Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 7, May 1967
By LES MORGAN
As the result of an enquiry from the South Island re privately owned tram lines in the Waihi area the thought was born that a number of present day residents did not remember the tram lines that were about Waihi and a short article about them might be of some interest.
The main one, of course, was the last one to disappear, the Mining Company's line to Waikino. This was constructed when the company built the Victoria battery at Waikino and was used to transport the quartz from the hoppers at the various shafts to the crushers at the battery and also to bring coal and other stores from Waikino to Waihi. It was opened in the late 1890s and was about 5½ miles long. There were 2 rakes running on the line and a passing loop and water tank were built about half way between the mine and battery so that while one was at Waihi picking up a full load the other was at Waikino unloading. Each rake consisted of about 35 tracks, each of 3 tons capacity. When the Government line was built, the construction being assisted by a loan from the Mining Company, a spur was put in at the Waikino yards and most of the mining supplies were put off there and transhipped to the company's rakes and delivered right to the mine. It was often a Saturday morning entertainment for some of the small lads of Waihi to go along the line with a sugar bag and collect the coal that had fallen from the trucks or the hopper on the locomotive.
There was a branch line which ran along Silverton Rd. and up Schoolhouse lane to the old No.3 shaft and opposite the old Central School there was quite a cutting and many old pupils will remember the bridges that spanned the cuttings, e.g.: one with the steps right opposite the headmasters house, where some of them used to try and drop stones down the funnel of the locomotive as it passed underneath, risking the "cuts" [Corporal punishment, by way of stick or leather strap –E] from "Pa Benge" if caught at it.
Prior to the Waikino line being built the quartz from the mine was treated at the old Union battery [Waihi Battery at Union Hill – E] at the East end of the town, there was a short line from the mine to this battery. It ran along Pipe Lane and the trucks were horse drawn.
The earliest tram line connected with the carriage of quartz from a mine to the treatment plant was the one built by the Silverton Gold Mining Company [no – E] and ran from their mine, at the back of Union Hill, through the well known Worths Paddock, near George St. It crossed Rosemont Rd. between Wilson and Evans St. and went to the battery at the end of Silverton Rd., on the bank of the Ohinemuri River, near the junction of the Mangatoetoe Stream.
These lines were all used in connection with the carriage of quartz for treatment, but there were a number of other tram lines which were used in connection with the timber required for the mines, both for use underground and also for firing. One of these served Hogans bush and ran across the hills to the north of the town, from west to east and came down from the hills near the Junction battery and along Junction Rd. to No.6 shaft. This line was about 4 miles in length and there were a number of branches from it to the various bush workings.
Another line used practically for mining timber only, was the one serving Walmsley's bush. This ran in a northerly direction at the east end of the town, up past the Willows, and about 5 miles back into the hills. This line was used by a number of the residents of the East-end to transport firewood by trolley at week-ends also by the younger fry to travel to "Kingfern Gully" or to get Nikau. When this bush was worked out the line was used by the Borough Council to bring metal from the quarry to hoppers which it had built at the Barry Road end.
It was this line that was referred to by that great story teller of yesteryear, "Bones", when he told the following about his fowls. "The fowls were not laying too well and were getting thin so Bones and his brother watched them to see if they could find the explanation. They found that when they threw the wheat to the fowls the sparrows came down in flocks and stole most of it. To combat this they switched to maize and all went well for a time but then the fowls lost condition again. A watch was again set up and it was found that the sparrows were taking the maize and carrying it to the tram line and waiting for the trucks of metal to come along and crush it".
Most of the building timber of that era came from the bush to the south west of Waihi and was milled by the Tamaki Sawmilling Company. The timber from this bush was brought out by horse drawn tram and the rails of the track were wooden. The tram line came from the bush - down what is now Woodlands Rd., along Ford Rd., past the site of the cheese factory and out to the Tauranga Rd. opposite the cemetery. The logs were then taken by horse drawn lorries to the mill which was situated at the rear of where the Memorial Hall now stands. When checking details of this tram line with a well known business man of Waihi, who spent his boyhood here, he stated that he remembered the line well. It was often a week-end past-time of this man and his father to go to the bush and shoot pigeons. Strictly legal in those years he states, and they would call at the stables where the horses were kept and the man in charge, one Gillibrand, would harness up a horse, yoke it to a truck and off would go the party. It was uphill to the bush and when the party arrived they would turn the horse loose and it would return to the stable. When the time came for the shooters to return they just launched the truck at the top of the line and coasted down to the stable, often having to use a large piece of wood as a brake to steady its progress.
Another tram line not actually connected with Waihi, but which will no doubt be remembered by many is the Kauri Timber Company line which brought timber logs from the bush at Waitawheta to the Government railway line at Owharoa. This line was cut out of the side of the hill on the opposite side of the Falls from the roadway and reminded one of a scenic railway, as there were inclines and flat parts all the way down. It joined the line just on the Paeroa side of the bridge and trains used to shunt from the old Owharoa station to pick up the logs. After the Kauri Timber Company ceased to use it an incline was built down to the yard at the Waikino battery and mine timber was brought from the Waitawheta bush for the mine.
Such is the story of the old tram lines, now only a memory, having had to give way in the name of progress to the large diesel lorries which transport the material much quicker and more economically.