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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 5, December 1961



Turning its attention from copper to chromate, the Dun Mountain Mining Company continued to develop and on July 17, 1860, two engineers arrived in Nelson to build the Dun Mountain railway line. They were both highly competent men who later had distinguished careers, Mr W. T. Doyne and Mr A. Fitzgibbon, who was his assistant. Before coming to Nelson they had just constructed the well-known railway from Colombo to Kandy in Ceylon. Mr Doyne had previously been engaged in railway construction in India, and Mr Fitzgibbon in the United States and Canada. Mr Doyne spent the rest of his life being called in to advise in practically all the Colonial Govern-in Australia and New Zealand, ment's important works, and Mr Fitzgibbon, after remaining in Nelson for a year in charge of the Dun Mountain operations, was appointed Engineer-in-Chief for Queensland and laid down its railway system.

In "The Examiner" of February 9, 1861, the following particulars page Twelvewere published on completion of the survey of the line:

Distance Grade
m. ch.
Port to Nelson 1 10 Level
To Brook Street School 2 60 1 in 76
To Wairoa Saddle (3rd house) 9 60 1 in 20
Maitai Saddle 10 40 1 in 70
To edge of forest 12 50 1 in 33
To chrome working 13 30 1 in 33
1 in 20

Gauge 3 ft; 14 bridges; frequent curves of 1½ chain roads: at a cost not exceeding £2500 a mile.

On September 12, 1861, "The Examiner" reported that the earth work and bridging had been completed and on the opening of the line on February 3, 1862, Mr Fitzgibbon stated that the work had been accomplished within the means of the company.

"The Handbook of New Zealand Mines" gives the following tonnage of extracted chrome ore, most of which came from the Dun:

1858–1861 179 tons
1862 3843 tons
1863 595 tons
1864 768 tons
1865 none
1866 281 tons

The demand for chrome had been greatly stimulated in the 1850's when Sir William Perkins, an eminent English chemist, used it to produce a new colour, mauve. This first synthetic dye immediately came into great demand.

Unfortunately for Nelson chrome mining, the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 stopped the export of cotton from the United States to Britain, closed down most of the Lancashire cotton mills and thus, for the time being, destroyed the demand for chrome ore. However, it appears that the Dun Mountain deposits of chrome ore were by no means as extensive as first supposed. The Geological Survey Report on the Dun Mountain (Bulletin 12) issued in 1911 says of the chrome deposits there, that "the quantity mined there was by no means great and very little now remains" (4).

(To be continued)