NARROW GAUGE RAILWAYS
VERSUS BROAD GAUGE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS.
Sir, - This subject has been much discussed of late in the public journals, both of these colonies and in the mother country, and it is probable that it will attract the attention of honourable members during the approaching
session of the Victorian Parliament.
Will you kindly permit me space to assist in clearing the atmosphere of some of the dust which has been so plentifully sprinkled in the eyes of the public, with a view to disguising the real issue, and turning the discussion into a series of commercial puffs for the benefit of an interested inventor?
The " Fairlie System of Railway Construction" has been much talked of and its introduction into these colonies advocated. Now, Sir, it should be clearly understood that a Fairlie system of railways has no existence except in the imaginations of those who talk about it. Mr. Fairlie is not a railway engineer ; he is a mechanical engineer, who has designed an engine which is capable of working round curves of exceptionally small radius, and which, having been adapted by him to the Festiniog Railway in North Wales, he ingeniously mixes up with the narrow gauge in a manner which makes people imagine that the railway, the engine, and the rolling stock together form his "system." This is not the case. The railway was worked by horse-power for many years before Mr. Fairlie's name was known to the world,
he has merely substituted an engine of peculiar construction for horses. Again, people have been deluded into the idea that there is some necessary connexion between the narrow gauge and the Fairlie engine. This is not the case. An engineer of very high position at home a member of council of the Inst. C.E.-- who has paid special attention to this subject, in writing to me last November from London says :-- "The Fairlie engine and rolling stock make no progress whatever in this country. All the locomotive engineers are against the system, except on the Great Southern and West- ern Railway in Ireland, where some engines have been partially adapted to Fairlie's System. I think it a useful engine for steep inclines, but not for general purposes. The narrow gauge has nothing whatever neces- sarily to do with the system, though Fairlie, who is a clever fellow, puts the two forward together as if they were inseparables."
Mr. Fairlie also pretends that his "system" greatly reduces the cost of working, by effecting a large reduction in the amount of fuel consumed to carry the same load, and also a great reduction in the weight of the "dead," or unprofitable, load which has to be carried, and this he endeavours to prove by reference to the results of the working of the Festiniog Railway.
The heavy traffic of this railway is un- doubtedly carried at an exceptionally low cost in fuel, and with very little "dead-weight," but the Fairlie system has nothing whatever to do with producing those results ; they are the consequences of the exceptional character of the ground over which the railway is constructed, and the exceptional character of the
traffic carried upon it.
The Festiniog Railway has been constructed for the purpose of convoying slates from the quarry of that name to the shipping port, a distance of about 11 miles. For nearly the whole distance the line is constructed on a nearly uniform descending gradient of 1 in 80 to 1 in 94 down which the loaded trucks travel by gravitation, no fuel being expended except for shunting at each end. The up traffic forms but a very small proportion of the whole, and the amount of tractive power required is therefore exceedingly smalL
The unusually small proportion of "dead- weight " is also easily accounted for. As I
have said, the great bulk of the traffic is com-
posed of slates taken down hill, and as they pack very closely when placed on edge, the weight of the small trucks required to carry them is insignificant when compared with those required to carry light and bulky goods.
It must now be clear to my readers that if the circumstances of this line were of an ordinary instead of an extraordinary charac- ter that is, if the traffic had to be conveyed over undulating gradients requiring the almost constant application of steam-power, and if the goods carried were of an ordinary description, composed of much bulky materials, requiring the use of large-bodied trucks - the results would be very different from those which Mr. Fairlie parades as being a fair example of the working of his "system."
I shall not in this letter attempt to discuss the much-vexed question of the gauge to be used for the future in Victoria ; it is one upon which a decision should not be lightly arrived at. For those colonies which have not yet constructed railways, I advocate the intro- duction of the narrow gauge, but for those which have already committed themselves to important lengths of broad gauge, it may be well to consider whether the evils of a break of gauge should be encountered. On the other hand, it is worth careful consideration whether, for the settlement of the gauge ques- tion, all colonial boundaries should uot be wiped out, and one common gauge for the entire continent adopted, all existing railways
being gradually converted to that gauge.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
April 18. W. T. DOYNE.
"TIGERS," says an Indian paper, "have so
much interfered with the letter-carriers near Ellore, that the general commanding the Mysore Division has offered leave and the use of elephants to officers who are willing to shoot them." The delicate euphuism "inter- fered" seems to imply that the tigers near Ellore live on letter-carriers.