Do you have any information regarding rail-cranes you can share? Please contact: Phillip Treweek
This page describes how I have approached various sources, and leads to summaries of information found from each source (reviews and the like).
When I started this project, the first step for me was to find out what has been published before. So I began with a catalogue search of the National Library of New Zealand and others online catalogues for relevant New Zealand books. This was to give a feel for what New Zealand books were available on railways, steam, and cranes. The results can be found in this bibliography (warning: this file is over 400kb). As it turns out, there's plenty in each category, but no sign of anything on 'railway cranes' (and especially 'railway steam cranes') in particular.
So it was back to the list of bibliography and time to start looking for sections/ chapters/ pictures/ and snippets of info. Again, the material is pretty scarce, so there's not many books to list - but hopefully that list will grow. I have recorded this in a literature review, but here I have only recorded those books where I have found something useful, along with page references and my notes on the content. Hopefully it will make sense.
Then I went a little further afield and consulted catalogues at the British library, COPAC, and the Library of Congress. The result was very disappointing when it came to railway cranes. It seems that cranes just don't have the glamour of other railway topics, so material is hard to come by. To date the only substantial book on railway cranes I've found is John Brownlies' self-published "Railway Steam Cranes" from 1973 which is a survey of crane development from 1875 on (a useful background source, but focussed predominantly on steam 'breakdown' cranes), along with some slim volumes on various crane makers. However, I have identified a number of crane-related books (see my general crane bibliography (220k)) which I am slowly checking out. The older books seem to contain more relevant information - railcranes have obviously become less important over the past five decades.
As well as books, I have started to work my way through serial publications seeking crane references - my first search was the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society's 'New Zealand Railway Observer'. I then worked through a large chunk of 'Rails'. More recently I have chewed through the first 10 volumes of New Zealand Railfan. As I have completed these searchs I have added an index below.
When I find some time I will update these to include the more recent issues.
A useful source has been the Appendicies to the Journal of the House of Representatives (AJHR>. These contain the annual Railway Statements as tabled in the New Zealand Parliament. The early years contain a large amount of detail and included amongst the summaries of locomotives and rolling stock are a breakdown of the numbers of cranes of various types in service on the various railways sections. The returns in the Railway Statements also include information on repairs and renewals. Also of great use are the 'D3' staff lists detailing all NZGR employees. I have made a start on summarising some of this data:
I have also started looking at unpublished sources through an archival search.
I'm told the internet (or information superhighway as some call it) is a great source of information. This can be true - if you know where to look, and can confirm the veracity of what you find. I had a bit of a look around a variety of web sites (with the aid of google and several other search engines). Periodically I have another look. As I go I am keeping a record and you can see my website review notes. (This is the closest I have to a links page). I have also found my way onto a couple of email groups which are providing some interesting contacts and the odd snippet of information.
Given that there is so little written information available, the next avenue of investigation is people - those who were or are involved with the cranes, and also those who share my interest (a small group as I've discovered). As part of my aim is to consider the human side of crane operations, this is doubly important. I am finding quite a community of rail enthusiasts, and it is great to find how helpful they are! The list of people I have contacted, emailed, and talked to is slowly growing. So this section is really an acknowledgement of their assistance.
I have had helpful assistance and/or material from the following:
My apologies if I've missed anyone!
I have started delving into archives in a small way. This of course requires time (a hard to come by commodity) to travel and carry out. My first step was to visit the Walsh Memorial Library at MoTaT at Easter 2003. Here I prepared a summary of the contents of the Rail-Crane file (D79) from the Les Downey Collection (linked below). In December 2003 I made my first visit to Archives New Zealand (National Archives) in Wellington, and the NZR&LS Archive at Ava. Initially I have surveyed via indices what material is available, and summarised the holdings. There are a lot of documents to be examined.
I have started in a small way to investigate the material. So, there will be much more to come!
If you have, or know of relevant material, please feel free to contact me at treweek@ cs.waikato.ac nz.