Sir—I fully agree with the premises advanced by your correspondent “Solon” on this subject, and fear that a mistake will be made if the Gawler and Kapunda line is persisted in. As one who attended the recent public meeting convened by the Mayor on this subject, and feeling strong sympathy with the sentiments there expressed, I must state my conviction that the route there mentioned (to Kapunda) would not so fully open up the resources of this north as one in a more central part of the country would do. The line of country mentioned by ‘Solon’ consists largely of Crown lands, and if my memory is correct a memorial was presented a few months ago to His Excellency from settlers up the Gilbert Valley, and offering any reasonable quantity of land which might be required passing through their sections free of charge. That should have some weight in the matter, as a very serious item in the expense of the Port and Gawler lines has been the repurchasing of land previously alienated from the Crown. I scarcely, however, agree with his supposition that Government is not in possession of reliable information as to the best line, but rather that it is withheld, or kept in the background for a specific purpose.
As a refresher to “the powers that be,” and to the public in general, allow me to lay the following extracts from the “Blue Book” before your readers.
I am, Sir, &c.,
“Three Routes—Gilbert, Kapunda, and Wakefield. “GILBERT ROUTE.—The Gilbert River runs from north to south about 28 miles. Great difficulties were found by the hills north of Willaston; but to avoid these a line westward, and crossing the Gawler River about 2½ miles below Gawler Town, was proposed, to obtain good gradients and avoid expense. Passing Messrs. Grant and Butler’s station, it conducts to the River Light, not far from where the Gilbert enters it, near Boylan’s cottage. Taking the northern bank of the Gilbert to Ayliffe’s Inn on the North-road (about four miles) would be comparatively expensive, but compensated by a 28-miles’ run to the source of the Gilbert by easy gradients and small cost. At this point cuttings would be required about 25 feet deep for a furlong each (one-eighth of a mile) to get into the plain west of Tapley’s Inn, being apparently the only engineering difficulty of the route. These cuttings are required where the Gilbert and Wakefield Rivers take their rise, and their dividing ranges, and would be three in number. At these points skill would be required in planning the route. The plain arrived at, you soon get to a gap in the range by easy gradients to the neighbourhood of Gum Creek. From Gum Creek, passing alternate rises and water-courses, occasioning earthworks and culverts, the Burra can be made without difficulty, and enter the township. By this route the distance from Gawler Town to the Burra is about 75 miles, but the gradients may be made easier by taking a little more circuit. On this route scrub, timber, and stone is found as well as lime.
“KAPUNDA ROUTE.—I come next to consider the Kapunda route, and make for the bend in the River Light, whose banks are made available, and thus wind round the township of Kapunda. In order to reach this bend it is necessary to gain the hill north of Willaston, and here a difficulty arises. By sweeping round by the Gawler River above the town, this may be accomplished, but the gradients would be severe. Another way of overcoming the rise would be by taking up Mr. Hamilton’s line south of the Gawler River, and follow the lie of the land, sweep round, up one of the existing hollows, crossing the North-road south of Templer’s Inn. The high ground, when attained, should be preserved, and keep the level, a rather serpentine course through Biscay land. A descent to reach the banks of the Light would be required; a steep gradient, perhaps practicable; in which case great skill must be exerted, and two or three deep cuttings for short distances, and large culverts made, in order to get out of the north extremity of the plain in which is situated the Sheaoak Log public-house, and getting over the rise to descend to the river (Light).
“Another route would be through a thick scrub. In either the works to Ross’s Creek would be very expensive, on account of the lengthy and very tortuous course of the Light, and the rocky and precipitous nature of its banks. The stream here has its bed apparently through the only gorge in the locality by which the hills can be penetrated for railway purposes—a gorge about two miles in length. Following up Ross’s Creek, difficult gradients, with heavy surface, forming from sidelong banks, would be encountered, accompanied by some short deep cuttings leading into Allen’s Creek, which being pursued for a short distance a further cutting of some extent would lead to the desired bend across the Waterloo Plains. A more circuitous route, with better levels, may be had, with some heavy surface forming from the Light, by following Allen’s Creek and leaving it as above to the same bend. It may here be observed that an elevated viaduct over the Light would help the gradients, approaching that river from the south, as well as leaving it northwards by Ross’s Creek. This of course would be expensive. From Robinson’s to Gawler Town is undesirable, from its steep gradients, and several places expensive nature, from which reasons it is certainly inferior to the Gilbert line.
“The WAKEFIELD ROUTE.—In endeavouring to get a line by the Wakefield country, advantage is taken of an extensive plain in the County of Gawler, west of the ranges, in which are situate the trigonometrical stations, Wakefield and Gilbert.
“The Gilbert route would be followed from the Gawler River to the Light, which latter would be crossed at much the same point by following either line. The aforesaid plain would, with generally good levels for the first few miles, offer a rather quick rise to within about four miles of the Wakefield. To lessen this rise ground must be gained at first along the slope of the range eastward.
“The summit level arrived at, a descent to the Wakefield by Salter’s Creek can be made to obtain a suitable level to the plains north-east of Mintaro. But the descent by Salter’s Creek would be a doubtful gradient, and the first four miles up the banks of the Wakefield, through the gorges of the mountains, so tortuous and precipitous as to be very expensive, requiring many bridges and side-cutting through rocks for three-fourths of the way. The eastern range of hills will next have to be skirted, and ground gained as much as possible to cross the Wheelbarrow Hills (a work of perhaps doubtful practicability with reference to reasonable expense), which bound another plain to the eastward leading to the Burra—a plain a much higher level.
“The gradient over the Wheelbarrow Hills would undoubtedly be a stiff one. Once crossed, a course much the same as the Gilbert line (which it would run into) appears advisable.
“Great pains were taken to find other practical lines, but were not successful; had they been there they could not have escaped observation.
“I must certainly declare myself in favour of the Gilbert line, as presenting the best gradients as well as the shortest and the cheapest line.”
P.S.—I think the above extracts speak for themselves—they need no comment. “The 28 miles run up the Gilbert by easy gradients and small cost,” a distance exceeding the whole of the Kapunda extension, with its severe gradients, serpentine ascents and descents, deep cuttings, culverts, and bridges, with its course so tortuous, rocky, and precipitous, must be preferable both as to expense of cost, and after expenses of rolling-stock, and wear and tear.