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THE STRATFORD RAILWAY.

TUKKtNG THE FIRST SOD

(By Telegraph.-Own Correspondent.)

STRATFORD, this day.

The ceremony of turning the first sod of the Stratford-Kawakawa railway was duly performed at Stratford yesterday, March 23th, with all due honours and in the finest of weather. The Hon. Hall-Jones, Minister of Public Works, arrived overnight, and special train services, having been ar-

ranged at excursion fares from North and South Taranaki, the population of Stratford-on-Patea was practically doubled for the day Bunting was freely displayed; 'the enirv to the town from the

railway

station was surmounted by a legend in Maori, "Haeremai, haeremai!" and the Victoria Bridge was furnished with triumphal arches in greenery from the bush, and' an inscription travestied from the works of the Hard of that other Stratford (on Avon): "Now is the summer of our content." The local authorities had made bountiful arrangements for the entertainment of a strong list of visitors. Mr. Fred J. Steuart. Mayor of Stratford, and a strong committee of Councillors and prominent citizens, did the honours in hospitable fashion* There was an excellent luncheon provided at the County Hotel at 1 p.m., and at a little before 2 p.m. there was a rally of official celebrants and the public upon Broadway, the fine level main street of Stratford. where the procession was to p3SS by for the scene of action over the bridge. The procession was headed by a fine body of mounted infantry in khaki uniforms: following' them came a body of unmounted infantry in uniforms of the yellow colour that is incorrectly termed khaki. After thesn came the local ■ fire brigade, the friendly societies in their sashes, and then the school children, girls first. The. official body, headed by an open carriage, drawn by four greys, in which were the Hon. Hall-Jones and Mr. Symes, the local M.H.R.. next followed, the town band meantime playing several choice selections.

The exact spot where the ceremony ■was to take place was over on the Ngaire side of the river, turning off the main road and crossing the line, close to the railway, where the projected line is to come in and join the existing railway.

An enclosure, guarded by consiables, was made for a raised platform for the speakers, in front of which was a grassy plot furnished with a miniature wheelbarrow, an ordinary spade (the silver one had not arrived), and a short run of. gang plank, likewise miniature. The platform was embowered with boughs and ferns, and was soon thronged by those connected with the proceedings. Besides the Minister of Public Works there were the Hon. Mr. Jennings, M.L.C.. Messrs. F. MeGuire, E. M. Smith and Symes. M's.H.R., Mr. Doekrill. Mayor of Xew Plymouth. Mr.JMajor. Mayor of Hawera, Mr. Harknes?, ex M.H.71., and other prominent citizens of Taranaki. The troops, mounted and on foot, drew up to the enclosure, the mass of the public, many ranks thick, stretched round for several chains.

Mr Steuart. taking precedence in the conduct of affairs by virtue of his municipal position, commenced by remarking that never before had there been a day so important for Stratford, and the present proceedings were such as the town had never s?een till the present time. Mr Hall-Jones' scheme of. railway construction was such as would remove the troubles experienced by our back settlers. They all knew how the rates would not maintain the present overworked roads, let alone make new ones. Stratford's extr&mhy "was the Minister's opportunity, and his light railway scheme had solved the problem. But he considered himself rather as M.C. to introduce the speakers who had been drawn together to address them, in which character he welcomed the visitors, influential and other, who had honoured them by their presence. He had a sheaf of telegrams from wellwishers too numerous to mention, but he could not help quoting a passage from the one received from the Premier: "Rest assured the works will be pushed forward ■ vigorously." If Mr Seddon kept his promises as well as the Minister of Public Works, progress would be rapid.

Mr Symes said he felt that day proud to be their member. He had worked hard for four, years to see this one day, a.day which was historic for Stratford. The anniversary of the battle of WaiTeka had its memories of the times ■when their volunteers were first called on to battle side by side with the British regulars in colonial warfare. Their case at Stratford was similar; they had to fight the battle of the settlers, and the day would last in his memory in connection 'with the back settlers ■whom he sympathised with so much. Settlement had increased, and the mud roads so much complained of in the past would be worse yet, but for this new light line railway. Some people had doubted if Sti-atford would ever get the railway, but there was no doubt now, and the Government would be badgered if it did not prove as good as its word. A new life for Stratford would begin, from that day.

Mr Mackay, Chairman of the County Council, drew back the memories of his hearers fifteen" years, when the whole of the cleared and grassed expanse that Jay before them was dense bush. They had been reminded how much the Ministry had done for them; it was for them to remember what they, had done for themselves. He congratulated those present on the prompt way in which the Minister had redeemed his promise.

Mr Doekril said that the event was one of the {greatest in Taranaki. He had called a meeting in New Plymouth for the purpose of coming: to Stratford, not knowing how his Stratford friends had been beforehand in getting special trains for them. Ac had to excuse the absence of many of his Xew Plymouth brethren, who were detained by important business over which they had no

control. He had to convey" the congratulations of his fellow citizens to them, and he had preferred to do it by •word of mouth than by letter. As a specimen of Government policy in a

new direction, the new line deserved their praise, and he congratulated the. Stratford people on their having the place where the first experiment had been tried.

Mr Major welcomed this opportunity of self-congratulation. So far as Stratford was concerned, it was the reddest of red letter days. He had known Stratford during its whole lifetime, during which there had been no fall. It was the proper place to have a junction, and he would happily be a passenger by the first through train to Auciland, even if he had to pay for it. (Laughter. J

Mr E. M. Smith, weicomed by explosive plaudits, reminded his hearers of the old coaching days, when it took five days and cost £5 to <ro to Wellington, and compared it with the present safe and easy system, which he hoped to see soon extended to Whangamomona. It was true he had voted for the Central line: so he had for the Stratford line, and so he would his own Mokau-Awakino line, when, in return, the member for Stratford should vote for it too. (A laugh.) He had met their member in Wellington, and worked with him. and when last there had urged upon the Minister of Public Works the vita! necessity? there was for keeping his word with the people of Stratford. There was a very stood use for the old rails on the new line, and he hoped on his return from Eng-, land that the remainder of the rails for Ihe Kawa Kawa railway would bo made from ironsnnd and by him (Cheers.)

Mr McOuirP said that connection with Auckland had always been his ami. Stratford had shown a sood ex- ! ample in the past in burying the j hatchet when contending for its own j ends. He was glad to work with them, and he recommended the Government to use despatch in making roads to T the railways ns they 'were eon---In.cted. There was no room for ienlousy; wherever the railway was started it vras prooa for the whole co.mtrv Ihe central system by comparison was no good on account of the bad land. Mr Hah-Jones began his address by saying that before he entered on his arduous task of addressing them he would" like to have an expiation concerning the assertion that "he would not redeem his promise." Ml so 0™- £♦'*, t! 1 I °l'"ht he WOuld »« do w> might hold up their hands. (One man held hh hand up. but when chal™f c T ll \r U- "°ni- V tl!(1 if for a joke. ) A Minister always kept his promises, and those present rni»ht rest assured that the Government •n 1„- g° On with the «ork ■nll: Wiiangamomona was reached ; U fim h? had been in favour of the narrow system, which went over hills or round them, and involved no necessity for cuttings. He had visited the district through which the railway was to run. and was led to reject the narrow gauge. The land was so -ood that with the class of settlers they had m TaranalfJL-too much trade would soon be provided for a narrow rrau^e line of m. Hence he had to "come back to the normal 3ft Gin gnu°-e He had been to the back blocks,'not in winter exactly, but in muddy weather, when it was plainly to be seen that no produce could be'sent out, and stores could only be obtained at famine prices. The past had seen comparatively little spent on roads; but latterly there had been a much larger expenditure on road-making-, •it had been found that the standard gauge Avould not be much dearer, and the new line would be a light line, but of the same gauge as the rest of the railways in the colony. From his engineer's report he had been led to support the claims of Strafford as against Elfham. The latter.town was farther nway from the shipping ports of Xew Plymouth and Wattara. The work to be done was one to be called a work for the whole colony, and not for Stratford alone. His attention had been drawn to a placard. "Stratford Junction; change here for Auckland." To take tho line through to Auckland at present was a large question, and "time solves these questions." He could only look forward to Wrmngamomona for the. time being. He could not agree with those who spoke against the Central ror.fp; ■flrere were "valuable assets th<"-e which .required development, and the Stratford line was rather a branch line to KawnlcriTfa. The first instalment was to Toko. He had seen the road there when it was bad, fir..-] hz hoped to,'see In** line open to Toko by next Eoxing Day. He would urge his officers to carry out the work a.« ranidly as could be. ami conclude by railing for cheers fnr Captain Edwin for givii-fg tlipm such a fine day. (Cheprs^y Tie then dug and wheeled the first s'vl nmtrist continued cheerinn- from the jnbila"t crowd.

The evening was devoted to a grnnd bnncmet at tho County Hotel, risen resplendent from its ashes.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19010329.2.4

Bibliographic details

THE STRATFORD RAILWAY., Auckland Star, Volume XXXII, Issue 75, 29 March 1901

Word Count
1,861

THE STRATFORD RAILWAY. Auckland Star, Volume XXXII, Issue 75, 29 March 1901

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