TRAMWAY LEAGUE. A preliminary meeting of property holders on the Ferntree Gully road and district was held at the Half-Way-House, Mulgrave, on Monday, January 26, to con- sider the desirability of forming a Tramway League, with a view to the construction of a light line of railway through a portion of the Shire of Oakleigh. About twenty gentlemen were present, and Mr. W. Ingram occupied the chair. The proposed route was from the Oakleigh railway station to the Warrigal road, thence to the Dandenong road as far as Clayton's road, down Bailey's lane to the Ferntree Gully road and on to Wheeler's hill, with a branch to the High street road through the Black Flat. Mr. B. Cowderoy was glad of the present opportunity to speak strongly in favor of the proposal. He was sorry there was not a larger attendance, but as great results often arose from small beginnings, he was by no means disheartened or doubtful as to the ultimate success of the undertaking. If the land owners of the district would come forward and co-operate with the promoters, success would be ensured. Light lines of railway were working well in other parts of the world and acted as feeders to the main lines. In the Legislative Council last session it was suggested that a light line of railway should be laid down to Beaconsfield, and he regretted that the proposal was opposed by the Government. The district was smarting under the deprivation of easy access to the metropolis. The Ringwood route to Ferntree Gully was utterly use- less to those who lived within a few miles of Oakleigh. He was still of opinion that Parliament made a grave error when it adopted that route, and as they had been left entirely in the cold it behoved them to bestir themselves and look after their own interests. It was reasonable to anticipate if a tramway were laid down there would be a large influx, of population and that the value of property would be considerably enhanced. Stiff gradients proved no obstacle to the satisfactory working of portable railways, if propelled by motors manufactured on the most modern principles and with the latest and most scientific improvements. While in Europe he had an opportunity of gaining a practical knowledge of the value of these light lines of railway, and was convinced they would work equally well here. The motors in Birmingham and the in land counities were noiseless and almost smoke- less, and being boxed all round did not interferes with the vehicular traffic or frighten the horses. They could be run on the road side and be no hindrance to the ordinary traffic in any way. If this could be done many residents would be saved the heavy expense of keeping grooms, horses and buggies. These lines would bring to their destination not only passengers, but merchandise of every description. The roads would not be cut up by the locomotives and the Council would gain a corresponding, advantage, while the community generally would be benefitted by the advantages that must accrue, from themselves and their goods being conveyed to the main line at a very trifling cost. The present proposal could only be determined on after careful enquiry, and he was of opinion that the cost was within the means of the community and that eventually the financial result would be a gratifying success to all interested. There might be difficulties in carrying out the scheme, but these would be overcome by municipal legislation, and he ventured to hope the Oakleigh Shire Council would approve of the step they had in contemplation, and give them not only the benefit of their influential support and assistance bit also help them financially. It was not expected the line would pay at once, but in course of time it most assuredly would. As an evidence of his confidence in the undertaking, he was quite prepared to invest his money in the venture. He moved— "That Parliament having decided that the Railway to Ferntree Gully shall be constructed via Ringwood as a branch of the Lilydale line, and thereby ignored the claims of the district lying between Oakleigh and the Gully, it is considered by this meeting that an effort should be made to have the wants of the district supplied by a tramway or light line of railway connecting with the Melbourne and Oakleigh railway." Mr. J. T. Cotter was of opinion that the line would never pay unless there were the necessary trucks for conveying heavy traffic. It was only on exceptional occasions there was an unuusal influx of passengers. Mr. E. Jones : These lines would carry heavy goods of every description. In reply to a question, Mr. Cowderoy said that probably it might be necessary to secure Parliamentary sanction to the scheme, but there would be no difficulty in obtaining that. Mr. R. Walpole, the accredited agent of Messrs. Dick, Kerr and Co., the patentees of the permanent steel railway, gave full details of the advantages of portable railways. He claimed for them:— 1, extreme simplicity; 2, quick mounting and dismounting of the line; 3, absolute security for correct gauge at the laying, as the sleeper is perfect to gauge before being despatched ; 4, the gauge between the rails can never vary, however severely it may be tested, thus guarding against one of the most frequent causes of accidents ; 5, there are no spikes, cotters or keys required; 6, the sleepers are quite as easily packed in the ballast as wooden sleepers; 7, skilled labor for laying the permanent way is not required; 8, they are stronger and more durable than wooden sleepers. The prime cost of this light line of railway was stated to be as follows :—21lb. rails, 36in. gauge, £580 per mile; turn-table, £40; locomotive, £140; first-class passenger car, to carry from 30 to 50 passengers, £130; first class 4-wheel small bogie car, to carry 24 passengers, £55; timber waggon, £20; covered goods waggon, £10; opened goods bogie, £25 ; ditto with break gear, £30; platform waggon, £10 10s. These railways were specially adapted to districts with small means—would cost about £1200 per mile fully equipped, and would carry passengers and cargo. In India the troops when invalided were carried up the hills with their luggage to the extent of twenty-four carriages, impelled by only one motor. Wherever a tramway had been laid down population followed, and building on a large scale took place. The probable returns could be easily estimated and the rails could be taken up and removed elsewhere at a trifling cost. He (Mr. Walpole) believed in a few years there would be as many portable rail- ways in Australia as in Great Britain. Now that some discussion is taking place regarding certain railway lines which are looked upon as simple feeders to the main trunk lines, also as certain communities are particularly interested in obtaining the facilities of railway communication in their districts for both freight and passengers, he had ventured to take the
liberty of asking them to kindly allow him to place the following facts applicable to the same before them:—The rapid development of railway enterprise in this and the neighboring colonies within recent years as been remarkable. Though much has been done, still a magnificent field is left untouched, a field which can only be accomodated by the adoption of the less expensive system of either portable ; semi-portable or fixed narrow gauge lines. 'The ordinary gauge of 48½in. which may be accepted as the standard gauge for the great railway system of Great Britain, represents an average cost per mile of £39,000, including all equipment, or about £7,000 to £8,000 per mile in the colonies, whereas a narrow gauge line could be laid down at £1,000 to £1,500 per mile with full equipment. The average return to investors on the ordinary lines is four percent. Rich and prosperous countries alone can sustain the burden of this enormous capital cost per mile, whereas young countries would be crushed under the load. If a country or district cannot support a first-class line, with its attendant expenses, the question arises what can be substituted? The answer is a narrow gauge railway. There are many districts where high speed is not a necessity (say over fifteen miles an hour) where lines of a gauge varying from 2ft. to 3ft. 6in. would be a great boom, and yield a magnificent return to the share holders or to the Government. The con- struction of branch lines by the large rail- way companies in England, on their or- dinary principles, has proved very unfor- tunate. What is necessary is the construction of narrow gauge lines, to act as feeders to the main lines. Break of gauge with the necessary transhipment will be the objections raised to this proposal. The capital cost per mile, the cheap working expenses, which will only average from 35 per cent. to 50 per cent. of the gross earnings, and the knowledge that the charge for transhipping only costs from 6d. to 8d. per ton, establishes the fact that it is better to have a paying line to a losing one, or, as it happens in many instances, no line at all. Small traffic receipts are only equal to paying small working expenses. It is very proper to show due regard for future development, but the first consideration should be to construct a paying line. The better it pays the sooner will the facilities be increased, when the raison d'etre has been fully established. The necessary capital required for extensions and alterations can be readily and cheaply procured, that is, presuming the Government did not see their way to carry the matter out. A light narrow gauge railway cannot be trespassed upon by the heavy engines of a main line, neither can the, waggons belonging to the branch line go, astray on the main line. On this account the traffic can be carried on by a moderate equipment of rolling stock, which may be likewise moderate in size and weight, and therefore more manageable and economical in working expenses. Narrow gauge railways are now beyond the experimental stage, when it is known that. some thousands of miles have been constructed throughout the world with the most satisfactory financial results. Perhaps the best known is the Festiniog railway way in North Wales, constructed to a gauge of 1ft. 11½in. This line, four miles long, pays an annual average dividend of' 29 per cent on the original cost of £36,000, and the per centage of working expenses to gross receipts is 44.5. Before closing, I would quote the following remarks of a well known engineer, regarding some projected lines in Austria. He says— "Several new lines, 4ft. 8½in. in gauge, have been sanctioned, which, consequence of the difficult nature of the country, will be enormously expensive to construct, and which will be costly to work. No profitable financial results can be hoped for from these lines if the, normal gauge is adhered to, whilst on the other hand, if a narrow gauge with all its advantages of building and working were adopted, greater accomodation would be obtained, and the line could be made to pay." The above conclusions are sound and most applicable to some of the proposed new lines which many of the Shire Councils are so anxious to obtain. The workings of these lines were shown by a number of photographic illustrations.] Mr. E. May liked to know that any money he invested would return him a fair rate of interest. He desired to see the district go ahead, but doubted if the project would ever pay. In populous communities the venture might be a success, but in this sparsely populated neighborhood the scheme was premature and must result in utter failure. "Mr. E. Jones said that in Adelaide tramways had made the suburbs, and the shareholders were receiving good dividends. They had opened up fresh districts, induced building operations on a large scale and increased the population. He thought the Government would come to their assistance and lend them money at four per cent. At the present time the town of Horsham was constructing a tramway to the Grampians, and the Legis- lature was providing the funds. The motion was seconded by Mr. J. Balfour and carried. It was then further resolved "That the following gentlemen be a com- mittee, with power to add to their number, to investigate the question and to report to a future meeting of the landowners of the district as to the practicability of establishing communication by tramway with the railway line at Oakleigh, and as to the best means of effecting the desired object :—Messrs. B. Cowderoy, J. Balfour, E, May, W. Tompson, J. T. Cotter, S. Gordon, J. Johnson, E. Head and E. Jones. At the request of the committee, Mr. T. G. Wilkinson consented to act as hon. sec. Votes of thanks to the chairman and Mr. Walpole terminated the proceeding.