ABOUT COLONIAL SECTIONS.
By ARNOLD RADCLYFFE.
The following article gives some interesting facts concerning real Colonial Sections encountered in Overseas Motoring.
rir RIALS which include or consist almost entirely
A’ of “colonial sections ” are the vogue of to-day. Before the war a long main road trial was considered a good test for motor-cycles and cars of that period. Gradually, by-roads were introduced and in these times the very worst that Scotland and Wales have to offer is served up and the modern machine shows that it can rise superior to everything. Unfortunately, it is difficult in the British Isles to go far without striking some kind of metalled road, so organisers resort to sending conpetitors round the course twice, sometimes in the opposite direction the second time. But, however much ingenuity is shown in planning the trial, the majority generally win through and what failures there are are due, usually, to the human element.
Motoring in the Colonies.
In the colonies it is the other way round ; failure to get to one’s destination on an ordinary main or trunk road is due to the inability of the machine to conquer the conditions which prevail. These conditions vary considerably in the different colonies ; some countries are fairly dry throughout the year and mechanical transport can be used ten months out of twelve. In other lands the roads and tracks are only negotiable during six or seven months, during the remaining five or six months no one attempts to use them at all, the railway or the horse being the only possible means of transport. There is, however, one part of the world where the only alternative in the wet months is the steamer, which, of course, only serves the coastal districts. In the North Island of New Zealand, colonial sections, as we know them, prevail throughout the summer months and are classed by the guide books as good roads. In the winter they become impassable to heavy vehicles and would be considered over here as impassable to any traffic whatsoever. But the New Zealander has no other means of communicating with the interior parts of his island, as the railway is not yet really developed and the roads make transport by horse and trap impossible. • The North Island is unfortunate in its composition. This consists chiefly of clay, soft clay and pumice sand, with occasional patches of sandstone. In the summer the clay makes a good hard track but full of ruts ; the
soft clay seldom reaches the same state, and the pumice sand makes bad going for a car, and is a nightmare on a motor-cycle. In winter the soft clay becomes a bog, the hard clay becomes soft and tenacious, and the ruts deepen to eighteen inches in places.
The few hardy souls who go down to the back blocks in Fords have a really rough time of it and progress is slow, sixty miles in one day being considered excellent running.
Towns are really isolated during the winter months, all real inter-communication being accomplished by the steamers, a really good service of which regularly operates all round the coast. In consequence, certain little townships located inland are almost entirely cut off as there are only three railway lines of any importance serving the North. The exchange between each town differs considerably, one pound in Auckland being worth perhaps only nineteen shillings in Tanpo.
This will serve to show that the roads really do become impassable even in a small island like this with a highly civilized population which boasts a car to every one in twenty-one of its inhabitants.
A Typical Run in New Zealand.
A few facts about a very ordinary journey which the writer did regularly every week in the winter will help his readers to gain an insight into real colonial conditions.
The journey, although accomplished by a motorcycle in the early days of winter, was later on only possible with a Ford, and it was the wonder, of local residents that this particular Ford ever managed to do the run. Every time it arrived back safely, with, let me say, the mail and a large quantity of stores, the populace openly expressed their surprise. The little settlement where the writer lived for some months was located about thirty miles from the city of Auckland, and constituted the last outpost of the back blocks, as the timber lands are called out there. The only link with the town was a launch which might—or might not—call once a week. The Ford was bought to convey building materials and luggage to the settlement as the launch was regarded as too uncertain a proposition to rely upon. It was a 1919 30-cwt. lorry and was fitted up to carry passengers, and in consequence had an enormous canopy over it which was top heavy, and
eventually had to be scrapped. As a light Ford van with difficulty made the trip, sceptics were of the opinion that the old lorry would be hopelessly useless in the winter. It was the habit of the writer to set out early on a Friday morning to do the shopping for the settlement and to bring back its weekly supply of bread and vegetables and the mail. It is a peculiar thing but no one grows vegetables there except the Chinese who have a complete monopoly of the greengrocery trade. It was always necessary to take in at least one man as the outward journey was impossible without help. One also included in one’s equipment two spades, long lengths of rope and chain, several planks and baulks of timber, two jacks and a quantity of sacks. Buckets made out of petrol cans (4-gallon tin ones are standard in the colonies and are not returnable, no charge being
that make progress possible as the clay is somewhat harder at the bottom of them and the only deciding factor is their depth. Again and again would one’s back axle bite the dust and then ensued a frantic hour or so backing and going forward perhaps a hundred times while the men cut down branches of titri and dug away the clay for yards around. Naturally, a place like this would be impossible to negotiate after the next rains and ever and anon were we finding or making new tracks. But if the trip into Auckland provided scope for spade work the trip out, ladened up, was a nightmare. One particular day will remain in my memory for ever. The Ford had been fractious (what car wouldn’t that never slept under a roof and had coil ignition) and we had run all the way in on a set of dry cells, a feat usually considered impracticable. After collecting all the
made for them) were necessary for obtaining water and petrol and oil were carried in large amounts. Many a time the Ford would get bogged before it had left the few” bathes “which constituted the village, and this was very disheartening as it curtailed our hours of daylight considerably. When the road was eventually reached there ensued for, about five miles a battle with soft clay, luckily this was on an upward gradient, which made it easier for the return journey as, loaded up, soft clay makes a climb impossible. Very often one got bogged about twice on the trip in, but only once was a clean run accomplished even when light. There was one particular spot where some misguided enthusiast of a farmer had dug up the road for about two hundred yards in an attempt to eliminate the ruts. The first time we struck this it took us two hours to get clear, and a new track had to be made through the surrounding titri (a sort of tall gorse). It is the ruts
bread and et ceteras that made life bearable we adjourned to the warehouse of Briscoe & Co., where we took on board thirty-five hundredweight of asbestos sheeting in five cases ! ! We had a crew of five men in addition and every jack one of them was required before the day was out. Starting off we tried to take a short cut which included a very sharp hill ; the Ford refused and if we had been wise we would have returned and left one case behind, but we proceeded by a roundabout route and were eventually eating up the five miles of concrete road that led out of Auckland. At the end of this the road becomes a mass of enormous potholes which had to be taken at less than a walking pace. Following on these is a piece of metalled road that gives one a good start into the country. Level for about five miles, the hills, nevertheless, loomed up brown in the distance and never before had they seemed so unassailable. A stop at the foot of the first and a general fill up.
The whisky at LI per bottle was broached and sandwiches were partaken of ; the night approached and the lack of twilight hastened the meal. The Ford was regaled with water, oil and petrol, and plugs were cleaned and a new set of dry cells fitted as a stand-by in case the dynamo failed at a critical moment. This first hill was surmounted by the aid of vigorous pushing and only two stops and a halt was called at the summit (about 80o feet) to refill with water. The run down into the next valley was precarious, but its terrrors vanished at night as the drop at the side of the road was just an inky vastness. That night, however, a thick fog, rather unusual so near the seaboard, enclosed everything and the descent with its two dangerous hairpin bends became a matter of low gear and both brakes.
The unfortunate part of this procedure was that the lamps would die out unless a certain speed were attained, so that the progress was carried out with the aid of scouts armed with flashlights. The only consolation about the whole ghastly business was that the likelihood of encountering another vehicle was infinitesimal. What would have happened in that unlikely occurrence one can only guess. For either vehicle to reverse would have been impossible at night and the only thing to do would be camp out, an unpleasant proceeding as nights in New Zealand are cold even in summer. Curiously, the writer only once encountered another car on that road, and it was a Thornycroft five-tonner ; needless to say, it hadn’t reached the clay.
The valley was eventually reached, and the road here crosses a rushing torrent by a rickety, wooden bridge about fifty feet above it. After another three miles of undulating, twisting road a small bridge is reached and this is where the trouble always used to commence. A long halt was made, chains, wire and rope were fitted in the dark to the rear wheels, the engine was allowed to cool and water was taken on board, oil was again poured in lavishly (she never smoked and her oil consumption was enormous) and the petrol tank was filled right up as otherwise the gradient did not permit the spirit to reach the carburettor. You must remember that the rear wheels dug in much more than the front ones, thus accentuating the angle.
Two more hills were yet to be climbed both about 900 feet high ; the first was actually surmounted with only four stops, but it was on the second, “Wally’s Terror,” as it was christened, that Lizzie met her Waterloo and nearly got her insurance. To give any good idea of this hill is difficult. Its surface is of clay, its ruts are deep and perilously near the edge, where the bank drops away to the river rushing four hundred feet below. Its bends are so acutely cambered that the descent must be made fast otherwise the feeling is present that a car with a high centre of gravity must tip, the ascent is a feat of skill not to be attempted without practice in the dry season.
The writer would honestly prefer to tackle Beggar’s Roost or Bwlch-y-Groes even if they were cursed with a clay surface than to make the ascent of “Wally’s Terror” with a good surface.
With thirty-five hundredweight on her back, the Ford simply refused to look at the first bend and without wasting time the unshipping of a case was attempted ; this was no mean task even in the daytime for four men to take on, and it proved to be every bit as much as we could manage at night, standing up to our knees in a very sticky compound. Eventually, the case was laid to rest by the roadside and the Ford continued her way after the usual inducements of sacks and planks had been laid under her wheels. After taking the next two bends with only one stop on each she finally dug herself right in on the worst hairpin. Here it was decided to leave her but, as she occupied all the road, we attempted to reverse her nearer to the edge in order to allow for the passage of the bullocks which we should have to obtain in the morning to extricate her. In manoeuvring, the writer was at the wheel and one of the men directed operations which unfortunately resulted in one wheel going over the edge of the road ; luckily, in this place, the cliff did not drop suddenly, nevertheless, the drop gave a frightful tilt to the lorry. Another couple of feet would have resulted in disaster ; secretly we were all wishing by this time that the old bus would go over the edge, in fact, one man strongly advocated pushing her over, and he was an insurance agent ! A weary tramp home over miles of clay and bog brought us back at 2 a.m. to find our women-folk waiting us eagerly, as it was the season when swaggies
or tramps are out of work and these sometimes terrorise a neighbourhood for days unless they are fed handsomely. In our case the nearest policeman was about twenty miles away.
Morning saw us eager to extricate the Ford, but enquiries elicited the fact that the bullocks were away hauling timber, so we perforce had to persuade the Ford to pull herself out. This she did under the influence of a 6-volt accumulator and with the aid of her younger sister, a small light van. It took us eight hours to get her clear away and then we got bogged four times on the return journey.
All of which may give some idea of the real conditions prevailing in the colonies. We used over that thirty miles some eight gallons of water, one gallon of oil and six gallons of petrol and the sole of my shoe was burnt right through by continuously holding down the low gear pedal which is, of course, quite adjacent to the exhaust pipe on an English Ford. Motor-cycling on most clay roads out there is not practicable in the winter as the wheel will not drive unless in a rut and, of course, no bike has sufficient clearance for that. Folding foot-rests are essential for the work and the clearance should be as great as possible
even for summer travelling. A twin-cylinder or a four is desirable, for, although a single may give good service, the country really demands something with a greater reserve of power. Balloon tyres are a necessity except for town work and a very low bottom gear is needed for pulling out of bad places. When the writer was in Auckland, a 8-h.p. B.S.A. and sidecar or a 8-h.p. Sunbeam and sidecar cost £250, whereas a Henderson and sidecar only cost .165 and without a shadow of doubt the latter was infinitely preferable for the district, and, in fact, more were ordered than could be obtained.
The English machines are very popular further south and in Australia, but in the north with its acres of untouched bush the heavier machine is demanded.
One last word, there was a bog in the M.C.C. Sporting Trial last year ; that bog is typical of real colonial stuff, only it is encountered all the time for some of the tracks are in just such a state all the winter, which accounts for the fact that the Ford is the only usable vehicle, on account of its power, weight ratio and high clearance. Regrettable as it may seem the English car has yet to be produced that could really be of any use at all under circumstances which are daily encountered if one lives inland in a clay district.