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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

The Bridge Builders

page 38

The Bridge Builders

A correspondent, enclosing the following poem, writes:—“Your fine appreciation of the work done by the bridge gangs on No. 1 Bridge, Blackball, recalls to my mind a similar incident in the winter of 1903, when a high embankment near the Upper Hutt “went west” down the gully in a long yellow stream of slurry extending for half a mile.

A great stretch of track hung in mid-air and the then important traffic to the Wairarapa and Napier was completely blocked. Gangs and material were collected from far and near for a race with time, and for twelve days and nights in incessant rain the work of building, what is now Bridge No. 26, went on. The following poem, written at the time by Will Lawson, senses the spirit, and I might say the romance of railroading, and it may be of interest to our readers.”

The Bridge Builders.

Out on the lonely mountain side
They are building a bridge,
Heavy blows thundering,
Till the mountain stars, all open eyed
Peep over the ridge
Questioning, wondering;
And the winches whirr; the derricks swing,
The monkeys pound and the taut wires sing,
The night lies dark on the long incline
And they're bridging a gap in the railway line
Where the sodden earth fell sundering.
Black overhead the mountains loom
In sullen pomp
Guarding God's chariot.
And far, far down through the heavy gloom
Gleams the river swamp,
Still, where reeds bury it.
And the Wells Light fades and the sweet streams run
In a battle with time that must be won,
Hoarse voices call, the tired shifts change,
The mail must travel across the range
And they're building a bridge to carry it.
The light of the flares show drooping fronds
And a trickling stream,
Babbling and stammering,
And a weka out in the bush responds
To the winches scream and the engine's clamouring
While the tall bridge grows ‘neath the toiling hands
Of the men who leap to the hours demands
With straining muscles and brains and eyes
Till the merry sparks and the red fire flies
To the regular, rythmical hammering.
Far down the valley an engine calls
And struggles up hill hauling warm carriages
Women asleep wrapped well in shawls
From the night air chill, dreaming of marriages.
And the rivets glow 'neath the hammer's blows
While the hot hearts beat and the hot blood flows
Through the bursting veins of the workers there
Who have time to fashion (and none to spare)
A path for those glowing carriages.
Nearer, all throbbing, the mail train comes
Now it is close, labouring, thundering,
Each glistening rail on its firm bed hums,
And the whistle blows, challenging, wondering.
Then the men who have built the bridge stand back
With the bolts still hot in the new laid track
And watch the glittering wheels go past.
While the rolling roar, and the funnels blast
Echo on, echo on, thundering,
Up where the mighty mountains loom in solemn pomp
Guarding God's chariot,
And the Mungaroa flows through the gloom
Past the sullen swamp, whose swaying reeds bury it.
They have built a bridge, the long trains creep
With straining gear up the gradient steep,
The mail roars loud up the mountain side
And stubborn men in their stubborn pride
Have made a road to carry it.

A Big Cast.

An exceptionally large ingot mould was recently cast by Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company Limited, at their Openshaw Iron Factory (says “The Engineer”). The dimensions and weight of the mould are:—Internal diameter, top 72½ inches, bottom 80 inches, external diameter, top 113 inches, bottom 121 inches; length 205 inches; and weight 109 tons. One hundred and thirty tons of molten metal were used to cast this. The metal was teemed into the moulds in ten minutes, and the casting was afterwards fed for twelve hours. This is the largest mould which has been cast in the Company's foundry, and probably one of the largest produced in the country.

* * *

Experience is by industry achieved and perfected by the swift course of time.—Shakespeare.