The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 10 (February 1, 1928)
The Present and the Past
Just recently, by the courtesy of members of the New Zealand Railway Staff, I was the recipient of a copy of the Railway Magazine for August, 1927, and was surprised and pleased with what one might describe as a singular coincidence, displayed in the illustrations where the ancient and modern types of station and equipment are strikingly depicted.
On page twenty-seven there is a full page picture of the Hamilton Railway Station and yards, which well might be taken as an example of a truly up-to-date and modern station.
Right in the foreground there is a splendid specimen of a tropical palm and a lengthy, raised lawn, whose closely cut velvet-like sward, decked with specimen shrubs and edged with a gorgeous garden throughout its whole length, is a delight to the eye. This garden is tended by a group of enthusiasts who form the Hamilton Beautifying Society.
The powerful engine at the platform, apparently impatient to commence its journey to Rotorua or the Thames, is one of the modern type and forms a striking contrast to the one shown on page twenty-three of the same date magazine. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly the wonderful advance of the service than to compare these two illustrations.
The coincidence mentioned is really a personal one as I have the honour to be Mayor of the Town of Hamilton, which boasts of such a garden-like station and, also, because as a boy, I was one of the most interested of the spectators who witnessed the opening of the Waimate section of the Railway line in 1876, and can easily distinguish and name a number of those prominent in the old photograph. The foremost boy I am not sure of; but the second one (a bigger boy in light coloured suit, is Tom Mastin, the next one is myself and the one standing on the sleepers is J. Hiora. All the boys wore “cheese-cutter” caps (similar to those worn for many years by guards on the N.Z.R.), and apparently went direct from skirts to long strides.
The clergyman with the tall hat is Rev. George Lindsay, who still lives in Southland.
The engine was one with upright chimney, similar to those used now by the P.W.D. at Tauranga yards, and by sawmillers. The passenger traffic in those days was very light, but there was a good trade in timber. Many a time the little engine would puff and blow and finally have to leave part of its load, especially if hauling the totara railway sleepers for which the Waimate Bush was so justly renowned. In later years grain and produce formed the main exports and now there is quite a modern though small station building.
The policy of combining efficiency of service with attractive surroundings is rapidly extending, and from Southland and Central Otago upwards, there are many outstanding efforts of the Department and citizens to make the first impression of the visitor a markedly pleasant and lasting one.
I have the greatest pride in the operation of our local Beautifying Society which expends £1,200 per year on various points of vantage including the station yard. The sum mentioned is augmented by donations from the Railway Department and other sources, and I am glad to testify that this is not a solitary instance of cultivating a love of the beautiful. One could pick up many present day photographs of our stations and contrast them with the scenes of fifty years ago and be glad to recognize the progress made materially, and the still greater advancement made in the attempts to add to utility a beautiful environment.page break