TRANSPORT - RAILWAYS - GERMAN NEW GUINEA (1884 - 1914)
RAILWAYS AND GERMAN NEW GUINEA (1884 - 1914)
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.
Part 1 of 2
(Partial chapter excerpt)
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 worlds great industrial
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Operating power for the railway was provided by oxen. It was reported in
[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
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 companys 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 Companys 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.
Middle - German residence in Friedrich Wihelmshafen with railway line in
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
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. Forsayths 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 Forsayths 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 countrys 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
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 1890s. 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.
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
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
..... 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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