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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)

Station Gardens

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Station Gardens.

One is always inclined to regard a railway station as a place of utility only, and to associate it with a certain amount of unavoidable grime, combined with a bleak and tidy efficiency which is depressing; in short to find it a coaly, smoky, noisy place admirably suited for its purpose.

Beauty and a railway station—what a contradiction in terms! But not in fact, for the beauty-worshipper, the garden-lover, is not to be baulked by utilitarian ugliness into abandoning his quest for sweetness and light.

Such unpromising materials as a plain wooden box of a waiting room and ticket office, a raised slab of concrete, a net-work of rails, a coal dump or two, and a corrugated iron shed all challenge him to conjure beauty out of ugliness. That he succeeds is evidenced by the many wayside stations in New Zealand, where smiling gardens charm the eye, making one forget the featureless platforms of country railway stations. In some are pretty pergolas over-run with roses or wistaria,
Splendour of Lake Matheson, near Fox Glacier, with the Alps in the Background, South Island, New Zealand.

Splendour of Lake Matheson, near Fox Glacier, with the Alps in the Background, South Island, New Zealand.

in others beds of blazing colour where scarlet geraniums, blue lobelia or bronze and yellow calceolarias lift up bright heads in the sunshine. The railway officials who spend their leisure in beautifying these stations are public benefactors, for what a refreshment to the eye of jaded travellers is a patch of delicate flowers all a-blowing and a-growing in the midst of the prosaic appurtenances of a railway yard, and what a delight is the fragrant scent of roses or honeysuckle wafted across the acrid hot breath of smoke and steam.

In Australia I noticed that there seems to be keen competition in station gardens. Even in the metropolitan station there is an attempt made to brighten up the drabness and grime of the great yards, by the growing of palms in the open spaces among the rails, and along the North Shore line there are many stations which are veritable bowers of roses and other climbing plants, while in one the only decoration used was flat white pebbles and coloured bricks. In England and Scotland, too, many stations are made very trim and smart with flower-beds and grassy plots. The most beautiful and unique of these is without doubt Wemyys Bay on the Clyde, the jumping-off place for the famous Kyles of Bute. Wemyys Station is neither more nor less than a conservatory. It is completely enclosed in glass, and is in reality a railway pier where the trains run to the water's edge. All the woodwork is painted white, while the overhead supports shine like silver, so bright and spick and span is the ornamental metal work. The entire length of the enclosed space is lined on either side by banks of flowering plants, some in pots, some in deep troughs painted green and white, and many of the plants being of the climbing variety, they take every advantage of their unique glass-house by twining up the supports, flinging green trails along the metal work in the roof and drooping their lovely festoons of leaves and flowers over the heads of the passengers. When the sun comes dazzling through this miniature Crystal Palace, lighting up with prismatic glory, delicate blossoms and leafy trails of greenery, bringing out the rich perfumes of flowers and setting the birds carolling lustily, a train seems an incongruous object in the midst of all this beauty.

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