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Part 1 of 2
(Partial chapter excerpt)

Note - This is a chapter from the book by McKillop and Pearson "History of Railways in Papua New Guinea" - it is obtainable from University of Papua New Guinea Press.

New Guinea came under Imperial German administration in 1884. Although it received less attention than the newly acquired African colonies, the Germans had ambitious plans to develop their new South Seas possession. It was intended that railways would play a significant role in this development. This chapter traces the development of railways under the Germans, commencing with an examination of factors which shaped colonial policy in the fatherland, followed by case studies of individual railway applications in New Guinea.

German Imperialism and Industrialism

Germany offers one of the most striking examples of an economy transformed by railways. German states entered the Railway Age as backward rural-based economies. Railways played a direct role in establishing industrial technology and stimulated coal mining, metallurgical and engineering industries. In the Ruhr, railways built on their original role of linking coal mines with navigable water founded one of the world’s great industrial regions.

The growth and modernisation of the German iron industry and the engineering sector was a direct consequence of the railway. In the northern state of Prussia the bulk of locomotives and rails were imported up to 1842, but after 1850 almost all of these products were produced by local industry. In Germany as a whole, railways accounted for a quarter of total industrial investment Railways served a central role in the rise of Prussia as a European military power. As early as 1843, the Prussian Chief of Staff wrote:

Every new railway development is a military benefit, and for national defence it is far more profitable to spend a few million on completing our railways than on new fortresses.

Military influences and interests dominated German railway development to a greater degree than elsewhere. A railway section was formed by the Prussian General Staff in 1864 and was upgraded to a Field Railway Section two years later. By 1867, regulations provided for military control of railways in wartime, and this facility was of vital importance in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. A large proportion of positions on the Prussian railways were reserved for ex-military personnel and this resulted in "a noticeable orderliness and precision about everything connected with German railways."


Industrialisation and militarism generated pressure to expand German trade and influence. German traders commenced operation in Africa and began to arrive in the South Pacific by 1850. The firms Johann Cesar Godeffroy & Sohn and Hersheim & Kompagnie were operating in the Bismark archipelago from 1873. In April 1884, Bismarck told the Reichstag that he was prepared:

to provide Imperial protection against attacks from neighbouring territories or abuse by other European powers for those colonies that have not been artificially created, but result from spontaneous growth.

On 22 June 1884 a German protectorate was proclaimed over Luderitzland (South West Africa), followed by Togo (5 July), Cameroon (14 July) and German East Africa (Tanganyika). In the South Seas, a protectorate was declared over German New Guinea on 3 November 1884. The intention was to limit colonial activities to the protection of the trading activities of Hamburg and Bremen companies under the principle, "the flag follows the trade". However, the reality was quite different and the German state was soon called to provide financial support for colonial activities.

Colonial Railway Policy

Agricultural potential and mineral deposits in the colonies constituted wealth only on paper. A good transport system was necessary to exploit this potential wealth. In Africa and New Guinea, navigable rivers were practically non existent, so that porterage was the only means of transport into the hinterland. Construction of railways created the opportunity for the authorities to extend their authority into the interior. In Africa, the first stage of colonial railway building was the penetration line inland from a port to carry minerals and agricultural products. Metre gauge was chosen for railways in Togo, Cameroon and East Africa, while 3 ft 6 in was selected for South-West Africa with an eye to standardisation with South Africa. Light 600 mm gauge lines were constructed in South-West Africa and New Guinea.

Railway construction drew the state into investment in infrastructure. However, the Reichstag opposed colonial investment until late 1906 when an election resulted in delegates who were more willing to support railway bills. Rapid colonial railway construction followed and, by 1914 a total of 4,410 km of public railways had been constructed in Africa. The 1906-1914 period also saw significant investment in New Guinea.

Early lines were built to the rules and limitations of the secondary railways of Germany. Only in 1912 was the code of practice for building and operating colonial railways (the Kolonialeisenbahn Bau-und Betriebsordnung or KBO) laid down. The KBO established loading gauges for locomotives and rolling stock, standards for permanent way earthworks, bridges and signalling, operating speeds, maintenance procedures and staff regulations. It influenced the construction of an extensive network of 600 mm gauge railways in the Belgian Congo.

Financially, the colonial railways were expected to attain a sufficient rate of return to allow for running expenses, 0.6 per cent repayment and 4.0 per cent interest charges on the initial investment, together with a financial reserve.

Locomotives, rolling stock, rails and other railway equipment were built by metropolitan foundries. Orenstein & Koppell (O&K), Maffei and Hanomag provided locomotives and rolling stock for the standard (1435 mm) and metre gauge railways. For narrow-gauge plantation and construction railways, O&K, Arthur Koppell and Lokomotiv-Fabrik Krauss and Company provided rails, locomotives and rolling stock to lines in the colonies and to many other countries, including Australia.

Neuguinea Colonial Administration

Neuguinea Kompagnie

In 1884 a charter was granted to the Neuguinea Kompagnie (NGK) to enter into relations with the native people, to experiment with the cultivation of useful tropical crops, to prepare for settlement and to serve as a basis for administration when established. The NGK was formed by a consortium of Berlin financiers headed by Adolph von Hansemann of the Disconto-Gellschaft, one of the largest private banks in the city. Initially the company established its main trading station at Finschhafen on the mainland (Kaiser Wilhelmsland ), with sub-stations at Hatzfeldthafen, Constantinhafen and Matupit, the latter on the Gazelle Peninsula.

The initial intention of the NGK was to bring thousands of settlers to the colony. However, conditions at Finschhafen were unsatisfactory for European settlement and operations were hampered by excessive red tape from Berlin. The NGK was unable to attract suitable migrants and turned to the establishment of large-scale plantation enterprises using Asian labour.

The company spent lavishly in its attempts to establish new agricultural industries on the mainland. By 1898, the NGK had invested 11 million marks with little return. Tropical pests and disease, an inability to handle the new environment and local hostility, generated by colonial arrogance, brought failure for the German colonising effort. They persisted, with more success, in the islands where the cultivation of coconuts proved more rewarding.

The NGK faced competition from other German trading companies, individual traders and entrepreneurial missionaries. The legendary Emma Forsayth, who was to become widely known as Queen Emma, arrived from German Samoa in 1879 to establish a trading station adjacent to the Godeffroy head station at Mioko in the Duke of Yorks islands. In partnership with her brother-in-law, Richard Parkinson, Queen Emma established a prosperous business empire with numerous plantations on the Gazelle Peninsula. Parkinson was a pioneer in establishing a scientific approach to agriculture in the new colony. Other German trading houses, notably Deutsche Handels-und Plantagen Gesellschaft (DH&PG), which took over Godeffroy & Sohn in 1884, Nord Deutsche Lloyd (NDL) and Hernstein & Company, also established plantations and trading enterprises.

Imperial Administration

With the heavy financial losses of the NGK, the German government stepped in to take over the burden of civil administration in 1899. The Imperial government headquarters were established at Herbertshohe (Kokopo), moving to Simpsonhafen (Rabaul) in 1909. The administration sought to encourage villagers to produce copra in order to "train the natives in the habits of work" and overcome their "natural tendency to indolence."

The period from 1900 to 1914 was one of relative prosperity for the German colony. Plantations expanded rapidly in response to strong demand for copra in Europe and good shipping links by NDL steamers. The companies began to make profits and individuals were encouraged to become planters. Land for plantations was purchased from villagers and confirmed as freehold title by the administration. It was widely believed that the welfare of the local people could best be promoted in European-managed enterprises. The Germans demanded strict discipline by labourers and any breach led to punishment such as caning. Medical services and schools were established for the local population. Through the provision of these social services, it was hoped to "coax the natives into becoming part of this expanding economic empire."

i. Plantation Railways

To provide transport for their trading, plantation and industrial ventures, the Germans laid down light, narrow-gauge railways using materials imported from Germany. Case studies of the most significant lines are presented in the following sections.

The first recorded railway in German New Guinea was a short line from a warehouse to a jetty on Mioko Island in the Duke of York Island group. Godeffroy & Sohn established the trading station there in 1876 although a precise date for the tramway has not been established. A light railway between the wharf and store is depicted in an etching published in 1891 and a photograph of 1900. Trucks were apparently hand-pushed on the line. No other references to this operation have been located, although the plantation was listed in the expropriated properties. Nearby on Manuan plantation, there was a narrow-gauge railway, some 1200 metre in length in 1927 with two trucks. This line is reported to be still in operation.

Erimahafen-Stephansort Railway

The NGK established substantial light railway systems of 600 mm gauge to transport produce on their extensive plantations. In 1888, they opened a new tobacco station at Stephansort on Astrolabe Bay, some 40 km south of Friedrich Wilhelmshafen (now Madang) and the station became a focus of company operations in 1891. With the backing of von Hansemann in Berlin, the NGK established the subsidiary Astrolabe Company to take over tobacco growing activities at Stephansort and at Erima a short distance away.

Over the next five years the tobacco growing ventures of the Astrolabe Company constituted the main commercial activity of the German colonial effort in New Guinea. An extensive narrow gauge (600 mm) railway system was established to provide transport on the plantations. The railway equipment, imported from Germany, was operational by 1893.

Initially, a railway line was constructed from Stephansort plantation, north-west though forest country to Erima on the left bank of the Jori (or Gori) River, a distance of some 4.5 km. At Erima, a "big administrative building, drying rooms and secondary buildings" were established. The line then ran north-east for 4 km to port facilities at Erimahafen.


Insert - Above - Map of Astrolabe Bay Tramways


Insert - Top - Ox-drawn bogie carriage on Erimahafen-Stephansort railway with Javanese driver.

Kreiger, M. Neu Guinea: bibliothek der landerkunde, 1899. ---------------------

Bottom - Tobacco processing facilities and railway at Stephansort. Note loaded trucks in background behind ox-drawn carriage.

The Leader, 25 June 1898


There were several extensions to the system. To support planned expansion of tobacco planting on the right bank of the Jori River at Erima in 1895, rail tracks were laid along the main paths through the plantations, bringing the total length of the system to 16 km. The system may have totalled 24 km by 1897.

Although light railway technology was employed, the local environment required investment in significant infrastructure. A large bridge was required to cross the Jori River, but it was inadequate to match the fury of the flash floods of 1897 and was washed away. Thus severed, the Stephansort and Erima railways were subsequently operated as individual systems. Other structures were more enduring. In 1927, seven bridges were listed on the Erima system, including a 43 metre suspension bridge, and there were also seven bridges on the Stephansort system (by then known as Bogadjim plantation).

Operating power for the railway was provided by oxen. It was reported in 1898 that:

[t]he oxen are much cheaper and more easily managed than engines, and, on the whole, answer very well for a road with so little business, especially as all engines used in the tropics need great care and many repairs.

Rolling stock consisted of bogie wagons for the transport of tobacco (16 remained in 1927) and several bogie carriages for management personnel. The German managers, their families and visitors rode in these well-furnished, ox-drawn carriages while driven by Malay drivers. For the European mastas, at least, the railway provided the opportunity of movement in a style which upheld their status.

The NGK established the tobacco venture as a foreign enclave. New Guineans were generally not encouraged as labourers, Asians being preferred for this role. By 1894, there were 450 Chinese, 324 Malay and 664 Melanesian labourers in the fields. Another 173 Javanese and 87 Chinese filled semi-skilled positions.

In 1898 Erima was described as "an insignificant place", with a few dwellings built in Sumatra style for the manager and other officials and the recent addition of a sawmill and furniture manufacturing plant. Most of the field work was undertaken by Chinese labourers. District Commissioner Stuckardt reported a more active scene when he travelled from Stephansort to Erima by railway on 15 November, 1901. He noted that the sawmill at Erima "was a hub of activity".

Astrolabe tobacco leaf sold quite well on the Bremen market, but at grievous cost in men and money. The annual death rate of indentured labourers employed by the Germans between 1887 and 1903 has been estimated at 28 per cent. Production peaked in 1894, when 73 tonnes of tobacco were exported to Bremen, but drought, pests and flash floods affected production in subsequent years. By 1897, the expenses of the tobacco ventures had crippled the Astrolabe Company and it was merged with the parent NGK. The "poor quality of the Asiatic coolies" was claimed to be a contributing factor in the company’s demise. Tobacco growing continued at Stephansort on a declining scale until 1901 when the fields were planted to coconuts, cautchouc, guttapercha and ficus rubber.

With the conversion of the plantations to coconuts and ficus rubber after 1901, the railway systems continued to serve the new mode of production. Following World War I, German properties were expropriated and sold to Australian settlers in 1927. There were three lots: Erimahafen plantation with 215 ha planted and 1.6 km of railway; Erimabush plantation, 245 ha planted, 5.6 km of railway and 5 bogie trucks; and Bogadjim plantation, 717 ha and 8 km of railway. The plantations were to come under rival ownership with differing approaches to maintenance of the railway lines. In 1943, Allied Army intelligence reported that the railways were still in existence. However, the lines were destroyed in subsequent fighting and were not restored after the Pacific War.

Friedrick Wilhelmshafen Railways

With the death of officials, the NGK abandoned Finschhafen as their headquarters in 1891 and transferred operations to Friedrich Wilhelmshafen (now Madang). By 1892, some 200 metres of light 600 mm gauge railway was in operation linking the wharf to warehouses.

In 1888, the Kaiser Wilhelmsland Plantagen-Gesellschaft was formed in Hamburg for the purpose of growing cocoa and coffee on a plantation at Jomba, 5 km south-west of Friedrich Wilhelmshafen. The NGK established tobacco trials on Jomba in the early 1890s, but these were closed in 1893 when a smallpox epidemic decimated workers. By 1899, a new 60 metre pier had been constructed at Friedrick Wilhelmshafen and the 600 mm gauge light railway was extended 4.5 km from the wharf, through Modilon plantation to Jomba plantation. Kapok, coconuts and cocoa were being grown at Jomba.

Despite the failure of the Astrolabe Company’s ventures, von Hansemann in Berlin was reluctant to forsake his vision of vast tobacco estates. In 1900, a further tobacco growing enterprise was initiated on Jomba and Modilon plantations and 270 Chinese coolies were recruited for the enterprise. To upgrade the railway from Jomba to port facilities at Friedrich Wilhelmshafen, railway equipment was to be relocated from Erimahafen. This did not prove practical, so new equipment was probably obtained from Germany. It was planned to continue the line a further 23 km to link up with the railway system at Erimahafen.


Insert - Above - Map of Friedrick Wilhelmshafen Railways


Top - Railway and overseas wharf at Friedrich Wihelmshafen, c. 1892.
Alexander Pfluger, Samoa und Inselen de Sudsee. Berlin: Susseroll, nd.
(National Library)

Middle - German residence in Friedrich Wihelmshafen with railway line in foreground.
Kreiger, M. Neu Guinea: bibliothek der landerkunde, 1899.

Bottom - Large bogie truck hauling coconuts on Modilon Plantation in 1927.
Catalogue of New Guinea Properties, 1927.


Steam locomotives may have been imported in 1901 to operate the upgraded line (and the proposed extension to Erimahafen). An 0-6-0TT locomotive purchased by the Moreton Sugar Mill at Nambour, Queensland in 1904, reputedly came from "a German New Guinea plantation". The NGK abandoned tobacco growing at Jomba in 1903 and with it hopes for an extension of the railway. Accordingly, locomotives would have been surplus to the traffic then offering. Two historians have reported photographs of a steam locomotive among German records. Information recently published in Australia indicates that it is most unlikely that the locomotive at Moreton Mill came from German New Guinea. The identity of the any locomotives at Jomba remains a mystery.

The plantations at Jomba and Modilon were planted to coconuts and ficus rubber after 1903. Three large bogie trucks, each with a capacity of 1000 coconuts, and two 4-wheel trucks were in service in 1927. They were hauled by two oxen.

A substantial new pier was completed at Friedrich Wilhelmshafen in 1902 allowing "the Imperial Mail Steamer to tie up without difficulty and unload from both hatches." The railway laid by the NGK helped to simplify the loading and unloading. The line ran from the large plantation copra shed, through the plantation and alongside the road to the Madang wharf.

The alienation of land by the Germans for their plantation ventures generated deep resentment among the local villagers. The villages of the Madang area comprised seafaring and trading people whose land holdings were confined to the narrow coastal strip and small offshore islands. Large amounts of their land were taken over for plantations in transactions which they little understood.

The dam of resentment broke in July, 1904, when the villagers decided to kill off the foreigners who had disrupted their lives. The plot was uncovered and the ringleaders were captured as they tried to storm the arms depot. One man was shot dead and nine were later executed. Others were exiled to remote government stations.

German pioneers found the rich volcanic soil of the Gazelle Peninsula on the island of New Britain more suited to agriculture and European settlement than the harsh, disease-ridden conditions of the mainland. The Emma Forsayth-Richard Parkinson partnership purchased extensive areas of agricultural land on the Gazelle Peninsula to establish coconut plantations from 1882. By 1884 DH & PG had claimed five stations and Hernsheim & Company four stations on the Gazelle Peninsula. The following year the NGK established a head station at Herbertshohe (Kokopo) and set about establishing extensive coconut plantations.

A narrow-gauge railway, 300 metres in length, was constructed at the NGKs Herbertshohe station to link the landing place with a cotton store by 1893. The line was extended to 1000 metres the following year when a new jetty was opened. The railway was listed in the expropriated properties in 1927 as Timbur Concentration Depot.

Nearby, Emma Forsayth was developing Ralum plantation into one of the largest and most impressive in the colony. By 1900, 1050 hectares had been planted to coconuts on Ralum and some 90 tonnes of cotton were also produced. The famous residence of Gunantambu was established at Ralum Point. A large two-story office block administered the dealings of the trading empire, there were many stores and copra sheds, residences and a substantial jetty. Dual railway lines ran from the jetty, some 30 metres in length, for about 300 metres to three large copra stores, with a tramway shelter, known as Ralum Depot. This small railway system was still in place in 1943.

Some of the early railway operations symbolise the ingenuity of the new settlers in solving difficult transport problems. Forsayth’s Raniolo Plantation on the Gazelle Peninsula was recorded as having a funicular railway across a steep sided valley to the plantation in 1898. A short railway was also established on Forsayth’s Kabakaul plantation, linking the jetty to warehouses. After the Pacific War the Production Control Board (predecessor of the Copra Marketing Board) opened a copra-buying depot at Kabakaul and restored the wharf and tramways. The depot was closed in the mid 1960s and the line and sheds left to rust away.

The only German property on the west coast of New Britain was the 500 ha plantation at Pondo. It came under the ownership of the WR Carpenter & Company subsidiary, Coconut Products Ltd (CPL). Plantation railways were operating in the early 1930s.

CPL established a desiccated coconut factory at Pondo, the products of which were marketed under the Desikoko brand. Photographs from 1933 depict operations on the railway, with European travellers on trucks being pushed by New Guineans. A report in the Rabaul Times in 1936 covered a journey over a well maintained narrow-gauge railway inland to the factory. The enterprise employed nine Europeans and 600 labourers.

The railway system, reputedly of 700 mm gauge, comprised some 8-10 km of lines through the plantation prior to the Pacific War, but was being dismantled by 1963. Rolling stock then comprised a diesel locomotive and about "a dozen" flat wagons. The last section was closed in 1970.

The islands of Bougainville and Buka (now North Solomons Province) were transferred from the British administered Solomon Islands to German New Guinea in 1886. Initially, German contact was purely nominal and Europeans who ventured into the area did so at their own risk. A number of the plantations on Bougainville were established by Australian or British companies. Numa Numa plantation, originally established by a Dutch planter and later owned by Buka Plantations, was to become the country’s largest. Choisel Plantations commenced the first clearing at Soraken in January 1913, with Baniu, Arigua and Teopasino being established soon afterwards. By 1914, 30,000 hectares had been alienated for plantations.

These plantations used extensive light railways for the transport of green copra from the fields and processed copra to their wharves. The Numa Numa railway bears the most distinct German heritage. Light railway lines with a total length of 6.5 km were constructed from the wharf through the plantation with four branches in a "H" pattern.

Few reports of railway operations at Numa Numa have been located although there is evidence that a steam locomotive operated there.. The line gained brief media attention in 1927 when an accident occurred on the line. As a result of brake failure, a truck loaded with labourers returning from work tore along the track at increasing speed until it left the rails, "capsizing its human freight and causing some alarming injuries." The manager attended to the injured.

The lines are reported to have been lifted by the Japanese in 1943 and used to mount heavy guns in the mountains. Rails were also used at Asitavi sawmill and to build a copra drier at Tenakau. These rails are of German origin and bear the inscription GHH -11B. A wheelset collected from Numa Numa observed at Wakunai was of 600 mm gauge and bore O&K inscription..


Top left - Pondo Plantation railway, Top Right - SVD 700 mm gauge New Britain. Mrs Wood, Mrs. Evensen plantation railway, St. Anna and Patricia Wood being escorted to Mission, Aitape. the Pondo wharf on the railway, 9 December 1933.
UPNG Library, Fryer Collection

Mrs M Ferguson

Bottom - Railway line through Taveliai village near Kaliai Catholic Mission, West New Britain.

Curriculum Unit, Department of Education


Insert Above - Maps of Numa Numa and Meto Railways

Soraken, Kunua, Baniu, Arigua and Teopasino all had extensive systems by the 1930s, but these probably post-date the German era. They are discussed in chapters 4 and 6.

Other German Plantation Railways

On Garowe Island in the Witu Group of West New Britain, Meto plantation was served by a railway which dates from German times.. The plantation and trading station at Peterhafen was established by Captain Peter Hansen, a Forsayth trader, in the 1890’s. A railway line ran from a wharf at Peterhafen, through Meto plantation. It is believed there were several branches on a herring-bone pattern bringing the total length of the system to 4.5 km. The T-jetty had a rail line across the face with a "Y" joining this line to the line on the jetty. A section of the line was operational by 1909. Reports indicate that the railway was operated by oxen or buffalos. The line was subsequently extended to Ilia plantation (Chapter 4). In 1927, the Australian Minister for Territories, Hon. CW Marr, visited Garove Island on the SY Franklin.

The islands which now comprise Manus Province were far from the centre of administration and few records are available of German colonial activities in the area. On clusters of atolls, known as the Northwest Islands, Heinrich Rudolph Wahlen took over the rights of Hernsheim & Company and established coconut plantations and a trochus shell venture/. At Longan plantation in the Niningo Group there was a 100 metre railway line from the wharf/. There were three bogie trucks. On nearby Pelleluhu plantation, a light railway from the wharf to plantation buildings was still in operation in 1943/. A 600 mm gauge is likely. No other records have been located.

Although the Germans actively explored and researched the natural resources of their new colony in the hope of finding new riches, they failed to find mineral wealth. Consequently, there were few mines and associated railways. Phosphate mining was the only significant mining activity.

The Neuguinea Kompagnie established an early phosphate mining venture on Mole Island in the Purdy Group south of Manus Island. In 1888, it was reported that track and rails had been completed for conveying phosphate across the reef surrounding the island for loading onto ships. The venture was short lived. A tropical storm in March 1891 wrecked the installation and the mining operation closed.

Phosphate mining was also carried out in the Micronesian islands administered as part of German New Guinea. Guano rock brought from the island of Nauru to Sydney in 1899 was found to be rich in phosphate. The Pacific Islands Company made a secret assessment of the resource and formed the Pacific Phosphate Company to mine the island in 1902.

To gain German support for the Nauru operation, the company ordered Orenstein & Koppell 610 mm gauge locomotives for their initial mining operations on the British-administered Ocean Island in 1905. Eventually eleven O&K 0-4-0T 610 mm gauge locomotives were to operate on Ocean island. German cooperation to mine the Nauru phosphate was secured through a joint-venture with Jaluit Gesellschaft and the use of German engineers to install the mining equipment and 610 mm gauge railway. It is believed three 0-4-0WT Krauss locomotives (B/N 5671-3/1907) were supplied through Arthur Koppell for the railway. Three O&K locomotives followed in 1908-09.Nauru came under Australian control following World War I. The mining and railway operation was taken over by the British Phosphate Commission.

Public Railways;

The German state stepped in to provide infrastructure and services in 1899. The level of investment was modest until 1906, when the Reichstag began supporting more lavish colonial investment. In New Guinea, the administration commenced a visionary program for development of transport infrastructure based on the necessary railway network to support a more modern economy. The vision was grand, but well beyond the capacity of budgetary support in this remote economy. Nevertheless, considerable investment was made in roads planned for conversion to narrow-gauge railways with traction by bullocks or by locomotive once plantations were established. The intention was to build bridges over major rivers when the railway was laid. Consequently, roads followed routes that in many cases would come to what seemed an abrupt stop at a river or gorge. On the east coast of New Ireland the German administration established a network of fine roads under the colourful district officer, Bulominski. Due to difficult navigation conditions, greater emphasis was given to land transport from the junction point at Nusa (Kavieng). The main public road, 6 metres wide on average, connected the trading stations on the north and north-east coasts by 1902. The surfaced road extended some 180 km by 1911.


Insert Above - Map of Gazelle Peninsula Railways


Top - Railway tracks at main NDL wharf, SS Marsina and Mindini are berthed following takeover by Australian occupational force in 1914.
PNG National Archives

Bottom - Mango Avenue, Rabaul with a flatcar on the line to the Botanic Gardens.
National Library, PNG Collection, Photo 317 from Historishes Bildmaterial our dem Archives des stoatlichen Museums fur Volkerkunde, Dresden.


On the Gazelle Peninsula a tunnel was built for a railway out of Rabaul. The intention was a continuous line of railway extending for 200 km from the mouth of the Warangoi River to the Baining country. Apart from light street tramways in Simpsonhafen (see below), Tunnel Hill and transport infrastructure on the Gazelle remained as roads.

Railways were also planned for the Friedrich Wilhelmshafen and Aitape districts. In addition to the planned 23 km railway link from the Friedrich Wilhelmshafen to the Stephansort systems, evidence has recently emerged that the Germans planned to extend the railway from Stephansort to the Lower Ramu flats where they hoped to tap alluvial gold washed down from the hills.

Significantly for PNG, this bold vision for an extensive narrow-gauge railway network was never realised due to the European War of 1914. However, public railways were established in Simpsonhafen (Rabaul) and Nusa (Kavieng).

..... continued in Part 2

Note - This excerpt is from a chapter of the book by McKillop and Pearson "History of Railways in Papua New Guinea" - it is obtainable from University of Papua New Guinea Press.


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