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Friday, 24 November 1911


Senator PEARCE - They were.

I think that the Minister was in error in making that statement that the recommendations were unanimous.


Senator Pearce - The statement is absolutely correct.


Senator McCOLL - Mr. Thallon entered a rider to the effect that inquiry should be made, and up to the present time Mr. Moncrieff is not in favour of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.


Senator Pearce - He was.


Senator McCOLL - He is not. I have seen a letter of recent date on the subject. He appeared to be very indignant indeed that his protests had not been put in the report, and the Minister has no right to say that Mr. Moncrieff is in favour of the narrower gauge.


Senator Pearce - Hesigned the War Railway Council's report, and did not say that he dissented from it.


Senator McCOLL - There were onlyfour engineers on that Council, which had no right whatever to decide the matter. It was njerely an advisory body.


Senator Pearce - That is another question.


Senator McCOLL - Their advice had to go before Parliament. They had no right to decide the question, and they were not deciding it. They were merely expressing their own opinion. Those members of the Council who were not engineers were no more qualified to give an opinion on the subject than is any member of Parliament or the man in the street.


Senator de Largie - This Parliament has power to decide the question, and we are going to decide it.


Senator McCOLL - The honorable senator thinks that because he has the numbers he is going , to " bull dose " this thing through. But he will not do so without strong protest.


Senator de Largie - Thisis the only place where the question can be settled.


Senator McCOLL -Quite right; and that is the reason why I am expressing my opinion.


Senator Mcdougall - The honorable member has done nothing but read the opinions of other people.


Senator McCOLL - The Minister himself did not speak from his own knowledge. He had to rely on expert evidence. This is a highly technical question, which has to be decided on outside knowledge. I have been making inquiries amongst engineers and others.


Senator McDougall - I have been listening patiently to the honorable member, but I have had about enough of this.


Senator McCOLL - I am not addressing my remarks particularly to the honorable senator. The Minister went on to speak about alterations of tunnels. He said -

Let me point out some of the reasons why we should adopt the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge in preference to the 5-ft. 3-in. In the first place, to alter the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge to4-ft. 8½-in. would involve no alteration of tunnels, embankments, bridges, and stations. But, on the other hand, to alter a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge railway to 5 ft. 3 in. would necessitate enlarging every tunnel, every bridge, and, later on, every station, leaving out of consideration for the moment the rollingstock.


Senator Rae - With the exception of the stations, I do not think that the statement is a fact, because many of the tunnels and embankments are wide enough to allow of the alteration.

Later on the Minister said -

Either you must build another line while you are altering the tunnels or you must stop the traffic altogether until the alterations are completed. On the railway betweenMelbourne and Adelaide there are sixteen tunnels.I ask honorable senators to think of the dislocation that would be involved on thatline if the width of the tunnels had to be extended. But by converting a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge railway to 4-ft. 8½-in. there need be no such dislocation.

The Minister ought to have known that there would be no occasion to alter the tunnels on the Melbourne-Adelaide line.


Senator Pearce - I said so.


Senator McCOLL -It was a curious illustration to give, because the Minister knows that if we were to adopt the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge no alteration of these tunnels would be required.


Senator Pearce - I said so further on in the speech.


Senator McCOLL - The Minister referred to the Hawkesbury tunnel, and he said -

There are railways in Australia where tunnels have been constructed on the 4-ft. 8½-in gauge. There are such tunnels on the Hawkesbury line in New South Wales.

The Minister could not have looked into this matter very thoroughly, or he would have known that it is not such a difficult thing to alter tunnels.


Senator de Largie - Oh, is it not? It is a very important thing !


Senator McCOLL - I know that it is very important ; but it does not involve the stoppage of traffic, and it need not be so very costly. In Vol. 7 of the proceedings of the Victorian Institute of Engineers, there is an account of a discussion on this subject in December, 1906. This was a gathering of some of the finest engineers in Victoria, and we may take it that the considerations laid before them would be indorsed by engineers elsewhere. The question of altering tunnels, even on our 5-ft. 3-in. gauge Victorian lines, was discussed, because it was said that some of them were not so wide as they ought to be. It was said in the course of the discussion -

How about double lines and the 6 feet centre space? Here the condition is far from satisfactory. We have on the Bendigo line our two largest and most expensive tunnels - namely, those al Elphinstone and Big Hill. Built in the very early days, when rolling-stock was diminutive, they show a maximum width of only 25 feet, and this only at one level, below and above which the width diminishes, so that 24 ft. 6 in. will be the fair equivalent as between vertical walls. In this restricted space two 10-ft. bodies have to pass, leaving only 4 ft. 6 in. for the central and two side clearances, or only 1 ft. 6 in. each. This is far too small, and in the writer's opinion, the enlargement of these tunnels should receive early attention. Both are lined throughout with brickwork 1 ft. 10 in. thick, and what ought to be done is to construct a new lining outside the old one, and then remove the old lining. This would increase the width from 25 feet to 2S ft. 8 in., which would be none too large for modern requirements. In fact, while they are about it, they might as well give 30 feet, or double the width of the single line tunnels. The cost of this enlargement should not be prohibitive. Many tunnels have been enlarged in other parts of the world ; the ground is good, and with modern experience and methods the work could probably be done for the two tunnels well within£100,000. A serious accident, due to insufficient clearance, might easily cost as. much. Bridges would be dealt with moreeasily than tunnels, as it would be necessaryto take down one side only, and slightly lengthen the girders; and it is further to be noted that we are fortunate in having a comparatively small number of our bridges, and only two tunnels neither very long - to deal with.

It will, therefore, be seen that altering tunnels is not an insuperable difficulty. It can be done at a reasonable cost, and without interference with traffic.


Senator Pearce - The passage read says that it would mean taking down one side of a bridge, and yet the honorable senators says that that would not interfere with traffic


Senator McCOLL - I have explained what the engineers say.


Senator Chataway - The Minister knows better than the engineers.


Senator Pearce - I was referring to Senator McColl's comment that the alterations would not interfere with the traffic.


Senator McCOLL - My point is that tunnels could be enlarged without interference with traffic.


Senator de Largie - I think the honorable senator had better stick to dry farming.


Senator McCOLL - That is a very state joke for an honorable senator with such a. caustic intellect to fall back upon. If we are to have a unification of gauges in Australia, our rolling-stock must be able to go everywhere. If we adopt the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, however, and are to have heavier engines, even New South Wales lines will have to be altered, because you could not take the heavy engines of to-day, such as are used in the United States, over New

South Wales lines. If those engines were dumped on to the New South Wales 4-ft. 8i-in. lines, there would be trouble. at the first clearance. The lines would have to be built up. Referring again to alterations of tunnels, engineering authorities point out that a new tunnel can be turned outside an old one, leaving the brickwork of the inside tunnel to be removed later on. Senator Pearce referred to laying down a third line. He said -

You can put a third rail on a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line to bring it to a 4-ft. 84in. gauge, because you can put it conveniently inside the existing rails. But you cannot put a third rail on to a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge line to bring it up to 5 ft. 3 in., for the simple and obvious reason that by so doing you would get too near to the end of the sleepers.

This question of laying third rails has also been discussed by the Institute of Engineers, and I will quote an opinion that has been expressed on the point. This method is recommended as one way of getting over the difficulty of break of gauge. At a Conference held in Melbourne on the subject of Australian railway gauges, at which some of the finest engineers we have were present, the following statement was made by Mr. F. K. Esling, one of our leading engineers -

With reference to the proposal of the third rail, he thought it was sufficient to say that, as a railway engineer, he would condemn that straight out. Any one who had had experience in designing points and crossings and interlocking must know that there would be terrific difficulties. Take, for instance, the Flinders-street station. In each direction leading away from the station they encountered a three-girder bridge, viz., the two lines of way were carried by one middle girder and two outside ones. There was very little clearance of the girders, therefore where could they put that third Tail ? Clearly, there was only one way possible, and that was inside the other rails, 65 inches away. That meant that they got so much closeT to the girders, with the overhanging on the opposite side of the 4 ft. 8 in. stock. To lay a third rail in the Melbourne stations they would practically have to reconstruct the whole of the bridges, and most engineers would know that that would be a gigantic task.

Supposing they were running two tracks, such as they would have shortly, on the new Saltwater bridge, they would reduce the central clearance by about 6^ inches, and with the very wide carriages now being used that was absolutely dangerous. A carriage door opening might cause a disaster there. And the same thing applied to platforms. If they widened the space between the footboard and the platform by the use of a third rail, it was probable that passengers in the rush to board a crowded train, would put their foot between the footboard and platform. To overcome all the difficulties would be almost impossible. The only way he could see would be to design a rail of the " bridge " type, with a very deep slot in the middle, but that would lead to so much trouble afterwards that he did not think it would be 'practicable.


Senator Pearce - Who is Mr. F. K. Esling ?


Senator McCOLL - He is one of our leading Victorian engineers. The discussion was on " The Problem of the Gauge of Australian Railways," and the proceedings are recorded in the November number of the Victorian Institute of Engineers. The speaker whom I have quoted was Mr. F. K. Esling. There is some further evidence on the subject here which might be interesting to honorable senators -


The President asked if Mr. Esling would care to give an opinion on the question of the third rail in regard to safety. He had dealt with it on the ground of mechanical advisability. It might be that the rail could be made mechanically possible. Theoretically, even the interlocking might be accomplished. But on the basis of safety, did Mr. Esling think it would be the thing to use if they could by any means avoid it? There was another correlated mode of transferring from one gauge to another : that was the movable sleeve on the axle. One of the wheels was keyed to a sleeve, and that sleeve was by automatic or other means ad justed on the axle where a break of gauge occurred. His own experience, gained in actual railway practice, was that there must be no adjustment which might or might not be made. There must be, for safety, absolute rigidity of connexion.

Mr. Eslingsaid he objected very strongly to the third rail. In railway work they wanted the utmost simplicity. They did not want complication. Even with the best of inspection and plain boxes and axles, rolling-stock gave enough trouble. But if they introduced the sleeve wheel and axle it would almost certainly lead to disaster. They required absolute simplicity and rigidity in railway working.'

So that that proposal is absolutely out of court, according to the opinion of the best engineers in Victoria. The question was also raised as to the necessity of getting fresh sleepers; but I point out that the existing sleepers on the New South Wales line are longer than are required for the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, and there would be no necessity for the use of new sleepers until those now laid down required to be renewed in the ordinary way as the result of wear and tear. Ministers said a little time ago that Canada may be referred to as a country in which the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge has been adopted. But, as a matter of fact, the experience of Canada might be quoted in favour of my contention. It is true that lines there on a wider gauge than 4 ft. 8£ in. were altered subsequently to that gauge; but I point out that the. Canadian lines were built very largely by British capital. British capitalists were interested in the construction of 4-ft. 8½-in. stock, and they naturally desired that that stock should be introduced into the United States and Canada. It was introduced, and it was found desirable later, because of the necessity for a uniform gauge, to alter some lines built on a broader gauge of 5 ft. or 5 ft. 3 in. Just as in England, because there were so many lines built on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, and that gauge was suited to the physical character of the country, so it was found in Canada necessary to alter to ihe 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge lines which had been built on a broader gauge. The companies constructing the lines were British companies, and British engineers built the lines on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.


Senator Keating - The Canadian gauge was determined entirely by the gauge of lines already in existence in the United States.


Senator McCOLL - The Canadian com panies had to conform to that policy. I might further point out that the Canadian lines were in a very different position from ours, because they were owned by private companies.


Senator Lynch - They were isolated systems, and the engineers might have adopted any gauge they pleased.


Senator McCOLL - That is not so, because they had to connect for interchange of traffic with United States lines on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.


Senator Lynch - At what points?


Senator McCOLL - At a dozen different points, as the honorable senator will see if he consults a map. I repeat, again, that the Canadian lines were in the hands of private companies, and were run for profit. Those concerned in their working did not care what might best suit the country fifty or seventy years later. Their sole desire was to make a profit on their lines, and the lands granted to them for the construction of those lines. They looked to present profit, and not to the future. The first cost of lines on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge was somewhat less than the cost of lines on a broader gauge, and the Canadian companies gave no consideration whatever to the question of conversion, if that should be necessary later on. So honorable senators will see that the argument deduced from the experience of Canada does not apply. This question is an absolutely technical one. The Minister of Defence said -

I unhesitatingly commend the Bill to the Senate, and trust that whatever criticism may be directed toward it, it will be of a national character. I earnestly hope that we shall have no parochialism introduced, but that the proposal will be judged on its merits. I have no doubt that if that be done honorable senators will resolve that we ought to be prepared to shoulder the responsibility of doing something to develop the vast unpopulated interior of Australia.

I agree with that statement, and I do not wish to bring parochial interests into the discussion of this question.


Senator de Largie - No one would ever think of charging the honorable senator with that.


Senator McCOLL - No; but Senator de Largie is permeated with parochialism. This question of gauge is not one into which parochialism should be permitted to enter. It is eminently technical in all its aspects, and it is utterly impossible for a layman to understand its ramifications. I certainly think that we should hold over thequestion of the gauge to be adopted for this railway for due inquiry in the national and Australian interests to which the Minister of Defence referred. Mr. Deane, the consulting engineer, has issued several reports on this subject. I do not propose to deal with the whole of them, as that would take too long, and no doubt other honorable senators will desire to refer to them. He has addressed himself particularly to the question of the unification of gauge. He issued a report on the 20th September of this year, in which he deals at considerable length with the question of unification and the historical aspect of the question. I notice that in that report he has glided very lightly over earlier factors, which, of course, reflected very great discredit on New South Wales, the State from which he came, and the State which was really responsible for the break of gauge. He also deals with the methods to be adopted for the conversion of gauge, and refers to the use of a third rail, which is opposed entirely by expert engineers. After this report' is issued, the question of unification of gauge was dealt with by outside engineers, and we have a report on a uniform railway gauge by Mr. W. P. Hales. I do not know this gentleman, but I believe he is an engineer of repute, who has given lengthy consideration to the question. A memorandum by Mr. Deane is attached to Mr. Hales' report. I do not propose at the present time to traverse the report, but I will refer to some comments made upon it by Mr. Deane. He admits that Mr. Hales presents a fair statement of the problem of the unification of gauges, but says that there are some points in the report which call for comment, and he goes on to say -

Mr. Halesmakes a comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of the use of the two wider gauges of Australia, namely the 4-ft.8½-in. and the 5-ft.3-in. He does not lay any stress on the fact that the mileage of the latter exceeds that of the former, as he points out that the final selection depends on other considerations. It is to be observed, however, that if there were any argument to be drawn from this fact it is one that is yearly lessening in value, as the mileage of the New South Wales railways must, in the course of a few years, equal, if not exceed, the mileage of the wider gauge in Victoria and South Australia combined.

That argument is not worth anything, as the only question we have to consider is, which is thebest gauge to adopt. The fact that one State may at present have a few hundred miles more or less of railway construction than another should not influence the settlement of such a question. He also says that we could get rolling-stock from abroad, but we do not wish to do that. We should construct our own stock here to suit the gauge decided upon. He says further -

There is, of course, no doubt that a comparison of two gauges, even where the difference is only 6½ inches, points to an advantage in hauling capacity in favour of the wider gauge ; but the argument can be pressed too far. Mr. Harriman's opinions were entitled to very great consideration, but his views of the inadequacy of the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge to meet the exigencies of traffic were certainly exaggerated.

I do not think Mr. Deane was justified in saying that. All the evidence goes to show that Mr. Harriman held very strong opinions on this question. He went so far as to say that if he had to commence making his railways again, he would adopt the 5-ft. 6-in. gauge, that the adoption of the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge had been disastrous, and that he was sorry that it had been adopted. Mr. Deane subsequently seems to have given very great attention to the question of gauge, and to the criticism which the proposed adoption of the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge called forth from experienced engineers of repute. He has embodied his criticism in these matters in a review which he has published. It is not necessary to traverse all Mr. Deane's reports, as he has included in his review the principal matters embodied in the reports. For his review he has had compiled a list of the various railways of the world, showing the gauges, on which they are run. The list includesrailways built upon gauges of from 5-ft. 6-in. down to as low as 3 ft. 6 in. ; and a statement is givenof the mileage of railways constructed on each gauge. I propose to discuss Mr. Deane's review in the light of the information I have been able to acquire.


Senator de Largie - Give him fits.


Senator McCOLL - No. I do not think the honorable senator should introduce the personal aspect into the discussion of this question. Mr. Deane is a strangerto me, but it is my duty here to say what I think in giving my views on this question. I wish to say nothing personal or disrespectful to Mr. Deane, or to any one else. I find from information with which I have been supplied by a. gentleman with great experience of railway engineering and economics that -

Me finds himself unable to admit the validity of many of the deductions relative to thesematters which have been drawn, or the conclusiveness of the data necessarily largely elementary,which has been submitted.

Any decision arrived at now must be vital in relation to the present welfare and future progress of Australia. It must be almost irrevocable. Hence the writer, as an Australian engineer, deems it his duty to submit dissent from the dictum that the4-ft.8½-in. gaugeis that most suited to become the Commonwealth national gauge.

Specific deductions dissented from -

(a)   That the 4 ft.8½ in. has been almost universally adopted.

(b)   That it is everywhere admittedly adequate.

(c)   That the inherent differences oftraffic capacity as between the 4 ft. 8½ in. and the 5 ft. 3 in. is immaterial.

(d)   That the cost of conversion from the- 4 ft.8½- in. to the 5 ft. 3 in. would greatly exceed the cost of converseprocedure.

(e)   That the question equally vital with that of gauge of the loading dimensions of the rolling-stock can be ignored.

(a)   Habitable area, present and prospective population, length of haul and topography, are the primary determinents of gauge width.

In the absence of proof of parallelismof condition, mere numerical enumeration of the States using a particular gauge, together with the total mileage thereof, is inconclusive.

The sub-joined tables will demonstrate this.

Let us take this list of railways which is compiledby Mr. Deane, and which is said to have been taken fromthe universal directory of official railwaysfor 1911, and is, therefore, the latest information on the matter, and compare the countries which have definitely adopted a gauge of from 5 ft. to 5 ft. 6 in. for trunk lines with the countries which have adopted a gauge of 4 ft.8½ in.

 

 

The ratio are as follow : - Gauge, 5 feet and over; area, 14; population, 41. Gauge, 4 ft. 8½ in. ; area, 10 (nearly) ; population, 42 (nearly).

The ratio of the area in which the gauge of 5 feet and over' is used to the area in which the 4-ft.8½-in. gauge is used is as 14 to 10, while the ratio of the population in the former case to the population in the latter case is as 41 to 42. The statement has been made that the 4 ft.8½ in. has been universally adopted, but a very close inquiry into the matter shows that that is not the case. The area in which the gauge of 5 feet and over is used is very much larger than the area in which the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge is used, while the population is almost the same in each case. The table of railway gauges of the world which has been supplied to us contains seventeen instances in which the lengths of the 4-ft.8½-in. system are individually less than 1,000 miles; in some of the minor States the length is not 6 miles, being merely short lines. To take the figures in this list without inquiry would be very misleading.

The table appended to the review contains seventeen instances in which the length of the 4-ft.8½-in. systems is individually less than 1,000 miles. In some of the minute States it is not 6.

These citations swell the totals, but point no lesson, except, perhaps, that those lesser States have found it convenient to purchase their rolling-stock ready made.

Consider the question broadly, thus : -

Hear in mind the aggregate mileage of the Australian lines which it is proposed to unify. Remember the rate of their increase and the increase in other lands. Then glance down the "review" tables of gauges broader than 4 ft. 8½ in., and also the 4 ft. 8½ in. enumeration.

It will be grasped that ten years hence the broad gauge in two countries will still surpass the Australian mileage, but that, in turn, the Australian mileage will surpass that of any 4-ft.8½-in. gauge system, with two, or including Canada, possibly three exceptions only.

Averages deduced from . heterogeneous cases obscure the issues; like must be compared with like.

(b)   It is insisted that the ability of a gauge to permit of the haulage of heavy loads and high speeds is the proof conclusive of the adequacy of that gauge. The mechanical possibility of accomplishing all this is a matter of common knowledge. But mechanical possibility is a very different thing from commercial efficiency, and that is the issue.

Mechanical engineers know that they can attain those former objects readily on a narrow gauge, even when the economic capacity of such gauge has been exceeded. But they know that it is at the cost of decreased safety and increased running and maintenance charges, and that it implies heavy additional capitalization consequent upon the strengthening of the roads, and Administrators know that they cannot meet these increased charges unless they maintain high rates. They know that the primary products carried over long distances cannot bear high rates. Therefore, when the economic capacity of a gauge is reached, or approximated, the carrying of such products- and incidentally developmental work- is discouraged.

That is a very important argument.

That discrimination is one of the charges made against Railway Trusts elsewhere; it would be even more inimical here.

(c)   The Administrators, who control the most important systems of the United States have publicly affirmed that the economic limits of the 4 ft. Sg in. have been overpassed (instances are appended). The fact is not questioned in American circles. The abnormal expedients adopted lo enable a growing traffic to be handled at all proves the accuracy of the statement.

The 5 ft. 3 in. presents, in comparison with the 4 ft. S? in., the possibility of handling economically a traffic some 20 per cent, heavier.

That is a very great margin in favour of the broader gauge, even if we determine to go to the extra cost of conversion. id) Conversion costs which but recapitulate old estimates deserve the closest scrutiny.

Analyses show that those costs cover the rectification of the accumulated error and ephemeral economies of the past.

Whichever gauge is adopted, whether unification is affected or not, then rectification must come with increasing traffic.

But they are not a sequence to unification. They should be clearly differentiated and separately stated.

Chief amongst these charges is the cost of eliminating those encroachments upon the rightofway resulting from petty economies or want of foresight in the past. On many recent lines, and, of course, on lines yet to be constructed, such costs do not arise. The report leaves this matter obscure in respect to new lines ; although the future mileage of Australia is the greater issue.

That means that, if railways are constructed simply with a view to cheapness, and not to carry heavy traffic in the future, sooner or later a rectification of the lines must come, which will involve increased charges and cost-


Senator Vardon - What weight of rail are they going to use?


Senator McCOLL - I am not sure.

Divesting the matter of the relative cost of 5 ft. 3 in. and 4 ft. 8^- in. new lines of those technicalities which might confuse laymen, the matter stands thus : -


Senator Pearce - Who says that?


Senator McCOLL - This is information which I obtained from a railway engineer.

Land, survey, engineering charges, cuttings, embankments, stations, signals, yards, engine sheds, and works, Sc., are capital charges permanently in common. Until the economic capacity of the narrower gauge is reached, rails, sleepers, ballast, and bridges are also items identical in extent and cost, when - but not until - the capacity of the narrower gauge is reached, and it becomes necessary to utilize the reserve 20 per cent, additional capacity of the broader gauge, these latter items must be proportionately increased.

In regard to rolling-stock handling equal tonnages. Fundamentally the capital cost, run ning and maintenance charges of the wider stock are somewhat the less.

The question of cross section colloquially,, height and width of rolling-stock, is a very vital one. It has not been given due prominence.

Were the Transcontinental line constructed on. the 4-ft. 8?-in. gauge, the Western Australian, lines being altered to conform, it is reasonable to assume that it will be insisted that at. present blunders shall not be perpetuated, and that the rolling-stock shall be designed to thefull width which experience has justified as. compatible with safety on lines of the samegauge elsewhere.

But in that case such stock could not pass, over the lines of those States where too narrowclearances exist.

The question cannot be evaded, for if interchange of stock is to be an essential - for military reasons it must be - then this dilemma arises.

Either the freight capacity of the supposititious 4 ft. 8i in. future line of the Central and Western States must be reduced to the capacity of an arbitrarily reduced rolling-stock capacity': or the clearances of the 4-ft. 8?-in. lines of the Eastern States must be rectified.

But if, from any cause, it is determined torectify these matters, it matters hardly at all in regard to cost whether the alterations are to accord with the 4-ft. 8^-in. or the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge.

Dealing further with the review of Mr. Deane, the writer of this memorandumsays that the clauses do not disclose -

(a)   That the initial conferences preceded Federation; that they particularly concerned the systems of the three Colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia ; that they did not contemplate national issues; that the basis of consideration was least cost of conversion.

(i)   That subsequent conferences have proceeded upon the basis of least first cost.

(c)   That a large proportion of the costs charged against the conversion of the narrower to the broader gauge are in fact not sequences to such conversion; further, that they should be charged to a general rectification of errorsof the past and to works which must be accomplished before the full capacity of even the narrower gauge can be developed.

(d)   That the two classes of cost should be clearly differentiated and presented separately.

(e)   Gauge determination requires an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of remunerative traffic and developmental railway engineering and economics in addition to military requirements.

Mr. Deanestates ;

At a meeting of the Railway War Council in February last, the Chief Commissioners of the States being present, the question of gauge was discussed, and it was unanimously decided torecommend the adoption of the ' 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge.

T have already pointed out that Mr. Thallon dissented from that recommendation because he considered that, before being committed to it, an inquiry should be made into the cost of converting the lines in the various States. Mr. Deane goes on to say -

From the time that the subject first came up it was always understood that the expense of altering the "5-ft. 3-in. gauge to one of 4 ft. 8i in. was not to fall on Victoria and South Australia alone, but that New South Wales was to share the cost.

There is no such understanding. Yet all applications to the Government for an answer to this question are met with the reply "Pass the Bill first." I hold that this question of conversion, and of who is to bear the cost of the operation, should be definitely settled before we pass this measure. Mr. Deane proceeds -

When the decision of the Railway War Council was arrived at, it was agreed that the cost of connecting up the capitals with the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge should be fairly borne by the Commonwealth, not the individual States.

What was the use of the War Railway Council agreeing? Its members had met as military experts to deal with certain matters in regard to defence. They had no right to issue a definite pronouncement upon this question. It is an engineering question - not a military one. But, in Mr. Deane's report we are treated to political history rather than to engineering experience. I say that these bodies were merely advisory, and, as such, had no right to state that they always understood that a certain thing was to be done.


Senator Pearce - They ought not to have tendered any advice. I suppose?


Senator McCOLL - It has not been decided that the Commonwealth shall bear the cost of converting the State railways to a uniform gauge. The report sets down the cost of converting the different lines to a 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge at ,£2, 000,000 odd. But we have to consider a larger question, namely, the cost of converting the 3-ft. 6-in. lines to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. This is a matter of great importance to Queensland. Later on, Mr. Deane says -

The 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge has been adopted in nearly all countries, and nearly 70 per cent, of the total mileage of the railways of the world is of that gauge.

That statement is not correct. I have already shown that the adoption of the wider gauge is larger in ratio of area, and that, from the point of view of population, it is nearly as large as in those countries which have a 4-ft. 8l-in. gauge.


Senator Pearce - Both of which reasons are ridiculous. The mileage is the test.


Senator McCOLL - If that be so, I would point out that in other countries, during the last twenty or thirty years, the broader gauge has been adopted in every instance.


Senator Givens - Is it not an ascertained mechanical fact that the wider the wheels of a vehicle are apart the harder they are to pull?


Senator McCOLL - Countries in which the 4-ft. 8-^-in. gauge has been adopted bitterly rue the fact, and would gladly convert to a wider gauge if that course were possible. But Australia occupies a position different from that which is occupied by any other country. It is sea-girt, and self-contained, and is free to adopt any gauge that it may choose, irrespective of the consideration's which obtain in other countries. The gauge which has been adopted in China is of very little importance, because in that country there were only 8,000 miles of railways with a 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. Japan, which has hitherto adopted a. 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, is now substituting for it a 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, because it is a wider gauge. In this connexion we have also to recollect that Japan is a hilly country. We look to Japan as a possible enemy in the future, and that is one strong reason why we should not adopt a similar gauge to that which she has adopted. If we do so, she will, in time of invasion, merely have to tranship her rolling-stock in order to obtain the full use of our lines. That is a substantial reason why we ought to view this question from the stand-point of its effect upon the country. We are further told in this review -

India adopted a 5-ft. 6-in. gauge, but somelime afterwards it was considered unnecessarily wide, and since then the metre gauge has been used for a large part of the system. At the present time there is a length of 23,201) miles of 5-ft. 6-in. gauge in India, and 17,22, miles of metre gauge, so that no deduction can be drawn from Indian practice.

That statement is misleading. There has been no abandonment of the 5-ft. 6-in. gauge on the ma i it trunk lines of India. It is true that the metre gauge has beenadopted in ^ hilly country, where the cost: of haulage is enormous. But the statement that India has considered the gauge of her main trunk lines to be unnecessarily wide, and the implication that she is substituting; the metre gauge in lieu thereof, are absolutely incorrect. The selection of the broad' gauge for India was deliberate and upon' the highest authority. Copies of officialminutes appended prove it. The 5-ft. 6-in. gauge in India was only considered: too wide for pioneering work and for secondary feeding. There is omission to record the fact that the question of any alteration of the 5-ft. 6-in. gauge was declared to be a question closed ; that it is the accepted trunk line gauge, that the mileage of those trunk lines is growing at a greater rate than the mileage of the metre feeders, and that the substitution of a 4 ft. 8J in. for a metre gauge has been refused sanction. That is another half statement of fact which is calculated to mislead. I can quite understand why India has adopted a 3-ft. 3^-in. gauge* in preference to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge on her main lines. It is all a matter of the difference between the cost of the two systems. That difference of cost is set out in several places in Hie Record of the Victorian Engineers for 1906. There information is supplied by Mr. Mais, who was at one time Chief Engineer of the New South Wales railways, as to the relative cost of a 5-ft. 3-in. and a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge on level and mountainous country. The 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line was constructed for £3,659 per mile on level country, whereas the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge cost .£4,355 Per mi,e - a difference of only £696 per mile. But upon mountainous country the difference is very large indeed. The average cost per mile of constructing 3 miles 3 chains of railway "upon a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge in this class of country, including .£800 for stations, was .£36,016. On the other hand, the cost of constructing a railway with a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in the same country, a distance of 3 miles 78 chains, was £237,990 10s. 4d., or an average cost per mile, including £800 for stations, of £64,265. That is the reason why India has adopted the metre gauge in lieu of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge for mountainous country. We are also told that -

The gauge of Russia and Siberia is 5 feet, which is, after all, only a rounding o(T of the 4 ft. 8^ in. dimension, the extra 3^ inches giving no appreciable advantage. It is positively stated that some of the Siberian lines were laid down to a wider gauge than 5 feet. If so they have been altered so as to conform with the narrower gauge.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.


Senator McCOLL - I find that Mr. Deane, in his review of the gauge question, says -

The gauge of Russia and Siberia is 5 feet, which is, .after all, only a rounding o(f of the 4 ft. 8^ in. dimension. The extra 3^ inches give no appreciable advantage.. It is positively stated that some of the Siberian lines were laid down to a wider gauge than 5 feet. If so, they have been altered so as to conform with the narrower gauge.

This idea that the Russian authorities made the gauge 5 feet for the purpose of securing an easily expressible figure is ingenious, but not convincing. There were some wider gauges, and they have been brought down to 5 feet, which shows that the circumstances of Siberia compelled the authorities to adopt the uniform gauge; just as the circumstances of our country will compel us. References1 are made in Mr. Deane's review to Spain and Portugal. He says -

The principal railway gauge of Spain and Portugal was, and continues to be, .5 ft. 6 in.', but one would not fly to those countries for an example how to act.

I do not understand why there should be these contemptuous references to Spain and Portugal. It is surely a convincing argument that these countries adopted the broader gauge long after other countries in Europe had adopted the 4 ft. 8 J in. They were able to obtain the best engineering advice before deciding. References to the experience of Spain and Portugal are at least as valuable as those to South American Republics. Spain and Portugal now have 9,493 miles on the 5-ft. 6-in. gauge, 1,185 miles on the metre gauge, and 65 miles on the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. That is striking evidence of the superiority of the broader gauge. In Spain the first railway was built in 1848, long after the English and continental gauge had been decided upon. The most rapid period of development was from 1855 to 1865. The first Portuguese line was built in 1853. There was, therefore, ample experience to go upon at that time. Mr. Deane further says -

The principal gauge of the Argentine Republic is 5 ft. 6 in. On the other hand, Brazil, which has a greater mileage, has adopted the metre. A considerable, length of railway in South America is laid to the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge.

That also is wrong. Brazil has notaban cloned her broad-gauge trunk lines. It must be remembered that the bulk pf the Brazilian lines consist of about 18,000 miles of minor gauges, exploited under some seventy foreign concessions. In some instances the Government guarantees interest, and in other cases it does not. But these lines were constructed independently, not in accordance with a general national policy. They were for the most part constructed under concessions to foreigners, mostly for local reasons, or for profit-making purposes. These examples therefore cannot be taken as a guide for a country such as ours. Brazil is at present considering a more definite railway policy, and an extension of trunk lines in the Amazon basin ; and, as I gather, there is a strong .probability that these extensions will be on the broad gauge. The statement that Brazil has adopted the metre gauge for trunk lines requires confirmation. It must also be remembered that Brazil on the coast is very mountainous, though in the centre it is flatter, and much more like our own country. Mr. Deane has also something to say concerning North America -

North America leads the way with the 4-ft. S£-in. gauge. The United States and Canada had a great variety of gauges, but now almost complete uniformity to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge has been arrived at. Mexico has over 7,000 miles of this gauge. .

Most of us know by this time how it came about that the United States adopted that gauge. But, according to statements which have been published and not contradicted, the best railway authorities in America now wish that a broader gauge had been adopted. I have endeavoured to get some fresh information on this point, but was not able to obtain what I wanted. However, an engineer of high repute - not a railway engineer, but one who is in touch with leading^ engineers in America - has sent the following statement to one of the newspapers -

In the discussions reference has been made to the statement of Mr. Harriman that the American railway gauge is too narrow for effective operation of trains. I heard Mr. Harriman make that statement in a public address at Kansas City. He said - " The 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge worked fairly well wilh the smaller locomotives and light trains of the early days of rail-roading, but with the larger locomotives and heavier trains of to-day, which are necessary for the economical transportation of both passengers and freight, the gauge is too narrow. It does not permit of a properly designed fire-box, and this causes great waste of fuel. The tall and heavy locomotives rock on the track like a ship at sea, and cause an excessive wear on both track and machinery. The gauge is too narrow for the proper design of passenger cars and economical design of goods trucks." He further stated :- " In his judgment one or two things were inevitable in American practice, either the widening the gauge to 6 feet or the abandonment of steam and the electrification of all train service by which the power could be applied at a number of points to the train. The difficulty of changing the gauge on American railways is such that this will probably never be carried out. But American railway managers are seriously considering the lengthening of ties, because the increasing weight of locomotives renders the present width of the support wholly inadequate to the strain imposed upon it. As far as American conditions and American experience go it is in favour of a wider gauge than 4 ft. 8i in., and it is almost certain that if American railway managers had an opportunity to. now choose a gauge it would be wider than 5. ft. 3 in. instea'd of narrower.

I wrote to Mr. Elwood Mead, to ask for information regarding his experience. I received the following reply : -

ReAmerican experience in the railway gauge question I have nothing sufficiently definite to. be of any service to you. I simply know that there is a general agreement that the 4-it. 8^-in. gauge is too narrow for the engines now in use. Last week I talked with Mr. Uttley, the Vice-President of the International 'Harvester Company, who is interested in railways as well. He believes that the movement for the 4 ft. 8£ in. is a backward step, and that it would be bitterly regretted by Australia in the future.

It will therefore be seen that American experience does not count for very much when we are considering a new departure affecting the whole future of this country. Mr. Deane's review continues -

As to the adequacy of the 4-ft. 85-in. gauge to carry traffic there can be no doubt whatever.. Some of the railways in Great Britain, Germany, and the United Stales of America have an intensity of traffic in excess of what Australia is ever likely to show. It is true 'that expressions of opinion have been heard from some presidents and general managers to .the effect that a wider gauge will be desirable, but nothing very definite has been slated, and no satisfactory arguments have been brought forward1. It is probable that if the world began its railwaylaying again with a clean sheet something like the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge would be adopted. It is a good medium width, neither too "wide nor too narrow. Its capacity for traffic is very high, as will be -sen from the latest American practice in der' -,- ing locomotives - the heaviest example of what weighs 37S English tons.

It is quite true that Americans are now building very heavy engines. In Australia our heaviest engines are not much over 100 tons. In Victoria we have some 110 - ton engines. But the question of mechanical possibility must be differentiated from that of economical efficiency. Whilst heavy engines are being employed in America, their employment has involved the strengthening of their structures. The opinion of American railway men such as Mr. Harriman and Mr. Hill - the latter of whom is still alive, and can be communicated with - cannot be lightly put on one side. Their opinions have never been controverted and disproved. The American engines that have been referred to could not be run on New South Wales lines at all without a considerable strengthening of bridges, culverts, and cuttings.


Senator Vardon - I think they use 120-lb. rails in America.


Senator McCOLL - They certainly have very heavy rails. These heavy engines are not used in the ordinary way. They are used for slow running, and as pushers. That is to say, they push heavy trains at a slow rate of speed. They could not be employed under present circumstances for running trains at fast speed. Mr. Deane's review goes on to say -

With regard to a recent controversy as to the superiority of the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge over the 4-ft. 8i-in.' gauge, the existing circumstances have to be taken into consideration. The cost of conversion of the Victorian and South Australian lines to 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge will be" considerably less than the alteration of the New South Wales railways to 5 ft. 3 in., as platforms, bridges, and other works would have to be widened. On the other hand, there can be no doubt of the adequacy 'of the 4-ft. 8^-in gauge to meet all requirements. The Victorian carnages and waggons are no more capacious than those of New South Wales.

It is a recognised fact that the cost of conversion from 4 ft. 8J in. to 5 ft. 3 in. 1\'ould be heavier than the converse conversion. But what we have to consider is the efficiency that will follow that conversion, and the increased benefits in the future. We have to consider the lesser charges that can be made for passengers and the carriage of stock and produce, and whether those considerations will not more than make up for increased present expenditure. The money could be borrowed and paid off by instalments every year. It is a matter for the very serious consideration of the Government. The statement that Victorian waggons made of late yea*r. have been narrower than the old stock, and that by the narrowing of them an injustice has been done to our producers, who must have been charged more for carrying their stock than they should have been, requires investigation. It will probably be probed further, and we shall find out who were instrumental in bringing about the change. I have my own idea, but I do not intend to mention names, because there is no doubt that the Victorian Government will look into the subject. The change was not made with the consent of the Government or the Parliament, and the present Government were utterly ignorant that the change had been brought about. Mr: Deane goes on to say -

In Great Britain, France, and United States express trains* are daily running to a time-table involving average speeds of over fifty-eight miles an hour; while at individual places, to keep up the average, speeds as high as seventyfive and eighty miles per hour must be attained. Originally, alf locomotives had inside cylinders, and, as increased power involved larger cylin ders, it was considered that there was not room enough between the wheels on the English gauge. American engineers, however, solved the difficulty otherwise, and placed their cylinders on the outside of the wheels, which method gives almost unlimited possibilities of increasing hauling power, and this practice of putting the cylinders outside has become almost universal, at any rate for long journey and freight locomotives, so that there is nothing gained in having the wheels a few' inches further apart. Also, as regards fire boxes and grates, the wheels now placed under the fire box end are of small diameter, so that fire box and grate can' be widened without hindrance.

Here again the question of mechanical possibility versus economical efficiency is involved. As a matter of historical fact, I am advised by reliable authorities that the Americans did not discover but adopted the method of outside instead of inside cylinders on locomotives. They adopted the English practice, and have never departed from it. British engineers rejected the outside cylinder type, and have consistently used the inside cylinder engine, excepting where there was abnormal traffic, and a narrow gauge precluded the possibility of doing so. Their reasons for adopting the inside cylinder engines are : steadier running, lower running costs, and lesser deterioration of the road-bed. The fullest contemporary documentary evidence and plans are available in support of this. These questions are exceedingly technical, and we can only decide them on the information we can obtain from the very best authorities. Only engineers can settle such questions. The statements made by Mr. Deane must be in error if the facts of which. I have been advised are correct. I do not propose to go through Mr. Hale's report. It is a very able report, and, perhaps, other honorable senators may quote from it. The review I have presented to the Senate embraces all Mr. Deane's contentions. I am aware that I have occupied a long time, but I have cut out a great deal of matter which I might have used. I might deal with the question of the prospects of the line paying, and when it may be expected to pay. There is also the very important point that no provision has yet been made by the Governments of Western Australia, or South Australia, for setting apart the land required for this line. Both are willing that the line should be constructed, provided they have not to pay for it themselves. It seems strange that we should be asked to pass a Bill authorizing the construction of 1,063 miles of railway when we cannot claim a single inch of the ground over which it will run. I repeat that there is no hurry in this matter, lt might well be held over until these technical engineering questions can be definitely and satisfactorily settled. Another point might very well be considered, and that is that some years ago a promise was made by the Western Australian Government to meet any loss on the Western Australian section of the line. The Minister who introduced this Bill in another place told honorable members that that promise still holds good, but. the Minister of Defence, in introducing the Bill here, said that it was not fair to ask such a concession, and the Government did not intend to ask. it. We have, therefore, on this matter, two contradictory Ministerial statements. The question of the water supply requires further consideration. We need more definite information as to the quantity and quality of the supply obtainable. We should know by chemical analysis if the water is fit for use in railway engines. I spoke to railway managers in America on this subject. One of their great troubles is that . nearly all the water that can be obtained on the plains is alkaline, and great difficulty has been experienced in getting water suitable for use in locomotives. I ascertained that some solution has been invented in America which has been found extremely satisfactory. It does away with the alkaline qualities of the water, and renders it fit for use in the engines. I can supply the Government with the name of this solution should it be found necessary to treat in a similar way the water obtainable on the route of this railway. Another question of very great importance is that of the route. 1 have been told by those who know the country well that the route 'which has been recommended is not the best that could be followed. It is proposed to divert the line to Tarcoola, because of the gold.field there; but to run a costly railway by a longer route in order to connect with a gold-field that has not been a success may be a dangerous experiment. I am told that if this line were taken further south, it would go through better country, where there is more settlement, and little doubt that an ample supply of water for the engines could be obtained, and it would reduce the distance by 60 miles. With the idea that a line near the coast would be in danger from an enemy, I have very little sympathy. I believe that when an enemy can land a force in South Australia or Western Australia for the purpose of taking possession of this line, the British Fleet will be at the bottom of the ocean. We can, I think, put aside that objection to the choice of the best and shortest route.


Senator Vardon - We can leave military matters out of consideration.


Senator McCOLL - I believe we ca'n.


Senator McGregor - - Senator McColl knows better than Mr. Deane, Lord Kitchener, and every one else.


Senator Millen - Whatever Mr. Deane may know, he has not given us anything in his report that is worth listening to.


Senator McCOLL - I thank honorable senators for the attention they have given to my somewhat lengthy remarks. As I have said before, I have left out a great many things that I might have discussed. Any matters I have not dealt with may be referred to by subsequent speakers.







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