ASHBURTON AND MOUNT SOMERS RAILWAY.
The works on this line are in full swing, and the contractors, Messrs J. Frazer and Co., are leaving no stone unturned to do the work in an efficient style. The Mount Somers Railway branches off a few chain south of the Tinwald Station, and extends in a westerly direction for a distance of about H miles. It crosses Black’s road near Cagmohr station, at the junction of •he Vaiei r.i road, and then, for the last tw > miles, the present contract wends its way through a dreary waste of tussocks until it reaches a point definitely marked on the plans, but, except for the pegs, not distinguishable from the monotonous desert of tussocks on the land which is to be benefited by the railway. Of course the construction of the line will tend to encourage, if not compel, the owners of these waste lauds to cultivate them, and hy this means assist to gradually convert what is now sheep runs into smiling farms, supporting human beings instead of siiecqi. The country through which the Mount Somers Railway runs has few engineering difficulties to contend with, in fact an easier job could hardly he imagined in the shape of railway construction ; there is not a single cutting on it, and the embankments are rarely over a couple of feet or so in height. When the extension to Mount Somers is taken in hand, some rougher country will have to he dealt with before the iron horse can make his snort heard at Mount Somers, a distance of fourteen miles from the end of t he present contract, and the south branch of the River Ashburton will have to be spanned to allow railway communication being established.
In the meantime Messrs Frazer i.nd Co. liave completed the formation to tlio end of their engagement, the ballast is on the line throughout and the plate-laying is finished for about five miles, and the subcontractor for this latter portion of the work is now busily engaged in putting the polishing touch on the metals to enable the engine to start to work next week ; and as Mr Dan Leech, who has undertaken this w r ork, is an old hand at platelaying, having been Inspector on the North lino for some years, the railway will have the various grades, curves, and cants put on in the right places and in the right way. The quality of the material being used is of a far superior nature to that used on most of the lines in the colony. The rails are of steel, weighing 401 bs to the yards, and the sleepers are of a superior quality. They are all of New Zealand timber, and owing to the great demand existing just now for sleepers all over the colony considerable difficulty is experienced in getting them from the saw-mills fast enough to keep the work going. Messrs Frazer and Co, n consequence have had to distribute their orders in all directions, Waiinate and Peel Forest supplying some really first-class black pine and totara timber. Picton the same, and Oxford black birch. Some of these latter are of a very inferior nature, and have consequently been rejected as unfit for the work. The fish plates for connecting the lengths of rails together are a new patent, and the best of the kind we have seen, and far superior to the Ibbotsons clip fish joint used on the great South lino ; another new feature is a new stjde of fancy bolt and flange, but it is certainly no improvement on the old style, being both weaker and less effective. Notwithstanding the hard times the contractors are still paying full rates of wages, the prices being 8s Gd per day to ballast fillers and 8s to surface men, and even at these rates the men created a little difficulty a week or so back by demanding 9s, but were eventually persuaded that they were getting full market value for their labor at the above-mentioned rates. All hands are “ tuckered ”on the work at a fair price per week, and are a very good sample of long handled shovel slingers. The contractors .are full handed at present, hut anticipate being able to find room for a few more in the course of a fortnight or so. Mr M‘Farlane is the engineer in charge of the work, and spares no trouble to see that everything is done efficiently and according to the strict letter of the specifications. It is expected that the work will be completed by the midule of February, which will be considerably within contract time, when allowance is made for delays caused by extra work done.
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