The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 5 (August 1, 1938)
A Great Railway Event — Inauguration of the Wellington-Johnsonville Electric Train Service — Official Ceremony at Wellington Station
A Great Railway Event
Inauguration of the Wellington-Johnsonville Electric Train Service
Official Ceremony at Wellington Station
The inaugural ceremony associated with the official changeover from steam to electric traction, and the introduction of multiple-unit passenger trains on the Wellington-Johnsonville suburban line, took place on Saturday, 2nd July, 1938. Platforms 2 and 3 at Wellington Station were reserved for the opening ceremony, and seats were placed for 600 invited guests. In the vicinity were the units of the new service, the commodious Aotea, the first of the standard railcars, and the electric locomotive for the Paekakariki line and other modern units. The speakers on the occasion were the Hon. D. G. Sullivan, Minister of Railways, Mr. T. C. A. Hislop, Mayor of Wellington, Mr. C. H. Chapman, M.P., Mr. R. A. Wright, M.P., Mr. L. G. Lowry, M.P., Mr. G. A. Lawrence (Chairman, Johnsonville Town Board), Mr. H. L. Cummings (Chairman, Ngaio Progressive Association), Mr. M. S. Galloway (Chairman, Khandallah Progressive Association), Mr. S. Cory-Wright (Cory-Wright and Salmon Ltd., New Zealand Representatives English Electric Company Ltd.), and Mr. G. H. Mackley (General Manager, New Zealand Railways). The Hon. W. Nash (Minister of Finance) and the Hon. P. Fraser (Minister of Health) were amongst the distinguished guests present. Mr. Nash addressed the gathering at Johnsonville.
Opening his address by expressing the appreciation of the response of the public to his invitation, Mr. Sullivan said that they were that day making national transport service history in respect to the railways. The ceremony ranked among the really important occasions, especially for the residents along the line to Johnsonville. It had a national significance because it was the first section of railway line in New Zealand to be benefited by the multiple-unit form of transport.
A line through Johnsonville was first spoken of in 1874, but the proposal did not attract much attention then. In 1877 interest was renewed, a road was decided upon to connect Wellington and Foxton, and a contract was let for the first six miles from Wellington to Johnsonville. The work was carried on until 1880, when a Royal Commission condemned the proposal and the work was stopped, after £43,000 had been spent. The people of Wellington were very indignant at a “mass” meeting attended by 30 citizens. After this meeting the Manawatu Railway Company was formed in 1881 with a capital of £500,000, extended to £850,000. A contract was entered into between the Government and the company in 1882, and the line was laid to Longburn in 1886. It was taken over by the Government in 1908 and a through connection with Auckland was made in 1909. The steep grades and sharp curves of the Wellington-Johnsonville section had always made operation by steam traffic difficult, and the number of tunnels had been a constant cause of complaint from suburban travellers.
Speed and Comfort.
“In appearance and comfort the new service offered all that could reasonably be desired in a service of this nature. When the time-tables were examined, it would be found that in speed and frequency of service they would bear comparison with the best to be found in any area of similar population in any country.
“It is possible, Mr. Nash, that you may have to build more houses in that area, as the result of the Department's transport developments,” continued the Minister. “Meanwhile the local bodies concerned have done much to advance the claims of the district in a public-spirited way. They have co-operated with the Railway Department in obtaining the best possible transport service. I am assured by the officers and the Department that the conferences with the district local bodies have been most helpful. I know that Mr. Mackley and the staff concerned in the construction have cooperated to make it as successful as possible. It remains for the public to use the services to the best advantage in order to justify the considerable expenditure that has been entailed in making a first-class suburban electric train service out of the old Wellington-Johnsonville line.”
Relief to City Council.
“It is certainly an occasion which marks a great advance in the transport affecting this city,” said the Mayor (Mr. T. C. A. Hislop). “It has solved for Wellington a problem which was causing us much concern, because obviously if we had had to replace the railway service here, it was going to involve the city in a very heavy expenditure indeed. We were glad to be able to join with the Department and the residents of the district to bring about this excellent solution of that problem. That area will now be served by a service as excellent as it is possible for a service to be. I congratulate the Minister of Railways on the service, and I wish it every success.”
“Besides being an important occasion for the residents of the district affected,” said Mr. C. H. Chapman, M.P., “it will be a partial solution of the acute housing problem in Wellington.”
Mr. R. A. Wright, M.P., in a reference to the early settlers, said: “If they went to the Upper Hutt they walked. If they went to Johnsonville they walked, along a bush track. If they were here to-day, how they would be astounded!” He congratulated the Railway Department on the progress it was making in so many directions.
Mr. G. A. Lawrence, Chairman of the Johnsonville Town Board, said that the date, July 4, might be taken to signify the independence of Ngaio and Johnsonville. The representatives of the district had always been received with the greatest courtesy by the Department and its officers.
Mr. H. L. Cummings, Chairman of the Ngaio Progressive Association, congratulating the Government on the high-grade service it had developed, and speaking as Chairman of the committee representing the three districts which, since 1931, had continued to make representations for an improved rail service, referred in the highest terms to the consideration given to them by the railway authorities.
Mr. M. S. Galloway, Chairman of the Khandallah Progressive Association, said that it was a proud moment for residents. He was pleased to have been identified with the negotiations. They now had a first-grade, and from the point of view of the users, an economical service. He expressed his belief that the multiple-unit service would prove to be the gem in the crown of the Department.
Mrs. Sullivan cut the ribbon expertly and everyone made for seats in the first electric train to Johnsonville.
Souvenir programmes, illustrated with pictures of the new forms of rolling stock, were distributed to the invited guests, and special tickets were also issued.
The First Train.
The first train was crowded, and the second train was filled before the first pulled out. The run was a surprise to passengers in the way in which the steep grades, up which the steam engines used to puff for half an hour, were taken easily by the motor coaches and their trailers. Each pair pulls its own load in the coupled trains, and the number of vehicles that can be combined in this way will easily cope with the morning and evening traffic on this line. The coaches carry either 72 or 60 passengers, and the two pairs of units with a reasonable number standing, could accommodate 400 people. The multiple unit trains are as steady on the rails as the steam trains they have displaced. They are comfortably heated, and have excellent seating, and provision for a large number of “straphangers” by means of neat rubber grips.
The train left at 3.34½ p.m., and arrived at Johnsonville, after stopping briefly at all stations, at 3.50 p.m., a run of 16½ minutes, well ahead of the scheduled time of 19 minutes. The running was delightfully smooth.
There were crowds on every station, and at Johnsonville the whole of the platform near the station was packed, so much so that movement, once the speakers had commenced, was impossible. The crowd was essentially a family one, the number of children being very noticeable.
Gathering at Khandallah.
After twenty years of representations for better access, they were in the same position in 1931, but a committee had been formed, and its co-ordinated efforts had been well sustained, said the Chairman. In 1932 the matter was presented to Mr. Mackley as a commercial one. He was sympathetic, and had since given great help. It was largely due to his recommendation that they had to-day's service. Thanks also were due to the local committee which had worked for seven years to achieve the desire of the districts, and he hoped the residents would support the service.
Speeches followed from the Minister of Railways, the Hon. D. G. Sullivan, Mr. Hislop, Mayor of Wellington, Mr. G. H. Mackley, General Manager of Railways, Mr. R. A. Wright, M.P., Mr. L. G. Lowry, M.P., Mr. W. H. Field, Mr. G. A. Lawrence, and Mr. M. S. Galloway.
Refreshments concluded an evening, which was brightened by an excellent programme of entertainment.?page 20