The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1880.
The Philosophical Institute possesses a remarkably good president in Mr. Dobson, C.B. His address to his hearers at Christchurch on the evening of the 18th inst., occupied some hours in delivery, and five and a quarter columns in the local “Times.” The subjects dilated on were various, and showed how versatile a genius the institute possessed in their chairman. All sorts of topics were touched upon, some of which the speaker was evidently well up in, and on others he showed that he only spoke from theory, and without that practical knowledge necessary to give an “ ex cathedra” opinion, as the President of so important and scientific a body as he addressed the other evening. His address was of so wide spread and voluminous a character that it is difficult to decide upon which subject to tackle him, for he commences with criticisims on the construction of railways, then suddenly floats into irrigation, from that he goes into geodetic surveys, altitudes, barometic levels, road making, river conservation, sewerage,' street-tramways, Greek and Latin, Ulysses, Corfu, and gas-lighting, till onp gets bewildered at the amount of knowledge possessed by one single brain, for like Goldsmith’s schoolmaster, we are lost in awe and admiration. “ For still the wonder grew That one small head could carry all he knew.” The address is; .however, to be admired for the fearlessness with which he attacks all public works which have been carried out in a slovenly or unscientific manner, and Mr. Dobson, from his professional acquirements and extensive local knowledge, is perhaps one of the best authorities in the colony on subjects connected with civil engineering in all its branches. He very properly condemns the alteration of the gauge of the railways in Canterbury, on the ground that the extra cost of maintenance more than absorbs the interest on the cost of construction of the wider and better line, and debars us from ever having the privilege of a high rate of speed. He is very severe on the system of road making as adopted by Road Boards in Canterbury. In another column we quote his remarks in full upon this subject, and we must say that to some extent they are deserved. _ There are roads in this county upon which the public funds have been spent which are now far worse, as roads, than they were in the state Nature left them. The design of them was bad, the execution of the work execrable, the main object in view seeming to be a desire on the part of the various Road Boards to spend their money in utterly useless works. There have been exceptions, and in some districts there are good roads to show for the money spent, but we cannot for one moment admit that the gravel banks and scoured-out ditches about some of the road districts deserve the name of raads. They are as Mr. Dobson says, “shunned by horsemen.” But we cannot endorse all his opinions on the matter of road making, he disapproves of the use of the plough and scoop to form a road, and says that it would be better to put the shingle on original surface ; there we must disagree j with him. The best roads we have are those which have been formed the width of the road, and coated with shin AB in the centre. There is then a good mer track, easy to travel, on each side om the road, and the centre shingled road foA winter use, and a good water table on each side ; whereas Mr. Dobson’s proposed road would have no proper slope for drainage, and the sides would very soon become ruts. His argument applies to the abortions of roads which are made in some places, only half a chain wide, and with so high a crown in the centre that no teamster ever dares to trevel on them, and many miles of this sort are now solely used for the development of thistles of abnormal growth, bidding defiance to the approach of man or beast, but wherever roads have been made the full width and have had a fair share of traffic on them,
there will be found good roads, easily kept in repair, and well dramed. Another advantage possessed by them is the impossibility nuisance arising from the spread of gtfee on the sides of roads so noticeable on the narrow formations. Altogether, Mr. Dobson’s contribution to the Institute was a most interesting one, and well worthy of reading and digesting.