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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)

The Builders

The Builders.

When the Stratford-Main Trunk Line eventually opens for passenger traffic, who will give a thought perchance to “the men who built the line.” Think of the almost insuperable difficulties that have been overcome from the first trial survey to its final consummation by the skilled organisation and direction of the Engineer-in-Charge of the great work, together with the staff of workers that carried out the labour in all its variations and vicissitudes of a job of this magnitude. As the whistle shrieks and the train rushes into a tunnel, which it will, quite a number of times, windows will be slammed down, but who will think or know of the amount of physical labour entailed in the construction of a tunnel while it is being slowly but surely pierced?

Again the huge filling or embankment as the train emerges will hardly be noticed, now covered with growth and neatly fenced each side, where men worked in shifts day and night—cold, pitiless winter nights, too—to “work” the trucks of spoil down to the right grade as they came continually from the tunnel; first by horse and then by electric locomotive as the work progressed and power could be used. And what of the high cuttings? as the train rounds a curve, cuttings impossible to see the tops of unless one stands out on the platform! Where are the men that blasted through these solid cliffs of papa rock?

Often, in the winter, these cuttings were filled feet deep with liquid (clay slips), tram lines and trucks being buried out of sight, and the clearing of this mass can well be imagined in continuous wet weather. To describe all the difficulties, the tremendous quantities of timber required and used from the surrounding bush for tunnelling and laying tracks all along the line, temporary bridges, etc., the miles of roads that had to be made over hill and gully for pack horse transport in the first place, and the life in the far back bush camps would take pages of more or less interesting detail.—Will G. Tolley.

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