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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

The Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, Limited

The Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, Limited (directors, Messrs. T. G. M'Carthy, J.P (chairman), John Kirkcaldie, James Smith, David Anderson, C. B. Izard, John Plimmer, and D. J. Nathan; secretary, Mr. W. M. Hannay; manager, Mr. J. E. Fulton, M.I.C.E.; engineer, Mr. J. Marchbanks.) Offices, South British Insurance Buildings, Lambton Quay, Wellington, Telephone 29; P.O. Box 261 Bankers, Colonial Bank of New Zealand. This successful Company is the outcome of public meetings held in Wellington in the month of September, 1880. Two years prior to this, the Government went to the expense of complete surveys of the land lying between the Empire City and Foxton (the terminus of the Foxton-New Plymouth sections of Government railways. Some eighty miles of railway would be necessary to connect the Capital with the West Coast line, and it was decided that this should be done. Operations were commenced, but never completed, as after the expenditure of some £30,000, the works were stopped, there not being sufficient funds available. Pursuant to resolution of public meeting, the Company was initiated, and after considerable negotiations with the Government resulting in a promise of a land grant, the Company was registered. In 1881 the Railway Construction and Land Act was passed, and in the following March a contract was concluded between the Government and the Company. The work of construction was commenced without delay, and pushed ahead with such energy that by September 21st, 1885, the line was open to Paremata (sixteen miles), and on November 29th, 1886, the whole line (eighty-four miles in length) from Wellington to Longburn, distant four miles from Palmerston North, was available for traffic. The Company's line for the first five miles ascends a steep grade of one in forty, with many sharp curves, and passes through several tunnels, going through the suburbs of Crofton, Khandallah, and Johnsonville. During the next few miles there is a similar descent, till reaching Porirua, on the coast, which the line follows for some four or five miles as far as Plimmerton. The line between Plimmerton and Paikakariki, a distance of some ten miles, is varied by an ascending and descending gradient and several more tunnels. The remainder of the route to Longburn, fifty-seven miles in length, is inland, and almost level, the ruling grade being one in one hundred. The stations passed are Paraparaumu, Waikanae, Otaki, Manakau, Levin, Kereru, and Shannon. From the Melbourne Leader of May 4th, 1895, the following extracts are taken:—“The Manawatu line is substantially built throughout, being laid with fifty-three pound steel rails, and is well equipped with engines and carriages. The carriages are all of the American type, which are pretty general in New Zealand, and are very comfortable. There is a dining-car on the through train, which enables travellers to get meals, and is a great boon. The directors and management look well after the comfort of the travelling public. It may be interesting to note here that the subscribed capital of the Company is £850,000, in 170,000 shares of £5 each; £170,000 is paid up, and the Company's debentures amount to £680,000. The satisfactory result of the Company's operations has proved the correctness of the opinions held by the gentlemen who first took the formation of the railway in hand. Mr. J. E. Nathan was the first chairman of the Company, and guided its destinies in a very able manner for five years. Business engagements necessitated his retirement from the chairmanship in 1887. Since 1888 the directors, of whom there are seven, have been presided over by Mr. T. G. M'Carthy, J.P., a gentleman who is very well known in business circles in Wellington, and, indeed, throughout New Zealand. The Company has sold about 80,000 acres of land in proximity to the railway, in farms varying in size from twenty acres up to 2000 acres, and has settled about 3000 people on this land. The revenue has increased from £47,000 in 1887 to £88,000 in 1894, and the Company became dividend-paying in 1891, when it paid shareholders three-and-a-half per cent. During the two succeeding years it paid five per cent., while last year six per cent, was paid; and from the chairman's remarks and the balance-sheet which was submitted, it may be fairly assumed that this rate of interest will be continued. Any description of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company would be imperfect which did not refer to Mr. John Plimmer and Mr. James Wallace. The former gentleman moved the first resolution pledging the meeting to form a Company, agreed to take a large number of shares, and with Mr. Wallace canvassed the city. Mr. Plimmer was thus instrumental in the inception of the Company, and is the only member of the present board who has been continuously a director from its formation. Mr. Wallace was appointed a director when the Company was formed, and afterwards became general manager and secretary. He was forced to sever his connection with it only a few months ago, owing to ill-health, page 351 Wellington owes much to the energy and enterprise of the founders of this Company which has proved such a benefit to the city and district. It may be remarked in conclusion that the Government have taken power to purchase the line, and it is most probable that the railway will be taken over at an early date.