The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 2 (May 2, 1938.)
The Town of Woburn — A Place of Destiny — Marvel of the Hutt Valley
(Rly. Publicity photos.)
One feels that if Gladstone had lived long enough to see Woburn in the Hutt Valley he would have said something very bright about it. Gazing from a hill, as the photographer did for the picture at the head of this article, one quickly believes that Woburn will never be woebegone, because—as a pardonable punster might remark—the woe has already gone. Gladly one sees houses set amongst shrubs and trees, a flank of wooded hill, a gleaming river and the laced skirt of the sea by Petone, a racecourse and golf-links.
An Ideal of Industry.
The great spread of railway workshops by Woburn has not the depressing features of old-time factories with their grim prison-like architecture and ever-smoking chimneys. Electricity is the clean magic servant of man in those well-lighted, well-ventilated buildings where about two thousand men—in different shifts—are busy in various occupations.
The glow of flowers at the main entrance makes no ironical clash with the industrial scheme of things. Indeed the gardens are an appropriate foreground for a model working place, where the right of man to healthy conditions in his toil is fully recognised. At Woburn men can be happy in their work, happy in their play, happy in their homes.
Those big workshops look like strong insurers and protectors of the community's welfare. They are like a benevolent giant trailing gently a host of homes.
The shops have various pleasant surprises for a visitor apart from the marvellous machinery and the well-planned operations. There is a social hall which can seat 200 folk, and a dining-room where 500 can be served comfortably.
There is smooth organisation for all manner of sports and social entertainment. Occasionally the large dining-room is used for dances. Life goes with a bright swing in and about Woburn.
Amenities? Yes, Plenty.
The word amenities has a savour of old-fashioned genteelness—especially the kind known as Victorian—but it remains a good word nevertheless. Some etymologists say that the root of it lies in the Latin for love—a passable opinion, for does not the word mean things lovable, agreeable, pleasant? The page break city of Dunedin used to have an Amenities Society, and may still have it. I remember well the stones and arrows of wrath and scorn which came my way many years ago when, in a foolish mood, I made merry in print with the name of that excellent publicspirited society. Those dare-devil University students, whose capping-day playfulness led them to swathe a towel around the head of the statue of Robert Burns in Dunedin's octagon, were not more severely scolded than I was.
Well, Woburn has a wealth of amenities for body and soul—in the cosy homes which have space for gardens, the clean streets, the playgrounds, the facilities for that allroundness of life which is the ideal sought by reformers in many countries.
The Twain Do Meet.
Woburn merges into Moera (which must not be pronounced “Mo-ee-ra,” with accent on the “ee”). There is a line of division, but who could pick it? Such a line may be like Euclid's “length without breadth” or Euclid's “position without magnitude.” So Woburn is more or less Moera, and Moera is more or less Woburn.
Yet the streets of Moera have some distinctiveness, due to a town-planner. They curve about, and in and out, in a manner which rather fascinates a stranger, for he may wonder now and then whether he is going or coming. It is a plan which should promote sobriety, for one could well imagine a fuddled and muddled inebriate doddering and dithering for hours in the maze at midnight.
Together, Woburn and Moera have between 6000 and 7000 residents. In that locality the Government built more than 300 houses a dozen years ago. Later on, the Railways Department provided welcome help in home-making. It bought a large area of farmland, which it subdivided for dwellings. To-day the hand of the Government is again busy in the building of many houses in this locality.
Several streets have their wide footpaths planted with pohutukawas, which are already old enough to flash their crimson sprays in mid-summer. What a noble spread they will make as the years go on!
In another part of the Lower Hutt are streets which bear the names of native trees—Kowhai, Ngaio and others —and do not bear them in vain, for each road has its own lines of distinctive trees. Could there be a better way of showing a helpful interest in native trees? Evidently the residents take a pride in those tree-planted streets which are a joy to wayfarers, on foot or in vehicles.
An Educated Stream.
The Waiwetu Stream, which meanders through Woburn and Moera on the way to the Hutt River, is being educated. Of course there are plenty of streams in New Zealand which should be left in their natural wildness, but the Waiwetu is not one of them. This was a page break kind of “bad boy of the family” that straggled about swampily, a dreary, dingy wanderer losing its way among dank weeds, where mosquitoes and other pests raised their big families. Therefore, the hand of training man stretched out to the Waiwetu, and made it mend its manners, so that now a part of it can claim kinship with the Avon of Christchurch—on a small scale, of course, but it is a good scale.
Sunny Young Folk.
It was delightful to chat with blithe young boys and girls who were frolicking homewards from the modern school of Woburn (or Moera). They had plenty of cheerful advice to offer when the photographer began to look about for subjects. They suggested various papers in which the pictures should be published. They had no shyness about facing the camera; it was all part of the day's fun. One felt that they belonged to the modern age, where miracles are every-day affairs, but they still had the fresh and buoyant spirit of youth, the carefree joy of living which the older folk envy. Well, they are lucky to be living in Woburn (or Moera).
Big Woburn of the Future.
Of course, not all of the Railway Workshops’ huge register live in Woburn. When the new enterprise took over the personnel of the old shops at Petone many of the men had made their homes in that town. Others reside in various parts of the Valley, and some belong to the city of Wellington, but about a thousand are in houses of Woburn and Moera and thereabouts. With the march of time many more will have homes in this area, for the workshops will continue to grow, and the industrial development nearer to the sea will expand.
The mind's eye can easily see very important functions of those well-equipped workshops in the defence of New Zealand. Think of that enormous gold-dredge which was made in sections at the Railway Workshops of Addington, Christchurch. About 3000 tons of steel were used for that dredge—as much as went into the structure of the U.S.S. Company's steamer “Maori.” If such a feat can be achieved at Addington, what about Woburn, which is planned for much bigger things? The Woburn workshops have already a very strong part in the foundation of modern New Zealand from various viewpoints, and the finger of destiny points to a larger place.
So one goes away from Woburn with a thoughtful mind.