The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April 2, 1934.)
Sixty Years By Train — Well-known Suburban Resident pays tribute to Railway Efficiency. — Interesting Personalities Of The Hutt Valley
Sixty Years By Train
Well-known Suburban Resident pays tribute to Railway Efficiency.
Interesting Personalities Of The Hutt Valley.
I have a distinct recollection of arriving with my brother, the late Charles Edward Bunny, at Lower Hutt in 1874. My father had just completed the residence on the banks of the Hutt River, for a long time known as “Ferngrove,” and now the property of the Sisters of the Mission. The business which I have carried on since 1889 was established in 1887 by my brother Charles, who died following an attack of typhoid fever contracted when he was defending Chemis, in 1889. (This man was tried for the murder of an old settler named Hawkins who resided in the hills above Kaiwarra.) I had driven with him over the hill from Fernside, which was then my father's station, and we were able to catch the train at Lower Hutt for Wellington.
I have travelled by train almost continuously since 1874, with the exception of some years spent at Nelson, Wellington and Canterbury Colleges, and have been a season ticket holder since 1889. Among the earlier passengers into Wellington I remember, were Sir William Fitzherbert, Sir Patrick Buckley, Messrs. W. A. and H. S. Fitzherbert and my father. At that time Sir William Fitzherbert and my father were both members of Parliament, and of the Wellington Provincial Council, representing the Hutt and Wairarapa respectively. Mr. H. S. Fitzherbert was subsequently member for the Hutt and Mr. W. A. Fitzherbert was the first Mayor when the Lower Hutt was made a Borough in 1892.
Other regular travellers by train in those early days, whose names I recall were: Mr. Robert Stevens (who was afterwards a member of the Borough Council and Chairman of the River Board), and Mr. Robert Orr (who was for many years associated with the legal firm of Messrs. Hart and Buckley), Messrs. Travers, Ollivier, Hadfield, Peacock, and Captain Robert Johnston, who arrived in the Hutt in 1868. Mr. C. H. Treadwell, now President of the New Zealand Law Society, has been a constant traveller for about fifty years.
I also frequently met in the course of railway travel, Messrs. G. F. Pearce, George Scales, Orton Stevens, Mowbray, O. S. Watkins, Harry Manning and Ernest Barthorp—Mrs. Barthorp (formerly Miss K. Mowbray) presented the Hutt with a very handsome fence surrounding the Recreation Ground and Memorial Gates in Riddi-ford Park in memory of her husband.
In the early days the journey from Wellington to Lower Hutt occupied about half an hour. There was no railway station at Petone nor any established settlement there, until after the completion of the railway workshops and the works of the Gear Meat Company on the shores of the harbour. Both these events led to a rapid development of Petone as an industrial town and, until recently, it was the most populous centre along the route to the Hutt. Kaiwarra and Ngahauranga were established as village communities and had railway stations before Petone possessed one.
It must be remembered, however, that Petone enjoys the distinction of being the earliest settlement on the shores of Wellington Harbour, under the name of Britannia. Owing to a disastrous fire and numerous floods the settlers moved into Wellington and founded that City. Among the important chiefs who protected the early settlers were Te Puni, Whare Pouri, and Witako Ngatata. In the development of Petone the late Mr. R. C. Kirk and Mr. J. W. McEwan took a most important part.
In the year 1874, when the railway was opened, the Hutt had long since passed the pioneering stage. The forest along the banks of the Hutt River had been cut down. The main road through the valley was quite a good macadam road, and the Hutt itself was the home of many of the old settlers who had been associated with the development not only of the Hutt, but with the growth of Wellington.
In addition to the names of early settlers in the Hutt Valley that have page 15 already been mentioned, the following also occur to me; Sir Francis Bell, as a child in 1855, was residing with his father, Sir Dillon Bell, in a house almost opposite the present convent which I have referred to as “Ferngrove.” (This was the year of the great earthquake.) Sir James Hector, in the early ‘eighties, resided on one of the hills overlooking the railway and Petone. Mr. Thomas Mason (grand-father of Sir Thomas Wilford), and Mr. Henry Jackson (who held one of the chief positions in the Lands and Survey Office); also later represented the District in Parliament.
The most famous of our representatives, however, was probably Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who included the Hutt in his constituency. Sir Thomas Wilford represented the District from 1899 until his appointment as High Commissioner, a period of over 30 years. Mr. Walter Nash succeeds him as Member for the District. I must not forget to mention Mr. George Judd, who has been in the District since 1840. Despite his 98 years of life, he still retains remarkable mental and physical activity.
(Photo, courtesy C. G. Forcman, Railways, Auckland.)
Group of Guards and Porters photographed at Auckland, November, 1890. Back row (from left): Messrs. W. Williamson, W. Webster, C. Beamish, J. Beere, G. Burns, F. Pope and G. Frost. Middle row: W. Saunders, B. Hampton, T. Manning, S. Moulden, J. Lowe, G. Greenland, R. Mcllroy, W. Stanton and W. Kelly. Front row: F. Auger, A. Auger, H. Pearce and H. McVeagh.
To understand the development of railway facilities in the Hutt Valley one must take into consideration the important part played by the Hutt River Board which was established in 1898. Until that year the Hutt had been subjected to a number of very severe floods in which a very large amount of damage had been done to private property and in some cases to the railway skirting the Valley. Since 1898 there has not been, as far as the Lower Hutt and Petone are concerned, one flood of any consequence. This is the result of most important construction works initiated by the Hutt River Board of 1899 and carried out in accordance with the plans and under the supervision of Mr. Laing-Meason, who died in 1924. His work has been continued successfully by Mr. Hubert Sladden. The first members of the Board were Messrs. W. A. Fitzherbert, Dilnot Sladden, W. G. Foster, E. J. Riddiford and Dr. J. R. Purdy. These men were all closely connected with the development of the Hutt District. Riddiford Park, one of the most beautiful in the District, contains large fresh water baths, the gift of members of the Riddiford family. In the lay-out of the park and many of the reserves in the District Mr. G. A. Chapman rendered most valuable assistance.
The river works have made the Lower Hutt and Petone safe as a residential area and it is not too much to say that if it had not been for their construction it would have been impossible for the Government to have carried out the Hutt Valley Development Scheme in 1925, a scheme which included the extension of the railway to the Eastern Hutt.
In the growth of the District and the expansion of the railway two most important developments were the straightening of the line during Sir Joseph Ward's administration and the diversion of the railway to Waterloo in connection with the Government's Hutt Valley Development Scheme. The late Mayor, Mr. W. T. Strand, took a leading part in bringing about the development of the Eastern Hutt and was closely associated with the Government in connection with the carrying out of various projects relating to this more recent work.
Among the many important railway officials with whom I have come in contact since 1874 I may mention Mr. Payne (who was for many years stationmaster at the Lower Hutt), Guard Gough, and the late Mr. Harte. These men struck me as being models as far as faithfulness to their duties was concerned and extreme courtesy to the travelling public—especially the regular travellers.
During the whole period of sixty years over which I have travelled at all hours and in all weathers I cannot call to mind a single occasion on which there was any serious mishap. This remarkable record of safety is indeed a great tribute to the efficiency of the railways and the great care exercised by those numerous officials who have had control of the traffic.
The above, of course, is but a brief sketch, in which it is impossible to refer to every incident of importance in the District, No doubt I have omitted names of pioneer settlers who are entitled to recognition in a complete history of the settlement. Messrs. Baldwin and Rishworth, closely connected with the establishment of educational facilities, especially the High School, are worthy of mention in this connection. Nor have I made reference to many men more recently and at the present time engaged in important social and municipal services who are carrying on the good work of the early pioneers and making history.page 16