The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 10 (March 21, 1927)
The Round Trip Through Canterbury, — Westland, Nelson and Marlborough. — By Rail and Motor
It was a dull January morning when I was awakened from slumbers by the persistent ringing of “Big Ben,” and as I slowly collected my thoughts the calendar near my bed appeared to have a large red ring round the figure 3. It was Monday, 3rd January, the day on which I was to commence my trip by the Combined Services.
At 8 o'clock I was ready for my tram ride to the station. On arrival there my interest was immediately centered on locomotive A.B. 730, and the five cars that formed the Extra West Coast Express. Punctually at 8.40 we drew out of Christ-church Station and, after a few stops in the suburban area, turned West and 730 settled into her stride for the distant hills. All along the line there was evidence of the approaching harvest; no New Year holidays for farmers and their families.
A refreshing cup of tea at Springfield, while our steed drank long and full in readiness for the long climb to Arthur's Pass, was an enjoyable preliminary to that entrancing journey along the banks of the Waimakariri. I have travelled up and down this interesting line at all seasons of the year, ever since it was opened up beyond Broken River, and am never tired of it. That others feel the same way about it is indicated by the thousands of Excursionists who have visited Otira during the past twelve months. At Cora Lynn a long train of motor cars, en route from Otira to Springfield, was passed. Motorists touring the Coast during the holidays must have augmented the Department's revenue considerably.
A quick run through the tunnel and down the long grade into Otira Station was followed by a most excellent dinner. I am sure those excursionists who have never had dinner at Otira do not know what they have missed. At 1.55 p.m. with locomotive number 338 in charge, Otira was left behind and speed quickly rose on the long grade down to Jackson, which was passed in 19 minutes. Rain had commenced to fall at Aicken's and so the view of the surrounding country was somewhat spoiled. However, before reaching Moana, the sun came out, and so everyone was enabled to enjoy the magnificent scenery. With only two more stops and a lot of twisting and turning from Stillwater onwards, the Omoto subsidence was passed at a walking pace, and Greymouth station entered at 3.35, giving the respectable average of 30.5 miles per hour for the fifty-one mile run from Otira.
As the result of a tour round the town in the afternoon and evening an impression was gained of a steady advance of the town on the banks of the Grey.
There were not many passengers on the 7.20 train for Reefton on the Tuesday morning, as it was Race week, and people were bound for Greymouth from all points. It was an excellent morning for a train ride, the air being fresh, and the sun did its best to shine through the clouds. A smart transfer at Reefton to a powerful Cadillac car and my journey under the care of the White Star Services began. It had been raining heavily on Monday and the roads throughout being somewhat wet, there was a pleasing absence of dust. It was rather exciting negotiating the sharp turns over the Larry's Creek bridges, and the judgment of the driver in the handling of his car over the tortuous crossing was beyond praise.page 45
Crossing the Buller by a ferro-concrete bridge still under construction, the road hugged the river right through to Murchison. No two glimpses of the river were alike, but all were beautiful, thick bush covering the mountain slopes from the tops to the banks of the river. The road was all curves and ascended the whole way until the old mining town of Lyell was passed. Onwards the road undulated and after an hour's run, Murchison, with its charming surroundings, was reached at 1.30. All of us were ready for dinner after six hours travelling. It was an awe-inspiring journey, with the river anything between 200 feet and 600 feet below, and the edge of the banks only a few feet away from the car.
Those readers who have not yet taken this run should make a point of doing so. From Inangahua to Glenhope there was not a dull moment and the everchanging scenery was a constant delight to the dweller from the City on the Plains. It was truly hot in Murchison and “coats off” was the order of the day for the remainder of the trip. The undulating ride along the Owen River was enjoyable and one could not help thinking that the Public Works Department's camp beyond Kawatiri was ideally located. A pretty little run brought us into Glenhope at 3.45.
On a siding was the passenger train for Nelson, and in a few moments it was alongside the platform ready for passengers to embark. Punctually at 4 p.m. we left on our fifty-nine mile down-hill journey to Nelson. A non-stop run in 40 minutes through a sparsely populated country brought us to Tadmor, where a cup of tea was welcomed by us all. The surrounding country from Tadmor onwards was looking at its best and I was particularly struck with the scenery between Belgrove and Nelson, where we arrived at 6.40. Two hours forty minutes is a much more enterprising speed than the four hours previously allowed.
Wednesday was a typical Nelson summer day and after a walk round the town—which is not as sleepy as one is led to believe—I went down to the port to see the shipping. Returning in an hour's time, I visited the loco, sheds and managed to see the remainder of the seven locomotives on the Nelson section. At 1.15 I was again under the care of Messrs. Newman Bros. and the run along the foreshore over the Wangamoa Hills and through the Rai Valley was simply glorious; in fact words would fail adequately to describe this exhilarating journey. A short stop at Havelock, and we were soon travelling through the Kaituna Valley on an undulating road, and after another hour's run we arrived at Blenheim. As soon as dinner was over I started to see as much of the town as possible before dark.
The next morning, Thursday, was spent in further wanderings about the town, and at 1 p.m. I caught the train for Picton. Being the boat-train it was full, as there were many people returning to the North Island. Picton is a charming place, picturesquely situated at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, and visitors to Blenheim, even if just passing through, should not miss the opportunity of seeing this lovely spot. The week-end and day excursions from Wellington have become exceedingly popular, and on Monday, 3rd January, the s.s. “Tamahine” carried 1,500 people from Wellington on a trip to the Sounds.
Returning to Blenheim by train that night, I was up bright and early and ready for the long trip to Christchurch. We got away at 7.45 with a light load, and the large Cadillac, belonging to the Kaikoura United Motors, soon got into its stride and Redwood's Pass, with its long climb and sharp turns was safely negotiated. The country through which we passed was extremely fine, and harvesting operations were to be seen everywhere. Crossing the double-decked Awatere Bridge, Seddon was reached, and after a short stop the winding road to Ward, and down to Wharanui, was traversed. At Wharanui the sea came into view, and the road for the next fifty miles is not very far from the rocky coast. That morning the ocean was a glorious blue as far as the eye could see, and on the horizon could be discerned a smudge—a sure sign of a boat on the way between Wellington and Lyttelton. Shortly afterwards the hull of the wrecked “Wakatu,” which is only a few hundred yards from the road, came into view on our left.page 46
There are several creeks to be crossed, and at various times during the year these are capable of causing trouble to motorists. On last Boxing Day, nearly 200 cars were held up at one creek. Crossing the Clarence Bridge, the sea is still followed to Hapuku, and to save fording this river, which is rough and treacherous, we made a detour of some two miles to the bridge. A practically level run of six miles brought us into Kaikoura at 11.30. This straggling town is ideally situated, and every year sees an increase of visitors during the summer season. The roads in all directions are in first class order. In a twenty-mile stretch each side of Kaikoura, there were over thirty motorists’ camps, either between the sea and the road or else tucked under the cliffs, which in some places, are only a few yards from the road.
Leaving Kaikoura after lunch, the surrounding chain of hills is climbed and at South Bay the road again runs alongside the sea. Two tunnels have to be passed through, and the road is narrow in places, with some moderately sharp turns. This is an extremely interesting part of the journey. After passing Oaro Post Office, the road enters the hills and crosses the Okarahia Saddle. Undulating country follows through Hundalee to the Conway, and, shortly afterwards, the Leader River Bridge is crossed. Then with a short run on a fairly level road we reach Parnassus at 1.50 p.m. For miles around one could see crops ready for the reaper and every now and then mobs of sheep grazing on the hillsides.
Ten minutes sufficed for the transfer to the New Parnassus Express, resplendent in its livery of Midland Lake. As all passenger traffic on this branch is catered for by the Express, stops were made at nearly all stations. These, however, were of short duration. After leaving Waipara, there were stops only at Amberley, Rangiora and Kaiapoi. Papanui was reached at 4.55, thus giving a run of 80 miles in just under three hours. I left the train at Papanui and after a short tram ride was home again, having covered 670 miles in five days.
Numerous chats with drivers, firemen and guards on the various sections convinced me that there was a better spirit prevailing now than there was two years ago, when I made a lengthy journey to the Bay of Islands and back. The men are evidently more interested in the “fight for business,” and the Railway Magazine has no doubt, considerably influenced this welcome state of affairs.
My grateful thanks are tendered to all those with whom I came into contact and also to those raconteurs “par excellence,” the White Star Motor Drivers. The trip was extremely enjoyable from start to finish and no doubt, when tourists have spread the gospel of travel, the Combined Services can be assured of greatly increased revenue.
The stately homes of England,
How beautiful they stand!
Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
O'er all the pleasant land!
The deer across their greensward bound
Through shade and sunny gleam,
And the swan glides past them with the sound
Of some rejoicing stream.
The merry homes of England!
Around their hearths by night,
What gladsome looks of household love
Meet in the ruddy light!
There woman's voice flows forth in song,
Or childhood's tale is told;
Or lips move tunefully along
Some glorious page of old.
The cottage homes of England!
By thousands on her plains,
They are smiling o'er the silv'ry brook,
And round the hamlet-fanes;
Through glowing orchards forth they peep,
Each from its nook of leaves;
And fearless there the lowly sleep,
As the bird beneath their eaves.
The free fair homes of England!
Long, long in hut and hall
May hearts of native proof be rear'd
To guard each hallow'd wall.
And green for ever be the groves,
And bright the flow'ry sod,
Where first the child's glad spirit loves
Its country and its God.