Friday, February 21, 2020

Ghost rails - the ambitious rail network linking Nelson with Motueka, Blenheim and the East & West Coasts of New Zealand's South Island that never happened.

Proposed railway network linking Nelson with Motueka,
Blenheim and the East and West Coasts of New Zealand.
Map drawn up by Augustus Koch in 1886.

Recently came across this map drawn up in 1886 by Augustus Koch, intriguing because it shows the proposed line of railways connecting Nelson to Motueka and Blenheim, and down the Kaikoura coast to Waipara. Residents of Motueka petitioned the Government for a railway link to Nelson right from the time the Nelson Section was extended to Foxhill in 1876 until well into the 20th century, but as we know, it never happened.

There was also a plan to extend the railway from Belgrove to Kawatiri via Tophouse, which would then connect with another ambitious railway link from Blenheim to Tophouse.This loop would then link Nelson with the East and West Coat railways. Not to be, though it remained a hot topic for many a lengthy "Letter to the Editor" published in various newspapers over the years, the problem being that the proposed line went through a number of different areas, each of which had their own ideas about it. This went on for so long that in the end the chance was lost, superceded by the growing demand for roading instead.

 Augustus Koch (1834-1901)
Cartographer and artist

However, just as interesting was the discovery of yet another of those resourceful, versatile mapmaker/draughtsman/artist/surveyors of the colonial period who often experienced the most arduous conditions in the course of their work. Augustus Carl Ferdinand Koch (1834-1901) was born in Berlin and attended the Royal Prussian Academy of Arts but fell out with the authorities over his dissident views and hastily left the country. Koch was also a talented lithographer. He brought his lithographic printing press with him when he arrived in Auckland in 1858, and played a significant part in the development of photo-lithography in connection with the production of maps. Koch accompanied the German geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter on his historic travels around the central North Island between1858-9, and undertook a variety of commissions thoughout his life, spent in later years in Wellington, where he died in 1901. 

Map references: 

Black lines show existing railways, red lines indicate proposed railways and red dotted lines forthcoming proposed railways (i.e. ones considered less urgent), Coal deposits are marked in brown, black dots being coal mines; yellow denotes alluvial gold and red gold quartz reefs.


"Marlborough Express" 10 July 1886, pg 2

"A Railway to Motueka" a letter to the Editor from E.F. Burrell.
 "Nelson Evening Mail", 23 April 1901, pg 4
Note that Edward Burrell was not one to give up easily - in 1876 he had 
called the Motueka community to a well-attended meeting at the Motueka Institute 
to  discuss ways of lobbyimg for a railway link to the town from Nelson. All to no avail.

"Marlborough-West Coast Railway Connection"
"West Coast Times" 5 July 1906, pg 4

"Death of Mr A. Koch: A Remarkable Career", an extensive obituary published in the 'Evening Post" 31 Dec 1901 

"A forgotten cartographer and artist", a post written by Simon Nathan for the Te Ara Signposts blog. 

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