The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 7 (February 1, 1932.)
Our New Sea-Road — A Page from the Past
In years gone by, travellers by rail entered the Queen City through the back yard. It was not dignified, it was not beautiful. Nobody wants to see the washing on the line when they go to call on a friend, nor to dodge the ash can on their way to the front door. The back-yards and rubbish tips of Parnell, and the Domain Gully, were no scenic assets to Auckland City, and the first impressions thus given to visitors were not worthy of our city.
So, when we lost our beautiful headlands and historic bays, and gained an iron sea-road, we tried to find new beauty. Nothing, of course, can ever compensate, from an aesthetic viewpoint, for the ruination of an uniquely lovely natural waterfront, but worse damage has often been done with less bestowed in compensation. There is real beauty from Auckland's new waterfront railway, a railway line that pushes straight out into the harbour as no other railway in New Zealand has done. Dunedin has a magnificent railway approach, a line cut in the face of the cliffs, mile upon mile of blue water stretching far out to the horizon, waves crashing on the rocks a hundred feet below. Then the long, winding way down through the hills into Port Chalmers, and the shallow reaches of the harbour. Wellington has a beautiful railway sea-road in the Hutt line, where the train swings to the curve of the bays, with the high cliffs of Ngahauranga and Khandallah rising sheer on one side and the green waves crashing on the rocks of the embankment just outside the carriage windows.
Auckland's new waterfront route is not like either of these—it is a narrow embankment built straight out into the harbour, across the eastern bays, in a deviation that greatly improves the Main Trunk route between the northern city and Wellington. Reams have been written of our grand new railway station, but nobody has done justice as yet to the beauty and interest of the deviation that starts a few chains beyond.
On a recent summer morning, I set out on a trip through the Waikato. It was one of those rare occasions when there was time to spare, so that instead of the usual whirlwind dash down the platform, I actually had ten minutes to play with. So I went out to the edge of the platform, and looked across a concrete road to rows of stiff concrete buildings, stores, warehouses and factories. And standing there in the sunshine, the years rolled away, and I was a little girl catching shrimps on a reef at low tide, paddling in the dancing waves, balancing precariously on great logs that floated in through a sea gateway to Macklow's Mill, in what used to be Mechanic's Bay, but now a busy industrial area. Then I was creeping with trepidation through a dark tunnel that cut through old St. Barnabas' Point, between Mechanic's and St. George's Bays, page 27 while the waves dashed angrily on the cliffs outside… . Over there, at the foot of Constitution Hill, a stone's throw from the new railway overhead bridge, a stirring drama was staged over half a century ago. Where the trams rattle round the corner, by the Maori Hostel, the ground trembled one day beneath the heavy thud of naked feet performing the dread war-dance. A large native force had come up from Waiheke in their canoes to attack young Auckland town and wreak vengeance on the white man for the arrest of a native who had stolen a shirt and had been confined all night in the police cells. Governor Grey handled the matter with great firmness, told the natives they would be blown to pieces with guns if they were not all on their way back to Waiheke within a certain time. They knew the Governor was a man of his word, and prepared to depart. Meantime the tide had fallen, and they liad to drag their heavy canoes over a wide expanse of mud and sand, departing late in the afternoon, a sad and weary party, for their island home…,
My dream of years gone by was broken by the clang of a bell, and a moment later our train glided smoothly from the station. Round the ruins of Campbell's Point we passed, and across the entrance to pretty little Judge's Bay, with its memories of two of Auckland's distinguished men—Sir William Martin and Mr. Swainson—whose homes, nearly a century ago, were on the shores of this beautiful bay; prettiest of all the harbour bays of the Waitemata. Still on Fort Resolution Point stands little St. Stephen's Church, built by Bishop Selwyn, and in the hallowed acre surrounding it lie many distinguished members of that little band of pioneer officials who directed Auckland's destinies in those first difficult days of British settlement and administration. They left the Homeland to carry British tradition and British law to a wild, untamed country at the far ends of the earth, lived out their little span of life under strange southern skies, and then were laid to rest where the seawinds call, and the sound of the waves makes music night and day….
In a moment the little bay has vanished and we are travelling swiftly across the wide expanse of Hobson Bay. The tide is in, and the still blue waters reflect in page 28 every detail the ochre-brown, cliffs, redroofed homes, and great, dark Christmas trees, a blaze of crimson beneath the summer sun.
From Hobson Bay one gets an entrancing view of the harbour, of the new waterfront drive, and North Shore. How much, more beautiful is this (much as one may deplore the loss of cherished bays and landmarks) than the backyards of Parnell and Newmarket, through which the railway passed for so many years!
Our trip has barely begun, yet every mile has been filled with interest and beauty, old-time tradition, and memories of the past.
Railway Department Praised.
Mr. L. O. Hooker, Hon. Secretary, Mt. Egmont Alpine Club, Inc., Hawera, writes to the Stationmaster, Christchurch, in the following appreciative terms:—
I desire to take this early opportunity of conveying to you the hearty appreciation of the members of our Club who made the recent trip to Franz Josef Glacier.
They are full of praise for the excellent arrangements made by you in connection with their transport from Lyttelton. They appreciated very much the fact that the special carriages were at the boat on arrival, and also speak highly of their breakfast arrangements in Christchurch.
It was also very good of you to arrange on their return trip for the carriages to go-down to the boat. Such excellent treatment is further encouragement to use the Railways.