New Zealand Railways

NEW ZEALAND'S RAILWAY SYSTEM was at its greatest length of 5,656 km until, on 5 December 1953, the Outram branch near Dunedin was closed. The branch, 14.5 km in length, serving only one small settlement and running almost its entire length through farmland, was one of many rural lines in New Zealand that owed their existence to local political interests. Landowners, in order to win their case for a railway, had offered to make land available free of charge provided trains ran six days a week. The line opened to traffic on 1 October 1877. By the early 1950s, however, the branch's economics were typical of many rural lines. Passenger services had ended in 1950 and in its last years the only goods traffic of note was the cartage of lime and fertiliser. Average weekly freight amounted to 107 tons inwards, just seven tons outwards. On average, sheep and cattle transport on the line amounted to twenty-three head a week. In 1951 the Outram branch lost £5,056, a figure almost double its revenue. On top of that, New Zealand Railways (NZR) determined that £16,000 needed to be spent on new sleepers to keep the line safe for trains. The end was thus inevitable.


Fighting On Empty

TEN MONTHS BEFORE IT was to bomb Pearl Harbor, Japan's economic planning was still in disarray, astonishing considering how difficult the struggle would be against the financial and resources power of the United States. Shipping was just one of the problems. The Japanese military required so many vessels to maintain supplies for its army in China — in the first half of 1939 some 1.6 million gross tons, about thirty per cent of the Japanese merchant fleet, was monopolised by the military to ship troops and equipment to the Chinese theatre and also supplying Japanese forces up the Yangtze River — that it left Tokyo with insufficient numbers of merchantmen to maintain its foreign trade and, consequently, maintain its earnings of foreign exchange. But this foreign exchange imperative, and the need to conserve spending as the scope of the war effort widened, also worked against chartering of foreign vessels to fill its trade gap.


Mining Investor's Handbook

BACK IN 1937, AS Washington planners realised they may be drawn into war, the Americans recognised that they faced a problem. Without tungsten, the defence plants could not make armour or ammunition tough enough and sufficiently heat-resistant. The metal was already used in railway lines, chisels, hacksaws, armour plate and armour-piercing bullets and shells; in tool-steels, the tungsten content could be as high as eighteen per cent. For war purposes, only tungsten would do: its main attribute is strength at high temperatures, its melting point being 3,420°C - the highest melting point of all metals. Most of America's tungsten before 1937 came from China, but China was being conquered by the Japanese; and the territory still in Chinese government hands was being cut off by a Japanese naval blockade.


Australian Railways

PICTURE A SMALL WAYSIDE country station. It is unmanned but there is a siding with a few empty four-wheeled wagons; these may have brought bagged fertiliser for local farmers, or they may be left there for a farmer to load bales of wool or bags of wheat. On the platform sit cream cans — full, as it happens — so there must be a train due to collect them and cart them off to the nearest butter factory. Until that train arrives, there will be hardly a sound apart from the wind in the trees behind the station. Then, eventually, we hear the train approaching; it glides to a halt, the cream cans are rolled into the van, the van doors are slammed shut, the locomotive whistle is heard, and the train is on its way again. Within a few minutes, the place is once more silent.


Drovers Dream

The Drovers Dream

This is an excerpt from The Farming of Australia: A saga of backbreaking toil and tenacity, now available in e-Book format from Amazon Kindle.

EARLY IN 1985 a newspaper account appeared reporting what was headlined as ‘the last great cattle drive’. The story marked, and celebrated, what it called ‘the old national’ spirit which had been typified by the stock routes which had criss-crossed the interior of the continent since white people began occupying the land. The drover in the article, Viv Walsh, had decided that the trip with 850 head of cattle from Queensland to the Hunter Valley was perhaps going to be his last and that, with his retirement, no longer would Australians see vast mobs strung out along the roads, walking to new pasture or the market. Like their predecessors, the cattle make their way slowly, averaging about six miles a day, the drovers careful not to have their charges lose too much condition. The only difference between the overlanding of today and that of a century ago is that the traditional stock routes have disappeared and now the mobs walk the edges of macadamised road, and that the drovers have trucks to carry their supplies rather than pack-horses. Those stock routes which have survived, like the Birdsville track, are now used not by the drovers but by heavy trucks carrying cattle to the railhead.


German Raider

The German raider Emden on the loose

The following is an except from German Raiders of the South Seas: The extraordinary true story of naval deception, daring and disguise 1914-17 - now available from Amazon Kindle. The first of these ships to harrass Allied shipping was the cruiser Emden which had been based at the German colony of Tsingtao on the China coast. This excerpt begins when the ship heads for sea in August 1914, just as war is about to be declared in Europe and Japan enter on Britain's side. The remainder of Germany's East Asiatic Squadron would sail around Cape Horn trying to make it home but would be destroyed by the Royal Navy near the Falkland Islands.