MR. STANLEY'S REPORT.
THE 2 FEET 6 INCH GAUGE.
SOME IMPORTANT RECOMMENDATIONS
The report of the Chief Engineer for Railways on his recent tour in America and Europe, which was laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly yesterday, deals with a great variety of matters affect- ing the economical construction and work- ing of railways ; but the chief matter dis- cussed is light railways. Other matters are the American lines, steam shovels, re- frigerating cars and cold storage, electric signals, carriage lighting, and the rack rail- ways. We give below the introductory re- marks and the conclusions on the subject of light railways :-
Some misconception appears, I think, to exist as to what really constitutes a light railway and the conditions which affect the cost of construction. It may not there- fore be deemed out of place if I offer a few preliminary remarks in connection therewith, before describing in detail the various railways of that class which I had the opportunity of inspecting, and of which I gathered some particulars in the countries I visited.
The term " light railway" is, of course, merely a comparative one. The Queens- land railways are, for instance, of lighter construction generally and adapted to lower speeds than those of the wider gauge in New South Wales and Victoria, whilst the portable railways of 2ft. gauge used in developing and working sugar plantatlons in this colony and elsewhere are of still lighter construction, and carry very much lighter rolling stock than our standard lines.
A light railway may properly be described as one which, in its essential features, is a departure from the standard or normal railways of the country, either as regards the gauge or character of the works, with a view to insure economy of construction.
The primary conditions which determine the class of railway and cost of construc- tion are as follow :-(a) The Axle-load. This is the most important factor in rail- way construction, as it decides the weight of rall, which should be duly proportioned to the load it has to support, the bearing surface, or, in other words, the size and spacing of sleepers, the quantity of ballast to be provided, and the strength of bridges and other structures. (b) The Speed. This has also a material influence on the character of the permanent way, whilst it also affects, to some extent, the strength and solidity of the works, and determines the description of rolling stock. (c) The Gauge.-Of itself this has a far less effect on the question of cost than is, I think, generally supposed : for unless the axle load and speed are also reduced the saving due merely to a narrower gauge resolves itself into a rather insignificant decrease in the quantity of earthwork and ballast, with somewhat shorter sleepers, culverts, and drains, (d) The Nature of Traffic. - This will determine the extent of build- ings and other works required for its proper accommodation, as well as for the protection and repair of the rolling stock.
Besides those just mentioned, local condi- tions have frequently an important influence on the cost of construction, and must not be lost sight of in comparing the relative cost of railways, such as-(1) The natural features of the country and its geological formation ; (2) the facilities offered for the supply of constructive material ; and (3), the price of labour.
It is not uncommon to hear comparisons drawn between the cost of railways in one country with those in another, or even in different districts of the same country, where these conditions are widely dissimilar, and where, possibly with much the same amount of work to be executed, the cost of construction is unavoidably greater in one case than the other.
In approaching the important question of how to extend the advantages of railway communication to sparsely populated dis- tricts, the prospective traffic from which cannot reasonably be expected to give a fair return for the outlay involved in the construction of our ordinary standard lines, it becomes necessary to consider the best means by which the desired end can be accomplished in the most economical man- ner consistent with efficiency as well as requisite capacity.
The cost of construction may be reduced in one of two ways :-
(a) By retaining the standard gauge, but employing lighter rolling stock and a less expensive class of permanent way ; or
(b) By adopting a narrower gauge with light rolling stock and works duly propor- tioned thereto.
The first expedient would appear to hold out special advantages in connection with extensions of main lines or branches which may be expected to develop into important parts of the trunk system. By employing locomotives with no greater axle-load than that of the ordinary goods waggons, the rolling-stock from the main line could be utilised in working the traffic. If also the speed were reduced a lighter rail with less ballast might be provided, but as there would always be the tendency to resort to the use of heavier locomotives to meet the exigencies of traffic, it would not, I am of opinion, be advisable to alter the design of bridges or other substructures. If circum- stances warrant it, a heavier rail and more ba'llast can easily be laid, but the strength- ening of bridges and other works on lines in operation is always attended with more or less difficulty and expense.
The average cost of permanent way, in- cluding rails and fastenings, sleepers and ballast, in this colony, may be taken as
First class-60lb. rails and 1700 cubic yards ballast, £1644 per mile.
Second class- 41½lb. rails and 1135 cubic yards ballast, £1135 per mile.
With a 30lb. rail, which would be capable of sustaining an axle-load of, say, 5 tons, equal to that of our ordinary goods stock, and 880 cubic yards of ballast per mile, the cost would be reduced to £934 per mile, a saving of £200 per mile as compared with
our second-class lines.
Unless, however, under exceptional cir- cumstances, I should not recommend the use of rails of less weight than 41½lb. on lines of standard gauge ; in fact, on eco- (nomlcal grounds, I would much prefer that a 60lb. rail should be fixed as the minimum weight, at any rate for all main lines and principal branches.
I have not suggested resorting to steeper gradients than are now usual, as experience has, I think, conclusively shown that this is not a direction in which it is wise to economise, for whatever saving is effected in first cost is more than counterbalanced by the increased expense in the future working of the traffic.
Coming now to the alternative proposal of a reduction In gauge, It must be clearly understood that whilst I am fully alive to the advantages of uniformity in gauge, and should not, under any circumstances, recom- mend a departure from the existing stan- dard as regards extensions of our main system, I think adherence to the principle may be carried too far, and that, under certain conditions, a departure therefrom would not only be expedient but justifi-
There are many districts in the colony, more or less isolated, which are at great disadvantage through the absence of eco- nomical means of transit for produce to market, but where the probable traffic would not warrant the outlay on lines of
normal construction. It is most desirable, with a view to relieve the wants of pre- sent as well as to encourage further settle- ment in such districts, that railway facili- ties should be extended to them ; and if this object can be attained by means of
light narrow-gauge lines, I should not hesitate to recommend their construction.
As regards the particular gauge which should be selected in such cases, I have found it generally conceded by those who have had experience in the construction and working of narrow-gauge railways, that, unless for special purposes, it is not ad-
visable to employ a less gauge than 2ft.
6in.; and in the event of its being decided to depart from our present standard, this is the gauge I should recommend to be adopted.
Where a light traffic has to be provided for a narrow-gauge railway offers the fol- lowing advantages :-
1. Reduction In Cost of Construction.- in flat or easy country the saving due to reduc- tion in gauge is comparatively slight, but where rough country is met with the saving may become considerable, as the narrow gauge line, by admitting of the use of sharper curves, lends itself more readily to the natural features, thus avoiding exces- sive earthwork and lessening the extent of bridgework, culverts, and other substruc- tures. I estimate the approximate relative cost between a railway of 3ft. 6in. and 2ft. 6in. gauge in flat country with ordinary pro- vision for waterways and small stations at intervals of, say, five miles apart, but with- out large bridges or fencing, and where constructive material is fairly plentiful, to
be as under :-
Railway of 3ft. 6in. gauge, with 41½lb. rails, £1800 per mile.
Railway of 2ft. 6in. gauge, with 30lb. rails,
£1375 per mile.
Thus showing a minimum saving in favour of the latter of £425 per mile. In this estimate the cost of permanent way for the 2ft. 6in. gauge, with 30lb. rails and 800 cubic yards of ballast, is taken at £805 per mile, or a reduction of £330 per mile as compared with that of a second-class road on the 3ft. 6in. gauge. It is impossible to give definite estimates without having re- liable data based upon actual survey in each case. Speaking generally, however, I should say that in moderate country pre- senting no special obstacles to be overcome, the saving effected by the narrower gauge would probably range from £600 to £1000 per mile, but where broken or mountainous country has to be traversed, the difference in cost in favour of the narrow gauge might be considerably greater. In the above estimates I have assumed that the usual quantity of ballast will be provided. Even should it be found expedient in some cases to use a less quantity in the first instance, it would, I consider, be necessary in order to insure economical maintenance, to supplement it afterwards : and provision should therefore be made for the additional expenditure from capital account.
2. Lighter and consequently less costly rolling stock, as well as a more favourable proportion between paying and dead load. With our present goods waggons the pro- portion of tare weight to carrying capacity
is on an average, about 7 to 13, but with light stock suited to a 2ft. 6in. gauge there is no difficulty in obtaining a ratio of 1 to 3. Thus, in a train of, say, 150 tons, con- sisting of goods waggons and brake-van of our present standard stock, the maximum paying load would amount to 60 per cent, whilst with the narrow-gauge light stock the paying load would be as much as 70 per cent of the gross weight. This would represent a substantial saving in working expenses, and should enable goods to be carried at lower rates than is practicable with the wider gauge.
3. The lower speed for which the light narrow-gauge line is only adapted would obviate the necessity of level crossings, gates, and signals, and in many instances fencing might be dispensed with. The public roads may also be availed of where the gradients are suitable, so as to avoid the resumption of land and payment of heavy claims for compensation.
4. The narrow-gauge railway, with its light rolling stock and low speeds, would cost less to maintain than a line with heavier stock run at higher speeds.
5. The light railway being of lesa than the normal gauge would effectually prevent the heavy stock of the main line being used upon it. If the same gauge were adhered to, there would always be the temptation to employ the heavier engines from the main line to cope with the exigencies of the traffic, thus increasing the cost of maintenance if not damaging the permanent way and works.
On the other hand, the undoubted draw- backs incidental to a break of gauge and the adoption of a different class of railway to that now in operation must not be lost sight of, and should have due weight in con- sidering the merits and financial aspect of each particular case. The chief objections appear to be the following :--
(1) The cost of transhipment of goods at the points of junction with the main line, as well as, in a minor degree, the inconveni-
ence to passengers ;
(2) The necessity of providing special equipment to work such lines, which must be sufficient to meet the demands of the maximum traffic. During slack seasons, therefore, a portion of the rolling stock, would lie idle, as it could not be utilised on the main line or conveniently transferred to other narrow-gauge lines.
As regards the first of these objections, I ascertained that the cost of transhipping goods in Europe varies from 2½d. to 4d. per ton, but as the rates of labour here are nearly 100 per cent higher this item of ex- pense cannot be estimated at less on an average than, say, 6d. per ton.
Before deciding to construct any branch line on a narrow gauge the expense of tran- shipping should receive due consideration, and an estimate be prepared based on the probable tonnage of goods. If it can be ihown that the annual expense of tranship-
ment would exceed or even equal the amount of interest on the additional capital re- quired to construct a line on the standard gauge, it would be a question for considera- tion whether under these circumstances it would not be wiser to incur the increased outlay for the wider gauge in the first in- stance, than submit to a perpetual charge against working expenses as the result of a
break of gauge.
Various attempts have been made from time to time to minimise the inconvenience and expense of transhipment by the use of special appliances, such as the transfer of the bodies of trucks from one underframe to another, but none have proved altogether satisfactory, and, so far as I observed, are only used in dealing with particular de- scriptlons of goods where it is important to avoid handling as much as possible. Ex- perience seems to indicate that the least expensive and most expeditious method of overcoming the difficulty is by manual labour, suitable platforms of course being provided between the wide and narrow gauge lines of rails for the purpose. For the transhipment of machinery and other heavy articles, overhead gantries or travel- lers are usually employed, and transporta- tion care or "rolling cradles" are also, in some instances, made use of to convey the narrow-gauge waggons over the wider line, and vice versa. The latter expedient, al- though hardly suitable for the requirements of general traffic, is useful when it becomes necessary to send the narrow-gauge stock to the central workshops for repair, so as to avoid the expense of erecting special buildings for the purpose in connection with the narrow-gauge lines.
Mr. Stanley proceeds to give some parti- culars of the light railways which came under his observation during his recent travels, and adds the following :
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDA-
The light railways on the Continent,
more especially those in Belgium, are gene- rally admitted to have proved successful In attaining the object with which they were originally constructed-namely, to aid in the development of agricultural, in- dustrial, and commercial pursuits, and have given, moreover, in many instances, apart from the indirect benefits accruing, a fair return of interest on the capital invested.
Their success is, I think, in a large mea- sure to be attributed to the adoption of light rolling stock combined with low speeds, to the simple character of the sta- tion arrangements, the absence of expen- sive accessories in the way of signals, and to the fact that, as far as practicable, the public highways are utilised so as to avoid the purchase of land. Although light sections are frequently used, the rails are, as a rule, somewhat heavier than is strictly necessary for the weight to be supported, but this departure is no doubt a wise one, as tending to economy in future main-
As regards the practice of constructing these railways alongside the public roads, as generally followed on the Continent, I am aware that the experiments made in that direction in this colony have not been received with much public favour. This, I think, has been due to the mistake of utilising the roads for the purpose of the ordinary type of railways, instead of adapt- ing the class of railway to the conditions
pertaining to road traffic. I feel satisfied
that if light railways of similar character
to those I saw on the Continent were con- structed here, and low speeds insisted upon, very little if any exception would be taken to their being run alongside the public
The question of uniformity in gauge as affecting these secondary railways is not, I consider, one of much importance, except as regards such lines as there is reasonable prospect may be connected at some future
time. But it is essential that whatever gauge be decided upon should be such as is adapted to the class of traffic to be served and afford the requisite carrying capacity.
The majority of these "district railways," as I think they might appropriately be named, will either be isolated lines or
feeders to the main lines, more or less re-
mote from each other, and there is not
likely to be much opportunity of inter-
changing stock. It would, however, be convenient to adhere to one gauge so far as circumstances permit, so as to avoid multiplying the types of vehicles in use.
Whilst it is a fact that railways on a 2ft. gauge are being successfully worked in different parts of the world, and are well
suited to certain kinds of traffic, especially
in mining districts, where the materials to be carried are heavy rather than bulky, I would advocate in preference the adoption
of a gauge 2ft. 6in. as better adapted to
purposes of general traffic, affording greater comfort to passengers, and larger carrying capacity in proportion to the capital cost. The rolling stock for this gauge can be con-
structed of nearly the same width as our present standard, and at the reduced speed for which it is adapted is perfectly stable
Keeping in view the conditions which, as already pointed out, should determine the adoption of narrow-gauge light railways in- stead of adhering to our existing type, I would recommend-
(1) That one or more suitable districts
should he selected in which to con- struct experimental railways on the 2ft. 6in. gauge.
(2) That special surveys be made for the
purpose of preparing careful esti- mates, in order to ascertain the sav- ing to be effected as compared with the cost of a line on normal gauge.
(3) That, as the success of the experi-
ment will largely depend upon the lines being properly equipped, the
first supply, at any rate, of rolling stock should be ohtalned from Europe, from manufacturers who make a speciality of its construction.
Respecting the substitution of electric for steam traction (a subject to which I have alluded as receiving attention at the present time from some of the leading railway managers In America), I think it is well worth consideration whether it might not be applied with advantage in connec- tion with some of our suburban lines,
where a frequent service of light trains would be likely to encourage passenger traffic, and enable the railway to compete on more equal terms with the tramways.
I would therefore suggest the desirable- ness of obtaining reliable estimates of the cost of providing the necessary power, lay- ing down a third rail or cable as might be deemed best, and purchasing a suitable
equipment of motor and other cars.