Battery.

It would seem that early in 1897 there had been a change of operators for in the Gazette of 6 February there was a notice 'Key and Philips Tramway. Will carry passengers to meet all boats. Cargo confidentially attended to'. This notice last appeared in the Gazette of 13 March. However the new operators were not to have it all their own way for on 10 February the Gazette reported that Mr George Crosby had put on a coach to meet all steamers and trains for the purpose of carrying up passengers to the Royal Mail Hotel free of charge.

Did the Company cease to operate in March 1897? The Gazette appeared silent on its fate. On 20 March 1897 in the 'For Sale' column the Tramway Company advertised second hand 40lb rail in any quantity and in excellent condition and on 24 March the Gazette announced that Mr Sephton had been appointed to collect accounts owing to the Company and would be on the warpath. It also mentioned the Tramway Company had expended no less than £174 in metalling the County roads in Paeroa and Ohinemuri townships and while the County benefited by this amount the Company asked no return.

That Mr Sephton meant business was demonstrated by a notice in the Gazette of 14 April 1897. 'Ohinemuri Tramway Company accounts not paid on or before 30 inst. will be sued for without further action' and a further one of 31 July in which he said he had been instructed by Captain Morris to sue without further notice all those indebted to the Tramway Company.

The lease granted to George Bencham Morris of Auckland and Edwin Edwards of Paeroa by the Railway Department for the tramway to cross the railway line had been terminated on 30 June 1897 (District Engineer NZR Hamilton Lease Register) but the tramway no doubt ceased earlier for railway leases were generally terminated at the end of a quarter.

The Gazette did not mention the Tramway again until 11 December 1897 when Edwin Edwards for the Tramway Company indicated that Mackay and Pratt, auctioneers, would auction without reserve the whole of the Tramway plant which was lying at the Paeroa Railway Station. The plant was said to comprise about 18 sets of wheels, axles and bearings, one tram car and sundries. Could the fact that there were no rails in the auction indicate that the rails advertised for sale on 20 March 1897 came from the tramway which by that date had been pulled up? As only one car was in the auction what happened to the other car?

So ended the very short life of the Ohinemuri Tramway Company. Notices inserted in the Gazette by the Company carried the words 'to be registered' but I could find no evidence that the Company was ever registered. The last reference I could find was in the Gazette of 27 August 1898 when it was noted that liquidators of the Tramway Company asked those who owed small amounts to pay up at once to their agent.

The planned extension to the Crown Mine never eventuated, but had it done so, the delays caused by the mud on the road to the mine would no doubt have been averted. It is interesting to note that in November 1903 when the Puke Road was in a terrible state the County Council pondered on the suggestion that a tramway be constructed from the Puke Wharf into Paeroa. The proposal was to drag on for a year but at its November 1904 meeting, on hearing the Engineer's estimate of £3081 for a line of 135 chains, the matter was dropped.

So much for the history of the Company as recorded in the Ohinemuri Gazette. Now to the questions posed by Mr Malcolm.

1. Description of the tram car. - I have been unable to locate a plan or photo of the passenger cars and from enquiries of a number of railway historians I doubt if any exist.

2. How did the tramline get from Junction Road to Belmont Road? - A PWD plan dated 22 November 1894 (see copy at the end of this article) shows the diversion of both the Junction and Puke roads. When the railway divided the town the railway line formed a barrier for any tram line and permission of the Railway Department was required to cross it. Captain Morris and Edwin Edwards received this sometime in 1896. A Railway lease plan shows this crossing not on the Junction Road diversion but on the Puke Road diversion. From the PWD plan, to get over the line the tramway from the Junction would have had to turn left into the Puke Road diversion, travel down the Puke Road for a short distance towhere the Puke Road was diverted and then into Belmont Road. The Railway lease plan shows only one crossing of the railway line and that on the Puke Road diversion.

3. Station Road. It does not appear on the PWD plan and it would seem to have been opened after the arrival of the railway.

This tramway must not be confused with that of Brenan and Company which originally (1911) ran from the railway station to the river along the Junction Road and in 1913 a branch line was put in to the Extraction Works. It was horse drawn and did not run on wooden rails.

Before I close I must refer to earlier reports of a tram on wooden rails along Junction Road. Mention of this has been made in previous Journal articles:

In Journal 8 [See Journal 8: Paeroa to Waihi 1894 - E] Ben Gwilliam wrote of a journey he made in 1894. He stated that at the Junction Wharf was an old tram which ran on wooden rails, pulled by an old grey horse. The fare was 1/- and the tram ran off the line six times between the wharf and the town. The Editor in a footnote stated that John Williams of Paeroa had final charge of the service between the wharf and town.

James Silcock, Journal 12 [See Journal 12: Paeroa's Historical Sites - E] mentioned wooden tram rails with a horse drawn goods service between the wharf and town.

Jeff Poland, Journal 15 [see Journal 15: Old Junction Road - E], also refers to wooden rails parallel with the road with the idea of assisting horse drawn vehicles. He stated Mick Goonan drove on the first trip and passengers were conveyed on a horse drawn tram. At the conclusion the Editor associated the Tramway Company with the line described in the article.

From the comments of the then Editor I think she had in mind the line of the Ohinemuri Tramway Company which ran on iron rails. There is no doubt that a tramway from the Junction on iron rails was in use in 1896. In a letter to the Editor of the Ohinemuri Gazette (26 August 1896) a correspondent remarked on the very substantial iron tramway from the Junction. A photo in the Paeroa Museum clearly shows an iron tram line in Belmont Road. This being so, why did Messrs Gwilliam, Silcock and Poland fail to mention it? Was it that Ben Gwilliam, having first mentioned wooden rails the other contributors followed suit? If there was a tram on wooden rails it must have been before the opening of the railway in December 1895, but I doubt if one existed.

Maybe in this article some of my reasoning is astray but the fact that there seems to have been no Order for a Tramway along the Junction Road does need explanation. In attempting to answer the queries of Mr Malcolm I have raised others and hopefully some reader can help with:

1. What authority did the Company havetooperate the tram from the Junction, bearing in mind I can find nothing to indicate an Order required under the Tramways Act was applied for let alone granted?

2. On what date did the Tramway cease to operate?

3. What happened to the second passenger carriage?

4. What of the tramway on wooden rails from the Junction?

Paeroa Tramway
Paeroa Tramway
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993
Paeroa Tramway
Belmont Road, Paeroa, showing the tramlines

Belmont Road, Paeroa, showing the tramlines. Royal Mail Hotel on left.

Paeroa Tramway
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993
Belmont Road, Paeroa, showing the tramlines