Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996
Whilst reading some back issues of the Journal I came across the story of the Tramway Hotel, Karangahake, written by one of my old mining mates. The old "Tramway" certainly had bad luck with fires and reading the story reminded me of another big blaze at Karangahake. This was when the Woodstock Battery burned down in 1910.
At the time I was living in one of the boarding houses high on the ridge above Scotchman's Gully, Karangahake. From my room at the front of the building I could look out across the Woodstock Battery at the junction of the Ohinemuri and Waitawheta Rivers. The Woodstock Battery was by this time part of the Talisman Consolidated Company's property, having been purchased in 1904. The buildings were no longer used to crush and treat ore but were used for cyanide storage and also housed two large steam engines which drove three air compressors. The Talisman mine employed 350 men and the amount of compressed air used was enormous. It was used to drive drills, pumps, winches etc.
It was a mid September afternoon and I had been on the early shift at the Talisman Mine and was in my room resting when suddenly there was a great commotion. I leapt to the window to be met with the sight of the Woodstock Battery on fire. I raced out of the house and quickly joined other men at the scene. It was obvious that the fire was going to engulf the whole building so the foreman directed me and seven other of my work mates to try to move the cyanide stored there. We were successful in getting the cyanide out but the floor gave way and two men were injured, Mr McClymont with a broken leg and Mr Captick was affected by cyanide fumes.
Having done that much we got out of the building smartly, taking the injured with us, and back across the bridge to the other side of the river. At first only smoke was pouring from the openings but soon flames were shooting up and sheets of roofing iron were peeling off and flying about. The Karangahake Fire Brigade turned out but there was little they could do. The entire building was destroyed. It was fortunate that the Talisman Battery was some distance away and not affected by the fire.
Later we heard that the fire had been discovered by James Archer, the engineer in charge, at 1.45pm as he inspected the machinery. He reported that a joint on a pipe had blown out covering other hot machinery in oil. This caught alight and the flames rapidly spread to the woodwork. The building was later replaced to house new compressors. Meantime, in the mine, work continued using air from compressors situated in the other compressor building across the river. The lack of compressed air seriously affected work and we were only just able to keep the water in the mine slightly below No. 13 Level.
It was strange really that the building had been destroyed by fire as it was badly damaged by the big flood in March earlier that year. Repairs had been extensive.