Tramway to Victoria Battery - The Rake

Volume Four, page 81 (June 1947).


"WE have been favoured with information relating to the Waihi Gold Mining Company's railway by three members—Messrs. R.D. Grant, E.W. Robson, and W.W. Stewart—in response to our request in the last issue. Mr. Robson acknowledges his indebtedness to Mr. AJ. Stapleton, Engineer to the Martha Gold Mining Company, the company which operated the railway, for supplying his information, while notes we have received from Mr. R.D. Grant are generally of earlier vintage—culled from Inspector of Machinery reports and similar sources.

The railway in question connects gold mines at Waihi with the battery at Waikino, a distance of about five miles, the traffic being almost entirely quartz from the mines. The track gauge is unusual, being 2 ft. 9 in., and track mileage (vide the N.Z. Official Year Book) is 7 miles 40 chains. Rails laid weigh 40 and 45 lb. per yard on a ruling grade of 1 in 100 against loaded trains from the mines, and 1 in 40 against the empty trains working back from Waikino. The chief engineering feature is a deep and narrow rock cutting with a maximum depth of 30-40 feet. The locomotives employed are rated to take up to 70 tons from Waikino and up to 120 tons from Waihi.

Although both Messrs. Robson and Grant state that the railway was completed and opened for traffic in or about 1897, Mr. Stewart suggests that the line might have been in operation even earlier than that, for he says that prior to 1896, the year in which the first steam locomotive was ordered, horse traction had been employed [Not on this line, to my knowledge. Martha to Waihi Battery, yes. – E]. However, it is clear that the line's locomotive history dates only from 1896, a total of six locomotives having seen service on the line since that date, there being three at present in service. For the following locomotive notes we are indebted to Mr. W.W. Stewart.

The first locomotive ordered in 1896, named Ohinemuri, was a 0-4-0T built by Manning Wardle, Leeds, England (maker's No.1329). It was a typical Manning Wardle type with square saddle tanks and canopy cab. The name was embossed on a brass plate on the tank sides, and the boiler was domeless. Weight was 16 tons, diameter of driving wheels 2'6", and cylinders 9" x 14". Later the wheel arrangement was altered to 0-4-2, and a windshield was added to the rear of the cab. Ohinemuri is now scrapped.

A second engine, Victoria, from the same builders in the same year, was of very similar design except for being a 0-4-2T from the outset.

Maker's number was 1424. Victoria also was later fitted with a rear windshield. It is now out of service.

In 1900 Manning Wardle supplied a third engine which was named Albert. This was again a 0-4-2 saddle-tank, but it looked much more modern and impressive than the previous two in having a substantial closed-in cab and a bunker, features which the earlier engines did not possess. The top of a fair-sized dome was also visible above the top of the saddle tank. The Albert, which weighed 18 tons, but otherwise had similar dimensions to the 1896 engines, is now scrapped.

A fourth locomotive supplied by the same builders in 1905 (maker's No.1497), and named Waikino, marked quite a step forward, for this was a substantial 4-4-2 side-tank design. It was characterized by a very generous dome, outside Walschaerts valve gear, and cylinders set midway along the running board. Altogether this was quite a handsome and balanced-looking locomotive. Of a total weight in working trim of 20 tons, Waikino had a grate area of 6 sq.ft., 575 sq.ft. of heating surface, a working pressure of 150 lb. per (this may now be 200 lb.), two outside cylinders 10" x 16", coupled wheels 2'6" in diameter, and a water capacity of 400 gallons. Rigid wheelbase is 4'3", and total wheelbase 18 feet.

A sister engine to Waikino was obtained in 1909 and named Dominion (Manning Wardle No. 1753). This engine has since been fitted with a new boiler built by Kitsons of Leeds.

The latest locomotive is a 2-4-2 side-tank type supplied by W.G. Bagnall Ltd., of Stafford, England (maker's No.2513) in 1934 and named Empire. It is a solid-looking job, having side tanks running right up to the front of the smokebox. Total weight in working trim is about 20 tons, fixed wheelbase is 4'9", and total wheelbase is 16'6". The two cylinders 10" x 16" are supplied with steam from a boiler having a total heating surface of 415 sq.ft. and a grate area of 7.72 sq.ft. Working pressure is 180 lb. per The diameter of the coupled wheels is 2'6", and of the bogie wheels 1'10". Water capacity is 500 gallons, and bunker capacity 27 cub.ft. It is of interest to note that the unusual Baguley type of valve gear is fitted to this engine.

Rolling stock comprises mostly small 4-wheel tip trucks for transport of the quartz, but there are a few small goods and flat wagons—the latter provided with forms for the convenience of odd passengers. The railway has, however, never been a "common carrier".

Mr. Stewart remarks that it is interesting to note that, while there have been a large number of private railways built in New Zealand in connection with the timber-milling and coal-mining industries, the railway described in these notes is the only one of any consequence to have been used in connection with the gold-mining industry.