Tramway to Victoria Battery - The Rake

As early as 1894/5 the Company was investigating the Waikino site for a battery so as to considerably expand their crushing capacity. The attraction was water power. "Water-races from Waitekauri and Ohinemuri Rivers, also from the Mangakara Creek, have been surveyed to the site at the foot of Thorpe's Hill" (Mines Statement, 1895).

This new battery, named Victoria in recognition of the 60 year or Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria's "Record Reign" in 1897, was operating in early 1898 with 100 stamps. Water power was provided by the high pressure Waitekauri supply, and the low level Ohinemuri race.

"The company is erecting a new mill at Waikino, Owharoa, a description of which is given in the following extract from Mr. H. P. Barry's [Waihi Gold Mining Company’s superintendent from 1891 to 1915 (McAra, p 146) – E] general report:—

"The length of the tramway from mine to Owharoa Mills is, approximately, five miles and three-quarters. It has been constructed of a gauge of 2 ft. 9 in., the smallest curve having a 6-chain radius. It has been well graded throughout, being, with only one exception (which has an up-grade of 1 ft. in 90 ft.), all down-hill with a load, the steepest grade being 1 ft. in 40ft. The line crosses from the north to the south bank of the Ohinemuri River, at a distance of two miles and three-quarters from the mine, by means of a strong truss bridge

[The "Black Bridge" by the Dredging site – E], upwards of 185ft. in length, and 30ft. 6 in. high from water-level to decking, and built of good sound heart of kauri and totara. The whole of the formation of this tramway has been completed, and upwards of three miles laid with heart of kauri sleepers and 40 lb. iron rails. All the culverts have been made with glazed earthenware pipes, which will be more durable than wooden culverts; and all the swamps which the line traverses have been drained by good substantial drains. The locomotive has been put together, and is now busily engaged ballasting the line and hauling building-stone to the mill. Twelve of the iron side-tipping trucks are on the ground, and we have received advice that fifty more, which should be sufficient for our requirements, are now on their way out from England."

(From: Papers and Reports Relating to Minerals and Mining, 1897 Pages 85 to 97)

There was a loop in the tramline at the halfway mark (called "the halfway") to allow one locomotive hauling a full rake to pass the other locomotive returning to Waihi with an empty rake. "A loop line to allow of the trains passing one another midway between the termini has been constructed. An application was lodged at the Warden's Court for permission to divert and use a small stream for the purpose of feed water for the boilers. This permission has since been granted." (Superintendent’s Report, February 19th 1901).

A total of six locomotives had been in service over the life of the tramway. In order of acquisition they were: Ohinemuri, Victoria, Albert, Waikino, Dominion, and Empire.

Details of the locomotives as published in the "New Zealand Railway OBSERVER" June 1947 (supplied by Mr. W.W. Stewart ) were :-

"Ohinemuri" built 1896 by Manning Wardle, Leeds, England. Makers No 1329.

"Victoria" built 1896 [more likely 1898, see time line – E] by Manning Wardle, Leeds, England. Makers No 1424.

The first was delivered as an 0-4-0T with square saddle tank and canopy cab. It was altered later to 0-4-2T and a windshield added to back of cab. The Victoria was built an 0-4-2T. Both weighed about l6 tons, had 30" diameter driving wheels and 2 cylinders 9"x14".

"Albert" supplied by same firm in 1900, weighed l8 tons had closed in cab and bunker and fair sized dome appeared above the tanks, otherwise similar.

"Waikino" built by the same firm again, in 1905 (makers No 1497) was a big step forward. It was a 4-4-2T side tank with big dome, cylinders set midway along running board and outside Walschaerts valve gear. A fine looking loco it weighed 20 tons, had 2 10"xl6" cylinders, 30" diameter drivers, carried 150 (or possibly later 200lbs) lbs. boiler pressure, and a rigid wheelbase of 4' 3" of a total wheelbase of 18 feet. This is the engine in our photo on page two taken 45 years after the engine was built!

"Dominion" was obtained from the firm in 1909 (makers No. 1753) and was a full sister to "Waikino". She later had a new boiler from Kitsons of Leeds.

The sixth and last locomotive was "Empire" a 2-4-2 side tank built by the W.G. Bagnall Ltd., works at Stafford (No 2513) in 1934. This solid looking locomotive had side tanks running right up to the front of the smoke box, weighed 20 tons, fixed wheelbase was 4’9" out of 16'6". The two cylinders were 10"x16". Boiler pressure was l801bs per sq. inch. Grate area 7.72sq.ft. and heating surface 413 sq.ft. Coupled wheels were as usual 30" diameter, bogie wheels, 22" diameter and 500 gallons of water and 27 cubic feet of coal were carried. The engine was fitted, with the most unusual, in N.Z., Bagulely type of valve gear.

Writing in the "OBSERVER" in July 1952 Mr. L.J. Hostick noted that the "Waikino" and "Dominion" were working the quartz trains, "Empire" was under repair and "Albert" was out of service on 1st December 1951.

All the locomotives together with all other useable scrap were cut up and sold probably to Japan in the period 1956-59.

(The above descriptions are taken from "Steam Through the Karangahake - The Railway Enthusiast’s Society Incorporated. 1963".)

Of the process of transporting ore from mine to battery, McAra has this to say: "The ore, on leaving the shaft up which it was wound, was tipped into the shaft hopper. These hoppers, at Nos. 2, 4, 6, 7 and Grand Junction shafts, were equipped with special loading-chute gates or doors to control the flow of ore into the two-and-a-half-ton [Bacon has them as 1.5 ton – E] Waikino-type trucks, usually made up into rakes of about forty trucks each. This filling work was done by a contract party of about six men who had to use horses for shunting the trucks in and out from beneath the shaft hoppers.

"At No. 6 shaft particularly, owing to the subsidence and sinking of the ground in that locality, the levels of the tramline were very difficult to maintain and it was generally necessary to handle the trucks three or four at a time. Sometimes the horse had to be galloped right to the mouth of the hopper drive and the pulling chain disengaged instantly so that the impetus would carry the trucks up to the filling chutes. In making up the rakes of full trucks a similar procedure in reverse was adopted.

"No. 2 shaft, which was situated up on top of the Martha Hill approximately ninety feet above No. 4 shaft, was operated until about 1940; there the trucks had to be hauled up on a self-acting incline, three at a time, loaded under the shaft hoppers and lowered to the main line near No. 4 shaft to be connected up into a rake. The incline was designed so that the descending three full trucks pulled the three empties to the top, a passing-loop being placed halfway up.

"At No. 7 shaft, which did not come into operation until about 1940, an old driveway in the Martha footwall was enlarged so that the whole rake could be placed behind the loading chutes in the hopper, making this a very simple and convenient hopper at which to load.

"As the rake-truck axle-boxes were of the "open" type, equipped with oil reservoirs and wick feeds, they had to be oiled frequently and the "oiler" became a familiar figure about Nos. 6 and 4 shafts. The rake-fillers must have organised their work very well for there was seldom any undue delay in emptying the hoppers and for the most part they were kept down sufficiently to allow the work underground to continue. This was always considered first priority. Even so, occasional crises did arise, usually through breakdown of crushers or other plant at Waikino, but considering the amount of equipment that had to be maintained in the process of pulverising eight hundred tons a day of the hardest of rocks to minus two-hundred-mesh to the linear inch, it was remarkable how few holdups there were.

"The tramway to Waikino, for practically the whole of its five-mile length except the last few hundred yards, was on a down-gradient with grades of up to one in forty, and had a passing-loop about halfway. The rakes were normally hauled by the two larger locomotives the Empire and the Dominion, the Waikino taking over during boiler checks or breakdowns. The other three smaller locos, the Albert, the Ohinemuri and the Victoria, were used occasionally for shunting but at Waikino most of this was done by a beautiful big white horse which became a familiar sight about the plant over many years. The smaller locos all had their days of hauling ore but had to run for a good many hours each day to cope with the volume.

"The rattle of forty, unsprung, rigid, four-wheeled trucks going full-speed down-hill through some of the main streets of Waihi created quite a din but the townspeople never seemed to mind, probably because they saw not only the noise, inconvenience and possible danger, but also the life-giving stream of gold to which their town owed its existence."

"Ore Crushing. On arrival at Waikino, the rake was shunted into position on the tipping line and the loco picked up the empty waiting rake and returned to the mine. The tippers, two of whom worked together, drew the first trucks along with their winch until they were vertically above the grizzlies leading to the four primary gyratory crushers. To tip a truck the two men each seized an end and, after lifting the tipping latch, with a skilful rocking motion they overturned the heavy truck body; a third man attended to the removal of sticky material using a chisel-pointed pick or bar. The gyratory crusher could be choke-fed so there was little delay on that score. When one rake was disposed of there was usually another waiting and the work went on". (Gold Mining at Waihi 1878 – 1952, JB McAra, 1988)

Repair and maintenance of tramway and rolling stock was on-going. A locomotive repair workshop was operated at the Victoria Battery. "There were workshops at the loco sheds, the transport repair depot and the foundry. New truck bodies and new chassis were fitted at the transport workshop, the wheels and housing being cast at the foundry and the axles, bearings and wheel-hubs turned in the fitting shop. Running repairs were carried out by an engine fitter and his mate in the loco workshop.

"Running maintenance of locomotives consisted mainly in replacing broken springs, worn bearings, leaking glands, boiler tubes, and so on. For larger jobs, like renewing or turning up axles or fitting new tyres, the work would be done in the fitting shop. The two locos engaged in hauling ore from the mine had to be serviced and cleaned each night, and steam raised ready for the engines to go out at seven each morning. This work was done by a loco cleaner, who had to clean the boiler tubes (which tended to choke with clinker and ash), clean the exterior and interior (giving particular attention to the rods and metalwork), lubricate the axle-boxes with pure castor-oil, and fill the boiler and water tanks.

"Rail Track Maintenance. A team of surfacemen left the battery in an open carriage attached to the loco every morning to maintain the five-and-a-half-mile tramway to Waihi and the lines in and about the surface of the mine and the battery, including ballasting, laying rails, renewing sleepers and cleaning culverts, as well as many other incidental jobs. Their work was well done because only on the rarest of occasions did a derailment occur. It must have been very difficult to maintain the tramway foundations in such a high rainfall region where the top layer of soil generally consisted of light volcanic ash. The continually subsiding surface near No. 6 shaft also posed problems." (JB McAra, 1988)

As soon as the "Government Railway" (East Coast Main Trunk) arrived in 1905, a siding allowed for easy transfer to the tramway of coal and other goods bound for Martha and the Company’s other mills. "The battery railway-siding was used as a receiving depot for materials for the mine as well as the battery, because the railhead at Waihi was remote from the mine and it was more economical to transfer such things as timber, coal, and steel to the Company's waggons and take them with the loco to the place at the mine where they were to be used. Generally there would be sufficient material for a special rake to be run at regular intervals.

"For short hauls about the plant a horse was used, in addition to a spare locomotive, and the arrangement was both convenient and economical." (JB McAra, 1988)

A quarry was established close to the battery, and beside the tramway, to supply ballast for the tramway, and construction stone for the battery. This quarry is a substantial feature largely hidden by bush, roughly opposite the confluence of the Waitekauri and Ohinemuri Rivers. "The ballast was a hard white type of rhyolite occurring in columnar form alongside the railway about half a mile from the battery. As this deposit readily yielded blocks of stone about a foot square it was also used for constructing walls in the battery and for embankments. A similar quarry on the opposite side of the Ohinemuri River for many years supplied stone for building railway embankments as far south as Taumarunui." (JB McAra, 1988)

Operations at Martha mine ceased in 1952, (with clean up at the battery for a year or two after this date) when the tramway was no longer required.