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Friday, 24 November 1911


Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - Before proceeding with my speech, I may congratulate Senator McColl upon having given the Senate a great deal of very interesting information. It is evident that the honorable senator must have taken a great deal of trouble to prepare what he has said. Though I differ from him on the subject of the gauge, I must admire the pertinacity with which he submitted his views.


Senator Vardon - Why does the honorable senator differ from Senator McColl on the subject of the gauge?


Senator WALKER - I shall give my reasons in, a few minutes. The Commonwealth now possess a railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and I think it is only right that we should endeavour to complete the connexion between Perth and Adelaide. Many years ago, General Edwards, a great authority on military tactics, said he hoped the day was not far distant when railway communication would be established between the east and west of Australia. He was followed years. afterwards by General Hutton to much the same effect, and we have since had Lord Kitchener, I suppose the greatest general in the British Army at the present time, also advocating the construction of this line. In these circumstances, he would, I think, be a bold man who would oppose its construction. Personally, I was always in favour of a survey of the line, and voted with pleasure for the Bill to appropriate ^20,000 for that purpose. With all deference to Senator Millen, I think we have had very useful information presented as the result of it. It has relieved me of a good deal of anxiety as to what my course should be in dealing with this Bill. It is well known that throughout I have considered that we should be justified in following, to some extent, the example of Canada and the United States in the construction of this railway on the land grant principle. I am aware that the present Government have strong objections to land grant railways. They are under the impression, apparently, that even if we had the land, we could not make much use of it. I think that we could lease it in the course of time. I do not, in the circumstances, intend in Committee to abandon my advocacy of a land grant proposal. I was very glad to see from Mr. Deane's report that there is a possibility of getting contractors to construct this railway, and accept land grants in part payment. As one who has been in a minority in the matter, this is to me somewhat reassuring. Senator McColl has given us a good many extracts from authorities, and I shall follow his example to some extent, though I promise not to occupy three hours in completing my statement. Mr. Deane's professional standing is very high. I cannot forget that he was Engineer-in-Chief of Railways in New South Wales. He is now well known as a consulting engineer, and his opinion should carry weight with us all.


Senator Vardon - Is he not still connected with the New South Wales Government ?


Senator WALKER - No.


Senator Vardon - He has severed his connexion with them ?


Senator WALKER - Yes; he is in receipt of a handsome pension.


Senator Vardon - Why did he retire?


Senator WALKER - I suppose that, like other people, he considered that he had reached an age when he might have more leisure. In his interesting report on this railway, he says -

There is another proposition which is well worthy of consideration, and that is one put forward by Mr. Mayoh on behalf of J. Norton Griffiths and Co., a highly competent firm of engineers and contractors, who have been carrying out extensive works in other parts of the world.

If the Government wish to arrange for a maximum price, that is, to limit their liability to a fixed sum, the firm will agree to do this, provided that it receives half the difference between the guaranteed maximum and actual cost.

Mr. Mayoh,as an alternative, states that his company would be prepared to submit a tender for the line for a lump sum, payment in the event of acceptance being made in whole or part in Government bonds.

The company would also consider any suggestion for part payment on the land grant principle in quoting their price for the work.

I strongly recommend consideration of these proposals.

The following is a letter from Mr. J. Norton Griffiths to our High Commissioner, Sir George Reid, dated 2nd November,

1910 -

I have the honour to put before you for the consideration of your Government the bare outlines of the proposal I sketched to you at our recent meeting regarding the construction of the Transcontinental Railway your Government are contemplating.

I am willing to undertake the carrying out nf the construction of your railway under the following general conditions : -

1.   I will build the line, buying all necessary materials procurable in Australia, and employing white labour only.

2.   I will give my services in exchange for an agreed rate of profit - the rate of profit to be7½ per cent. on actual cost.

Some of us are aware that it is not unusual to have buildings erected on the principle of contractors "getting a percentage for superintending the work in cases where, because of broken' work, it is difficult to estimate the cost. Mr. Griffiths' letter continues -

3.   I shall be prepared to guarantee that the cost of construction shall not exceed a fixed maximum price, based upon the surveys and the labour rates, in consideration of my receiving an additional remuneration of one-half the difference between the actual cost and the guaranteed maximum, your Government receiving the remaining half.

5.   I should establish in Australia for the purpose of the work a head office staff, upon which I should appoint some of the experienced engineers in my employ.

I venture to think these suggestions will secure for your Government several advantages - first, experienced control ; second, a fixed limit of expenditure with a share in any reduction possible; third, freedom from financial risk.

I have summarized my proposal, and I am prepared to discuss any details which you might think should be further elaborated as soon as I have heard your Government are prepared to consider the suggestions' in principle.


Senator Vardon - Has he had any reply to that?


Senator WALKER - No; there has teen no reply. Honorable senators will notice that Mr. Deane strongly recommends consideration of these proposals. They will have gathered that it is not my intention to vote against the second reading of this Bill. I think we should pass the second reading, though we may differ as to details in Committee. I intend to submit one amendment, and, perhaps, it would be as well at this stage to mention it. Senator McColl said, and said truthfully I believe, that in the days gone by there was an understanding that the Governments of the two States concerned - at all events, the Government of Western Australia - were prepared to give some kind of assistance towards constructing the railway by way of land grants. As against that statement, Senator Givens has said that the land along the route is worth nothing. If the land is worth nothing, why should not the States give it to the Commonwealth?


Senator Givens - Because we would have to bear the loss on the land and the loss on the railway.


Senator Vardon - They object to the railway being constructed on the land-grant principle.


Senator WALKER - Those who hold that view have only to look at Canada and the United States to see how the adoption of the principle has put those countries ahead. I propose to move the insertion of the following amendment in clause 3 of the Bill: - (3.) In order to, in time, partially recoup the Commonwealth for the capital expenditure involved in the construction of the Railway, it shall be a further condition, precedent to the work being entered upon, that the States of South Australia and Western Australia respectively shall reserve from sale and vest in the Commonwealth all the Crown lands in alternate sections of ten miles square on both sides of the line as ultimately adopted (exclusive of the reservations required under the previous sub-section) along its whole length throughout the territories of the respective States. Provided also that land shall not be so granted within fifteen miles of the terminal points of the line.

The length of the railway is supposed to be 1,063 miles, and if we deduct 15 miles at each end that reduces . the mileage to 1,033 miles. It is suggested that we should have 10 miles square of country along the route. That comes to 103,300 square miles, or 66,112,000 acres. Senator Givens says that the land is worth nothing. But taking it for granted that it is worth is. 3d. per acre, that area would be worth ^4,132,000. Therefore, in the course of time, it would pay for the railway.


Senator Millen - Mr. Deane's estimate of land capable of carrying a sheep to 20 acres at is. 3d. per acre, would put the price of land to carry a sheep at a prohibitive rate.


Senator WALKER - Never mind. I am prepared to believe that the land will be worth is. 3d. per acre when the line is completed. Clause 19 of the Bill pro vides that any private lands may be acquired by the Commonwealth. I intend topropose an amendment that State lands may also be acquired by the Commonwealth. I certainly think that some portion of the cost ought to be borne by the States which are to benefit. On the other hand, I am one of those, who, when the time comes,, will be prepared to vote that the Commonwealth, as such, shall bear the whole ex,pense of making the gauges uniform.Some person think that we, in New South Wales, ought not to pay anything; but I differ from, them. This is a public work, and1 each State should pay its share of the cost. But _ I think that we shall have to make a specialconcession to Tasmania, as it is an island, and will not benefit from the adoption of a uniform gauge. The next question arising is as to the gauge. In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge. Senator McColl has said, and said truly, that Mr. W. P. Hales, a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers, gave a very interesting, and, I think, very valuable, report in regard to a uniform railway gauge. My honorable friend did not quote the report in full, and it is not necessary to do so, because it is available.


Senator Vardon - Is he in favour of the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge?


Senator WALKER - I said that Mr. Hales made a report on a uniform railway gauge. I intend to quote different opinions on the subject. Mr. Henry Deane, to whose opinion I pay great deference, makes some comments on that report. Senator McColl quoted one or two passages, and I intend to quote a few. It does not follow because we sit on the same side that we have not the liberty to differ from one another. I credit my honorable friend with having tried to act quite fairly. He says that his object is to get the best information, and that is a very legitimate desire. My impression is that we have as much information as is absolutely necessary. Mr. Deane writes -

Mr. Haleshas left out one important argument in favour of. the 4-ft. 85-in. gauge, namely, that in case of emergency and sudden shortness of locomotives and rolling-stock it would be easy to make up the deficiency from abroad, where so many engines and waggon shops are concerned in the manufacture of rolling stock for the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, whereas the opportunities of obtaining rolling-stock for the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in the case of a sudden demand are exceedingly small.

On the other hand, Mr. Hales attaches too much importance to the possibility of realizing on the sale of rolling-stock in the event of the 4-ft. Si-in. gauge being condemned to eventual abolition, because the process of doing away with any particular gauge will be a matter of time, during which the system will be gradually changing, and the four-wheeled stock remaining in use will be gradually withdrawn on to the remoter branches. During the transition period - for there must be a transition period - the third rail will probably be used, and the last of this need not be removed till the rollingstock of the disappearing gauge is almost ready for the scrap heap.

There is, of course, no doubt that a comparison of two gauges, even where the difference is only 6£ 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. Si-in. gauge to meet the exigencies of traffic were certainly exaggerated. With us in Australia the day must be immensely remote when duplication and quadduplication are insufficient to provide the necessary increased facilities called for by the growing traffic, and if duplication and quadruplication will not meet the demand, the widening of the gauge by 6i inches will not provide a solution of the difficulty. The capacity of the standard gauge for carrying traffic may be easily underestimated. Most of our lines are single track, but when duplicated the facilities for carrying traffic would be enormously increased; there would be no waiting for crossings, and trains could follow one another in the same direction as close as the line could be split up into sections controlled by signal boxes, or still better by automatically-worked signals.

With regard to the hauling power of locomotives, it is probably not known, except to a few, what development is taking place. Here our heaviest locomotives and tenders weigh to'gether in working order, say, 105' tons. In the United Slates the builders have succeeded in producing locomotives 500,000, 600,000, and 700,000 lbs. in weight successively. The most recent design is for a locomotive and tender weighing combined 850,000 lbs., or 425 tons American, equal to 378 British tons. Seeing that this result can be achieved with the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge, is it worth while going to increased expense to adopt a gauge 6£ inches wider.

I propose to rend a further quotation from Mr. Deane's review of the gauges -

The State Railway Commissioners met in conference at the request of the Premiers in August, 1S9S, and recommended that the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge be adopted for unification. The cost of changing from 5 ft. 3 in. to 4 ft. Si in. in Victoria and South Australia is estimated at half that of altering from 4 ft. Si in. to 5 ft. 3 in. in New South Wales.

In 1903, the Engineers-in-Chief of the five States were called upon to report on the matter, and they recommended 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge.

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 to recommend the adoption of the 4-ft. Si-in. gauge.

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. Si in. was not to fall on Victoria and South Australia alone, but that New South Wales was to share the cost.

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. Si-in. gauge should be fairly borne by the Common.wealth, not the individual States.

The 4-ft. Si-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.

India adopted a 5-ft. 6-in. gauge, but some time 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 23,209 miles of 5-ft. 6-in. gauge in India, and 17,225 miles of metre gauge, so that no deduction can be drawn from Indian practice.

The gauge of Russia and Siberia is 5 feet, which is, after all, only a rounding off of the 4-ft. Sg-in. dimension - the extra 3i 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.

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 of how to act.

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.

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

As to the adequacy of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge to carry traffic, there can be no doubt whatever. Some of the railways in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States of America, have an intensity of traffic in excess of what Australia is ever likely to show. It is true that expressions of opinion haS'e been heard from some presidents and general managers to the effect that a wider gauge would be desirable, but nothing very definite has been stated, and no satisfactory arguments have been brought forward. It is probable that if the world began its railway laying again with a clean sheet, something like the 4-ft. 8i-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 seen from the latest. American practice in designing locomotives - the heaviest example of which weighs 37S English tons.

With regard to the recent controversy as to the superiority df the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge over the 4-ft. Si-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. Si-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 lbc widened. On the other hand, there can be «o doubt of the adequacy of the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge to meet all requirements. The Victorian carriages and waggons are no more capacious than those of New South Wales.

In Great Britain, France, and the 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 ils seventy-five andeighty m miles per hour must be attained.

Originally all locomotives had inside cylinders, and, as increased power involved larger cylinders, 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 since 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.

T was rather surprised at Senator McColl 's reference to the table about the railway gauges of the world which is appended to this report, because, put briefly, the position is, that, out of eighty-one countries named, forty-five have the 4-ft. 8|-iri. gauge. Not only that, but they have 65 per cent, of the total mileage. To my suiprise the honorable senator began quoting the areas of the various countries enumerated and their population. He left out one very important country, namely, China; which contains a population of 400.000,000 persons, and has 4,1.71 miles of railway, including 4,047 miles on the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, and only 124 miles on what might be called the metre gauge. Then Japan, instead of adopting the 5-ft. 3-in. has adopted the metre gauge. It has 5,075 miles of this gauge. There are eighteen countries, including Germany, which have adopted gauges in excess of 4 ft. 8J in. But in Germany, out of 44,372 miles of railway, 41,021 miles have been constructed on the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, 697 on the 5-ft. 4^-in. gauge, 24 miles upon intermediate gauges, 1,235 miles upon the metre gauge, and 1,395 miles on gauges of less than 3 ft. 6 in., not including the metre gauge. So that, practically, I can quote Germany upon our side. There are eighteen countries which, have adopted gauges in excess of 4 ft. 8 J- in., as against forty-five countries which have adopted the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge. Consequently, I fail to see why we should decry that gauge. Canada, out of a total mileage of 24,737, bas built no less than 24,239 upon the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge. She has only 498 miles of railway constructed on other gauges.


Senator Vardon - What does that prove?


Senator WALKER - lt proves that the Canadians are sensible people, and stick to the gauge that pays them best. I think we are all unanimous in saying that the cost of converting the main trunk lines in the different States to a uniform gauge ought to be borne by the Commonwealth. I believe that New South Wales is acting generously by taking up that attitude. But, after all, we are Federalists who recognise that there must be one uniform gauge at any rate on our main trunk lines. I am aware that in days gone by the Government objected to a policy of borrowing. But I presume they will have to pay for this railway out of loan funds. They would get 66,112,000 acres of land as the result of the construction of the proposed line should the States grant the areas suggested by my amendment. We have to provide £5,700.000 in connexion with the Northern Territory and its railways, which we have taken over. The line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta will probably cost .£4,000,000, and under the land-grant system it would probably pay for itself. Then our Defence Forces will necessitate a further outlay of £2,000,000 annually. It is evident, therefore, that we shall have to initiate a borrowing policy. I do not see why we should not. Australia would not be the country that it is today if the States had insisted on paying for public works out of revenue. I know of plenty of persons who cannot satisfactorily lend money. I am afraid that weshall have to look forward to an increase of the land tax, and even to the imposition of a Federal income tax, if we continue to follow the lines that we have followed during the past eighteen months. We cannot always expect to enjoy good seasons. At the present time a drought is being experienced in Queensland. My own opinion is that we shall have to adopt a bold immigration policy if we are to solve the difficulties which confront us. A good deal of correspondence has taken place between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments in reference to the width of gauge of the proposed line. In a memorandum addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs by Mr. Deane, and dated 1st August of the present year, I find the following -

The best method so far invented involves the use of the third rail producing the so-called mixed gauge. This is the method that was made use of in England when it was decided to abolish the broad gauge of the Great Western Railway. The change from that gauge to what is now the standard gauge was conducted with comparative ease and little interruption to traffic, and there is no doubt that if this can be done in Australia the difficulties of alteration will be minimized.

I may mention that the change in question was carried out in two days - a truly marvellous feat -

It is quite impossible to adopt the suggestion that has sometimes been made to take up whole sections of the one gauge and replace it with the other, for it is quite clear that there must be no interruption to traffic. That proposal would involve the introduction of new points, of all the same objections to the break of gauge as previously existed. It has been supposed that the third rail method was not applicable where the gauges concerned differ so little in width as the Victorian and New South Wales gauges, namely, 65 inches. This view, however, is an erroneous one, as the whole matter has been worked out, and the difficulty has been solved by Mr. Brennan in his design for combined switches. A model of these switches was made' some years ago at the railway interlocking shops in Sydney, and is now to be seen in Melbourne. But while a model may indicate the practicability of a method, it is by no means so convincing as the application of the same idea to actual practice. It is recommended, therefore, that steps should be taken to manufacture one or more sets of these switches, so that they can be tried near the junction of the two gauges between Albury and Wodonga.

The Minister for Railways for Victoria and the Acting Minister for Railways in New South Wales have, I understand, conferred on the matter, and come to an agreement that the invention should be tried, and the expense divided between the two States. I strongly urge that these switches be manufactured and laid down with the least possible delay, so that tests may be made, and the result submitted to the Premiers' Conference,

To sum up, I shall support the second reading of the Bill. I am, in favour of the adoption of the 4-ft. 8j-in. gauge, and also of raising a proportion of the cost of the undertaking by securing a considerable grant of land upon either side of the proposed route. That is not unreasonable. It is alleged that that land is not very valuable. That is one reason why the States concerned should not object to give it to the Commonwealth.


Senator Lynch - If it is not valuable, what is the use of it?


Senator WALKER - We shall put a value upon it.


Senator Millen - And Senator Lynch is a great believer in the community securing the benefit of community-created values.


Senator WALKER - Exactly. I thank honorable senators for the patience, with which they have listened to my remarks.







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