Let’s continue exploring Denniston. Being on a plateau, a good 600 meters above the township of Waimangaroa and where the railway line stood, it took a bit of work to get the coal down to the trains for transport.
They had a few ways of getting down. There was the road, but that was not very efficient, being winding, narrow, unpaved and so very dangerous. So they built a cable railway straight down the hill that was eventually called the Denniston Incline.
Gravity would move the filled wagons down the hill and also pull any empty wagons back up.
You can probably tell that it wasn’t the safest of ways to transport a fully-laden coal wagon, especially when the wagon derails, which was rather quite often apparently. Since no adult wanted to lose their life down the hill, the ‘drivers’ of these wagons were often young boys of 12 or 13 years old.
Well, that’s all from Denniston. Mining is still going on in the area, but on a hill some 20km further north. I hope today they’ve got a less dangerous method of transportation.
The West Coast of the South Island was once the site of a gold rush. People came between 1864 and 1867, just after the gold in the Victorian gold fields started to run out. This place was pretty different to Central Victoria though (ie. It’s cold, wet, and a jungle).
When the gold ran out, people looked to mine other things, and coal was one of those things. On top of the plateau behind the village of Waimangaroa is the former mining town of Denniston.
The mine was worked from 1880 all the way to the 1960s. Nowadays, Denniston has been listed as a heritage site. A lot of the site is in ruins, but you can still tell a lot from the ruins.
There’s also plenty of signage to show how things were once.
We explored a big West Coast town in the last post, but what about the tiny ones? There are plenty of them to choose from. Many towns were founded because of mining, timber or sealing/whaling. Not a lot of agriculture was established because the terrain was very mountainous with dense forests. Even the Maori found it hard going here and generally only came to find their precious greenstone (a form of jade).
17km north of Westport is the hamlet of Waimangaroa (long black river), which refers to the peaty river that flows through the town.
It might be small, but their war memorial is central to the town.
The bush and the hills that back the town is not very hospitable, but we’ll head up the top there in future posts when we’ll check out a historical mining site.
13km further up the road is the hamlet of Granity, another mining town. There’s also some steep, forested hills backing this town.
The town is not without its facilities though, as this former-church-turned-library testifies. Rather cute, I think.