Tramway to Victoria Battery - The Rake
At Martha Hill most traces of tramways are lost, and still being obliterated.
The tramways through the urban area of Waihi have been largely built over, but their route through the town deserves marking in some way. Detailed mapping and careful investigation on the ground would be very worthwhile.
The Mangatoetoe rail overbridge is one of the first tangible remains of the tramway. At Victoria Street, within the "Railway Historic Area" the tramway cutting is largely intact.
Beyond the residential area of Waihi the tramway formation is readily identifiable for much of its length. Relatively little damage has occurred to the tramway formation, though much of it is grassed and grazed, and cuttings are full of debris.
Much of the tramway is adjacent to the proposed Ohinemuri River Walkway, and this brief interpretation will focus on this area.
As the tramway leaves the town of Waihi on its way to Victoria Battery, it approaches the Ohinemuri River, a little upstream from the Waihi Dredging Plant site and Masonry Dam. Black Bridge (black because of the creosote or pitch with which it was painted) took the tramway across the river at this point. The embankment at the Waihi side is very distinctive, and some stone retaining and foundation timber can be seen at the river end of it.
The bridge abutment on the other side of the river is less obvious, but some concrete remains in the pasture at the top of the riverbank. Heavy scrub obscures any remains that may be close to the water’s edge.
The tramway sweeps away from the river, not returning to it until McKinney Road. Shortly after the bridge a shallow, curved cutting is evident, and three old telegraph poles (made of railway irons) remain. Some masonry blocks are scattered on the sides of the tramway.
The tramway becomes a well used farm race and farm driveway beyond here to McKinney Road. This long straight section is a raised embankment. The tramway crossed the low level water race close to where the modern McKinney Road ends at the river. No surface evidence of this crossing remains. The tramway and race are difficult to make out in this area. The Old Tauranga Road used to cross the Ohinemuri at this point. The remains of a bridge pier, and a ford, can be seen in the river.
Beyond McKinney Road the tramway is close to the river for some distance until a large river flat is encountered. This was the half way point of the tramway, and contained a passing loop to allow the returning empty rake to pass the full rake on its way to the battery. A small water race for boiler feed water captured water from a small stream, at a dam near where Pukekauri Road crosses it. The race ended at the top of the bank above the main low level water race, and was piped over it to a tank used for watering the locomotives. Coal was also stored here in case it was required.
Leaving "the halfway", a small cutting has now been smoothed away, and the tramway approaches the river closely, entering a long and deep cutting. Near the beginning of the cutting the low level water race crosses over the tramway, at sufficient height to allow clear passage beneath for the locomotives. This is a wonderful feature, intact but for the water race flume/bridge. Wonderful also the tramway cutting beyond this, which is deep and narrow. It is overhung by trees, clogged with debris and holding water.
Shortly after emerging from this cutting there is another cutting, close to the river. This cutting is also overhung by trees, and clogged with debris. Half way through this cutting can be found an amazing drainage feature. The tramway cutting has interrupted a small stream on its way to the Ohinemuri River. To accommodate this, the stream has been let down into a shaft until deep enough to be piped under the tramway. The shaft can be accessed from the tramway, and the stream can be seen as it falls down the shaft.
Leaving this cutting the tramway is raised on an embankment close to the river, enters a low wide cutting, then crosses under the low level water race again. The water race has been on the other side of the Ohinemuri River, crossing back at this point on a trestle bridge, an extension of which crosses the tramway.
A long sweeping bend takes the tramway across river flat on a large bend in the river. It approaches the river again where the state highway also comes close to the river on the other side, and remains close to the river all the way to the Victoria Battery. After traversing a length of pasture, the tramway enters a stretch of roughly vegetated ground, in which can be found many interesting features.
The tramway embankment is intact over this entire section (except for two missing bridges), as is the low level water race. Many steel items, including two gyratory ore crusher liners can be seen adjacent to the tramway. This area may have been a dumping ground for the battery, and deserves investigation.
Next is the quarry in the cliff above the tramway. This area is quite overgrown, but much could be learnt here. There are rails on the quarry floor, bolts in the ground, and a cable and eyebolt. The water race runs between the tramway and the quarry, so some mechanism for transporting the stone over the race to the tramway must have operated. Opposite the quarry, between the tramway and the river is situated a small, steep sided conical hill, which is possibly man made. Could it have served as an anchor point for a cableway, to move stone from quarry to tram?
Beyond the quarry, in the depression formed between the tramway embankment and the hillside (and edge of water race), lie battery tailings. The Waihi Goldmining Company stacked (stored) concentrates tailings here, presumably transported by the tramway, for possible future reprocessing. This area is flat, grows very little vegetation, and is frequently covered in water. The tailings comprise mainly iron pyrites, which glitter enticingly when scraped up by a finger.
"Owing to our available stacking ground being full, we have, since October, been unable to continue conserving the tailings, the actual cost of conveying them to the nearest site, about a mile distant, being prohibitive.
We have very little hope of ever being able to treat these tailings at a profit, but are making every endeavour so to increase the extraction on the concentrates, that this question of the value of the tailings will become of less importance." (Superintendent’s Annual Report for 1907)
As the tramway approached the battery site it divided, one branch to the ore breakers, the other (which itself had several branch lines) followed the river to the engine sheds and Main Trunk sidings. These are difficult to discern once in the open pasture. Directly opposite the current Waikino Railway Station can be seen the cuttings where the tramway at first divides.