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RAILWAY ROUTE.

MARUIA AND LEWIS SADDLE. LAND SETTLEMENT. NELSON AND ML*RCHISOX. (By Our Special Reporter.) Few portions of thfe Midland Railway district command more interest than that which radiates from Murchisob, the principal township of the Upper Buller Gorge. A vosea'te' goldmining. past has faded away, leaving the community with" the prospect either of stagnation or of seriously tackling the land, Question. Assisted by the vigorous policy of the Nelson .Land Board, the community is rising to the occasion, and closer settlement ia the order of the day. . The locality of most of .the new settlement is a group of four rivers tributary to the Buller — the Matakitaki, Mangles, and Maruia flowing in from the left, tho Matiri from the right. Unlike the parent river, ' which is a gorge, the four streams, as one ascends, widen out into grazing land, much of it bejng good limestone 'country. Mea» suring the area lengthwise it may po said that settlement begins at the junction of the Owen River with the Buller, about twenty miles from , the ■ Hope Saddle (the dividing rango, between Nelson and the Buller), and extends about thirteen miles south-westward to Murchison, the centre of the territory' included in the four -river valleys, WORKING HIGH COUNTRY. The blocks selected between the Owen Junction arid Murchison are Owen; Owen East, Matiri Valley, and -Matiri East, comprising 37,000 acres. The freeholder is in evidence in a beautiful alluvial flat round • Murchison, extending four miles along the Buller, and the gem of the gorge. The -soil is rich", and 6ome of the properties are well farmed. Following on Fern Flat are the Maruia North and another block, comprising 44,000 acres, which makes the total selected area 81,000 acres. An additional area of 48,000 acres (Mid-Maruia and other blocks) is about to be opened, and other ground awaiting survey includes 30,000 acres (Braeburn), and 20,000 acres near Lake Rotorqa. The land is described 'as being capable, when stripped and grassed, of carrying two sheep to the acre. The /formation is limestone, conglomerate, and, in! some cases, granitic. ■ Some of the country is high — MidMaruia block ranges from 650 ft above sea-level on the banks of the Maruia, to 2500 ft on tho back spurs — and it is impossible to put small settlers on the elevated sheep areas of Southern Nelson unless a proportion of river flat or sheltered land can be worked in with the "summer" country, on the, mountain sides. The land is" Doing cut up with regard to this . consideration, also aspect to. the sun. Speaking generally, the great drawback of 'the South Island is the large proportion ' of mountainous region which •is entirely, or Eartly, waste: and every acre tha*t can, y judicious working, be brought into Eroduction is a new asset. The pumice elt in the heart of the North Island is not nearly s^ich a problem as the rock faces "and shingle slides of the "South. MOUNTAIX-LOCKED. The Marina has carved out; for itselfa- most remarkable valley in the very centre of the northern half of the island. Fiom its head-waters, boxed in with -mountains, _you> may _ cross the great Spencer fan'ge*{lfew« Saddle) intothe valley of tho Waiau, which includes Hanmer and Oulverden in North Canterbury. Westward, you may climb over ♦he Victoria range (Rahu Saddle) into the watershed of the Jnangahua, which is Reef ton; or you may "work out by the head of the Maruia into the valley of the Brown Grey and thence to Greymouth. All these distances" are fairly short, but the mountain ranges which divide the watershed areas ere high, and lack of access 'has been 'a huge handicap. Only bridlfe or pack tracks connect tvith the Waiau, tha Grey, or with Reefton j and if you go down the Maruia to the Bnller, there is no bridge. To reach Murchison you must cross into the paiallel valtay of the Mafukttaki. A road, to serve the Crown ecttlere, is now under construction from Murchison. up the 'Maruia, and when completed will be about thirty miles long. The bridle track from Reefj ton 'is also being converted intc> a dray road. In the meantime the pack-horse remains the means of transport to the Upper Maraialhe dntrict is historic. Notwithstanding its remoteness, the first settlers in the Maruia came in about' thirty-five years ago. Although the four tributaries are well down on tho West Coast side, over thirty miles from Hope Saddle, the pioneers not from the Coast, but from Kelson. In the early days of that province, tho "Sheep Association" took up the Lake Station at the sourcefi of the Buller, whence the Maruia settlers migrated, among them being Mr. Walker, who has followed grazing and mining pursuits ever ' since. A couple of -years after their advent, Reefton began its career a« a i^oldCeM. It w*3 prob.ibly about then "-that tracts were cut to. the Grey and to Reeftou. The insccewiLtlity of this .country may be gauged ironi the story of. the Lost Lube j — a ha 11c. \l of settlers who beeunle so cut ctf from the "outside world that they foigot their ' former associations, even their names, and rtlap->cJ Into a state of Arcadian simplicity. So, at any rate, the legend rnjii. OLD' GOLD- WISHING DAYfe Th-2 early 'cettlers ssem to have gone to tho Upper AJ .truia net because of its remoteness or the chaijiw oi solitude, but because it i& more open than the lower reaches, which are fahly heavily forested. Having no easy means af packing out wool, they w^nt in fcr cattle rather than sheep, "the latter being a later importation. In the old days they bad a great markit — days when miners thronged the voiicj's, when the claims numbered 600 to 700, and -there were 450- on the Ma- I takitaki alone. Some re-ocho of the gold-m times seemed to be possible when the dredgos came in, but gold dredging on the Matakitaki, as on the Bulrer, has failed. A little "sluicing goes on, but ' the future pf the country tends nioreand more to land'-fcu'ttlement, more particullariy 'since the Alidland Railway Company'h T ese:vution& have bc-an liited, un(ock'iug largo aieas the cmbnrgo on which had paralysed the district. Since then .Jiurci-ibon has been on the up-grade, and i& noWa comfortable place, with a couple of. Lotub, stores, arid other accessories of a country township. Seeing that the Hope Saddle, 2300 ft, stands Ir-ttvecn MuiohiSon and Nelson, dno would think that the trade of this district would iall, like the Bullbt, to the West Coast. But ifc docs not. The grades^ of the Buller coach road betow Murchison" and iibuw Lyeil are severe, including lulls liko "Dublin Terrace," and although Westport and Rrpfton supply Lyell, Nelson caters, for Murchison. Mileage from railway is shorter on the Nelson sklc, ar,d if tta Taclmcr line is continued to the coach rond. will continue to be shorter even if the W.est Coast line conies £0 Inangahtui. As a result of the extension of the Taclmor lin;. Murchison hopos to reduce freights on its impoits from £6 10s to £2 a ton, because hi that case the, Hone Saddle will be avoided. Murchiscn decs not export any produce or stock to tire West Coast except wnat is driven off on its legs, but in this du°eUiou the trade is a valuable one, as

the Coast markets absorb practically the whole of the marketable stock. Possibly the law of interchange, which is the key to the ldationship of buyer and seller, wiu eventually enforce itself, an<J' result m mutual trading, but there seems to be no immediate prospect of Nelson losing its hold on the district. Strangely enough, Murchison is not on the coach road, which all these years has b:en kept on the opposite (right) bide of tlie Buller becaus* 01 the lack of a bridge' acro-s the river oh the West Coabt sido. Tenders hnvo now b?en called by the Government for this bridge, and o*ll its ejection .through coaches will ho doubt drive through Murchison, or stop the night there, instead of At Lougford. This will be a- better arrangement both'for Murchison and for the travelling public. LEWIS SADDLE RAILWAY. It is by the way of the Rahu, the Upper, Maruia, and Lowis Saddle that the Reefle-n people wish to carry the proposed Lewis Saddle or Cannibal Gorge railway to Culvarden. According to a ,trial snrvoy in the possession of the Public Works Department, the Lewis ■ Saddle • would be crossed at a -height of 2800 ft. It is stated in Reefton that the Rahu' can be crossed al, a height of 2000 ft with an easy grade. The'descent from Lewis Saddle to the Amuri would bs made via the Boyle, Hope, and Waia"u rivers. Westport and Greymouth being almost equi-distant from Reefton, this rquto would put them both at'practically equal distances from Culverden and from Christchurch. • Reefton would .be the junction, and everything on the .hunk line between the two coasts would pass through it. Not unnaturally, there is a considerable local feeling -in favour of the Lewis Saddle route as against that via Arthur's Pass. Mr. I. Patterson, of Reefton, secretary of the local Railway League, estimates the distance from .Reefton to Culverden by the Lewis Saddle , route at 103 miles. Adopting this as a basis of calculation, the following ,are comparative distances from Christchurch to various towns and coalfields on the West Coast, taking each of the two routes :—: —

From Culverden 'to Westport and Greymouth would be about 145 and 146 miles respectively. THE DISTANCE TEST. The distances from Christchurch are all in favour of the Arthur's Pass route. Taking the seaports first, the shortest distance from Christchurch to. a West Coast port by Culverden and Reefton is j 68 miles longer than the shortest distance from Christchurch to a West Coast port by Arthur's Pass route. Supporters of the Lewis Saddle route will say that Westport, and not Greymouth, is ! the dependable and properly central port of the Coast. The distance from Christchurch to Westport by Arthur's Pass is, I however, according to the above j only a few miles longer than the distance via Lewis Saddle. From the standpoint of distance, Greymouth loses a lot by tho Lewjs route, and Westport gains but a little. v With regard to coalfields, the distance from Christchurch to existing 'mines is shown to be about sixty miles greater by tho Lewis Saddle — a very large item in heavy haulage. As to potential coalfields — if the Lewis line were built, railage from Inangahua to Christchurch 'would be 44 miles greater than railage from Blackball to Christchurch, via Ar-thur's-Pasa. Similarly, if the Reefton CO3I mines were developed, railage via Ijewis- Saddle wonld be 26 miles greater than the Blackball distance, or 31 miles freater than that from 'Brunner. Mr. 'atterson states that "the Lfewis. route ■would tap coal 'in the Upper Maruia Valley at 135 miles from Christchurch, and that the Brunner coalmine, which is a similar distance from Christchurch on the Arthur's Pass line, is worked out. But if Brunner bo an exhausted proposition, Maruia is not" a proved one. Moreover, there are tho Tyueside, Blackball, and other mines within, ten miles of Brunner, all engaged'' in. serious business. Reefton may be, as Mf. Patterson claims, the centre of the 1 greatest coalfield in New Zealand. But tho Lewis Saddle route would put outputting coalmines sixty miles further away, and- vrould not bring the /potential ones a great deal nearer. OTHER POINTS. But Mr. Patterson has other arguments for the Lewis Skddlo route. He says that it opens up much better country than that along the Arthur's Pass line ; and this is. true. In addition to the Maruia, a railway, from Culverdon across the divide would develop the valuable grazing lands of <th 3 Aniuri a:id the Upper \Ya?au. now he,ld in largo estates— much of :he high country boin^j leased in lingo blocks trom the Crown. According to tha Reoftori argument, one of the big estates on the Waiau sidf-, Glenwye, could pf itself, if t were acquired and cut' up, support 74 families. (N.B.— V/hilo Keefton talks resumption, it ■oinplains in the same breath that Amuri squatters, view this railway scheme with ecldness '.) There is notspuco to do inor,e than suminurise the c;.Be presented 'by Mr. Pattcison. tie says that a grade of 1 in 50 could he j»ot via Lewis fi,xrldle. as against 1 in 33 in the Artluu's Pass tunnel ; that tho marble deposit and minerals of. the ,Maruia, and the pystoral areas, of that valley and the Upper Amuri, would make the milwuv auctions pay from the e.l?rt; th.it tho'ultininte rcilwav connection with Nelson could be made I with a line down tbe -Mamia atvl up tlto 1 Buller, more cheaply and advantageously than by the present proposed route from Tttdmor to luangahua ; that the (irey bur is frequently - interrupted, and that thu Lake Brunner timber mills in the Giey Valley will be cut out in about five years. Against this latter statement, a^ man in Greymoutb, who is in a position to judge, and who i« not- interested in the timber industry, aesUred 'the writer that the timber handy to the railway line would last for at loasj. ten years, and that the valleys going south ure practically untouched. QUESTION OF COST. As to cost. Mr. Patterson quotes an offer made many years ago by an engineering finn to construct a railway bettvcsn Culverden and Reefton for £6000 a mile, which rate, allowing for a distiiiic^ of 100 'miles, would absorb &60U,. 000 — fhe mnio amount as the Arthur's Pass tuiinr-1 will cost. A glance at the plans in the Public Works Office, showing tbe nature of the country and the work at the saddle, tends to show that the cost would not be less than £10,000 a mile. say. a million in all. What the Lewis Saddle people propose involves the abandonment jof the Arthur's Pans route —wln.-h luis swallowed over halt a -million, nnd. which, it is declared, will take .something Jess than a milli6n to complete — in order to put at least a million into n railway between Culverden and Keefton. Kven if the Lewis Saddle route han all Mic advantages its supporters lny claim fc> — find it certainly possesses some of them— the time for .such a radical change of policy has loiifr gone by.

From Ghristchurch. Reef ton ... Westporfc Grey mouth Brunnor ... ' Blackball Inangahua Lewis Saddle. Miles. ... 169 ... 214 ... 215 ... 207 ... 200 ... 137 A \rfchur'; Pass. Miles 174 219 146 133 143 192

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RAILWAY ROUTE., Evening Post, Volume LXXIV, Issue 38, 13 August 1907

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2,423

RAILWAY ROUTE. Evening Post, Volume LXXIV, Issue 38, 13 August 1907

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