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K88 Goes To Dunedin

 

 

 

    The date was Friday, September 6th 1878; the time was 5.30 a.m. The scene was exceedingly animated. Mr. Garstin, the stationmaster and the officials under his control had a busy time attending both the people who had come to see the train depart, and to the travelers themselves.

    Governor Grey had come up to Christchurch some little time before to go on this trip. He had with him several of his staff.

    Neither the Railway Station, nor the surrounding railway premises were decorated for the occasion, but the Terminus Hotel opposite had a line of flags fluttering gaily along its entire frontage.

    K88, the engine at the head of this inaugural train was resplendent; with her wooden cab highly varnished; with polished fittings, and effective lettering on the cabside.

    Ben Verdon a local railway driver, was told off to drive the locomotive, with Tom Scott as his Fireman.

    In the cab with Verdon and his Fireman were three other men; all very important railway officials. They were:

    Mr. Allison D. Smith, Locomotive Superintendent (Christchurch).

    Mr. William Conyers, manager of the Otago Railways until the provinces were abolished in 1876, and was then appointed engineer in charge of rolling stock in the South Island. Mr. Conyers was not only Allison D. Smiths senior officer, he was also the highest in rank in the New Zealand Railway at that time.

    Mr. Dickerson, commissioner for railways in the South Island.

    At precisely 6.00 a.m., a giant step in history was taken. Guard Muddle lean t from his position on the step of the Guards van, to give Verdon the signal to leave the Station.

    With a sharp blast on the whistle, and a couple of tugs on the cord connected to the big brass bell mounted on boiler, K88, with her steam cocks wide open departed, amid the sound of "Auld Lang Syne" played by the Railway Band, on the first leg of her south bound journey.

    Aboard the train was the Dunedin Glee Club, who had come up to Christchurch from their home town a short time before hand, so as to return on this, the very first through train. They enlivened the trip with their excellently rendered melodies; one of their members had even bought along a harmonium.

    Shortly after eight, with a short stoppage at Rakaia, the train arrived at Ashburton. His Excellency, Governor Grey, was received, on alighting from the carriage, by the newly elected Mayor, Mr. Bullock, and the borough Councilors, to whom he was introduced by Mr. Bullock, who had traveled in the train from Christchurch.

    The platform was crowded, as was also the street as far as the Town Hall, opposite which an arch had been erected, covered with evergreens. On His Excellency leaving the carriage, the town clerk (Mr. Charles Braddell) read the following speech:

    To the Most Noble the Marquis of Normanby, Governor in and over Her Majesty's Colony of New Zealand, and Vice-Admiral of the Same.

    May it please your Excellency, We, the Mayor and Councilors of the borough of Ashburton, on behalf over the burgesses, beg to tender your Excellency a respectful and cordial welcome on the occasion of this your first visit to this particular part of the colony.

    Ashburton owes much of his progress and prosperity to the railway, the completion of which is being today illustriously signaled by your Excellency's passage in the first through train from Christchurch to Dunedin.

    We heartily join in the general hope that the system of public works, already so plentiful in beneficial results may be carried out, so as to further develop the resources of the colony.

    As representing the community we beg to assure your Excellency of our loyal attachment to the Throne and traditions of England.

    Further assuring your Excellency of our good will towards your own person, and our trust in your Excellency's Government, and respectfully wishing your Excellency and the ladies and gentlemen who accompany you on this auspicious occasion a safe and pleasant journey,

    We beg to subscribe ourselves,

    Your Excellency's obedient servants,

    Signed by THOMAS BULLOCK, Mayor, the Councilors, and Town Clerk.

    His Excellency in reply thanked the Mayor and Councilors for their hearty welcome, and congratulated them on the flourishing condition on the country, the prosperity of which would be further augmented by the opening of the railway through to Dunedin.

    He would remind them of the old proverb, "Time or tide will wait for no man," neither would the Canterbury railways.

    His Excellency, together with his aide-de-camp Capt. Le Patourel, the Mayor, and a few of the Councilors, then took their seats in Mr. Besenberg's waggonette, which was in waiting, and were driven to the Town Hall for breakfast; the rest of the party were left to walk.

    It is interesting to note that a triumphal arch spanned the main street near the Town Hall, bearing the words "Welcome to the Borough of Ashburton" and the township was gaily decorated with flags.

    The ladies of the party were well looked after. They were entertained in the railway refreshment room, which was given up to their use.

    About 320 people sat down to breakfast, which was supplied by Mr. Shearman, of the Somerset Hotel, in capital style.

    As soon as breakfast was concluded a start was made for the train, and the first lucky passengers were once more en route.

    At Temuka a stop was made for a few minutes to take in water, and here there was a large crowd to welcome the party. No time was lost in pushing on to Timaru, where great preparations had been made to receive the excursionists.

    Timaru was reached at 10.10 a.m., and there was a very large assemblage of people at the station and adjoining streets. On alighting, His Excellency was met by the Mayor and Borough Council, and another address presented, and was replied to suitably. His Excellency and party, together with the members of the House, then entered the horse-drawn carriages which had been provided for them, and were driven to the Grosvenor Hotel, where a slight refreshment was taken. The party then started out for a drive round the town, passing the schools, hospital, and other public buildings.

    They also drove to the proposed site of the Timaru Breakwater. Timaru looked very gay. The day was observed as a close holiday, and flags floated from every conceivable point. In George Street, near the Railway Station, a triumphal arch had been erected, having the word "Welcome" in the centre, and "Success to Agriculture, Trade, and Commerce," and "Advance New Zealand, Otago and Canterbury United."

    The Fire Brigade, with their engine, lined the street from the entrance to the station to the arch, and the Volunteers formed a guard of honour at the Station yard. After about twenty minutes stay, Mr. Conyers gave the signal to move on, and the special left Timaru amid loud cheers from the people, who lined the station, and salute from the Timaru artillery.

    Oamaru was reached at 12.30 p.m., and here, also, great preparations had been made. The Station yard was kept clear of all by a line of Volunteers, and a dais had been erected, upon which the Mayor and Councilors were waiting to present another address, which was as follows:

    To His Excellency the Honorable George Augustus Constantine Marquis of Normanby, Earl of Mulgrave, K.G.C.M.G. &c., Governor of New Zealand, and Vice Admiral of the Same.

    May it please your Excellency, We, the Mayor and Municipal Council of the town of Oamaru, in the name and on the behalf of the citizens cordially greet your Excellency on the occasion of this, your second visit to this town.

    We desire to assure your Excellency of our warm sentiment of loyalty to her Majesty the Queen, of whom we receive you as the representative, and of our attachment to her Throne and Person. We hail the visit of your Excellency on this auspicious occasion as signaling the completion of the Amberley-Dunedin portion of the Great Trunk Railway of the Middle Island, which, by rendering the means of communication easy between the cities of the North and South, must tend greatly to the progress of this part of New Zealand, as well as to the comfort and convenience of the traveling public, and we hope that the scheme of the present Government, for a wide extension of the railway system of the colony, will be carried out, and that at no distant date all its various settlements will be linked together by the iron road.

    We are, your Excellency's most obedient humble servants,

    Signed by the Mayor and the whole of the Councilors.

    His Excellency's reply having been made, and the Oamaru folk being naturally anxious to show their breakwater to their Northern visitors, a start was made for it.

    His Excellency was met on arrival by the Harbour Board, the chairman of which, Mr. Sumter, added one more address to the formidable toll of which Captain Le Patourel was the custodian. The address was as follows:

    To His Excellency the Honorable George Augustus Constantine, Marquis of Normanby, Earl of Mulgrave, K.G.C.M.G., Governor of New Zealand, and Vice-Admiral of the Same.

    We, the members of the Oamaru Harbour Board, desire to welcome your Excellency to the site of our enterprise on this, your second visit to Oamaru. We also desire to testify through your loyalty to the Throne and Person of Her Glorious Majesty the Queen.

    It is gratifying to us to be able to point out the enduring nature of the work, which three years ago was opened for traffic in your presents, and to inform your Excellency that the Breakwater works, which have been in constant progress since that time, have so far resulted in safety to the shipping frequenting our port.

    We beg to congratulate your Excellency that during your Vice-Regency vast strides have been made in the progress of this country, the occasion of the opening of the through line between Dunedin and Christchurch, which has given us this opportunity of meeting you, being not the least significant evidence of that progress.

    His Excellency gave his reply. Mr. Sumter then requested that the Governor perform the ceremony of christening the new wharf. This he agreed to do; and having broken a bottle of champagne which was handed to him by a young lady, the Governor declared the name of the new wharf to be Normanby Wharf. This was the signal for immense cheering.

    A move was then made to the carriages. His Excellency and party and the visitors generally having been invited by Mr. Steward, the Mayor of Oamaru, to a luncheon.

    This, which was a capital spread, was laid out on the upper floor of a large grain store, (This building still stands today.) and fully 600 people sat down, His Worship the Mayor occupying the chair, with His Excellency the Governor, the Honorables J. F. Fisher and R. Stout, Captain Le Patourel and Major Lean on his right hand side.

    As time pressed, and Mr. Conyers was, like the driver of the stage coach special by Bret Harte, "bound to get us through on time," the Mayor, perforce, commended to propose toasts before the guests had well commenced their luncheon. "The Queen, Prince of Wales and Royal Family," "His Excellency the Governor," and "His Excellency's Advisers" followed each other in quick succession. Then His Excellency gave "Prosperity to the town and trade of Oamaru," which was loudly cheered.

    It was now decided that the American engine, the Rogers K88 which had bought the train this far, would need a 'helper' engine through the tough hill country ahead. But which engine? It was a decision charged with trouble. Would they choose one of a British make, or of an American? Now, as we have previously mentioned, the 1870s were years of provincial jealousy, so of course both Canterbury and Otago people wanted an engine from their own area or province to lead the train.

    The majority of those pioneers had come out from England, and had spent many years working on the new railway system in New Zealand, so you can see that it must of really have annoyed them, to have at the head of the train signifying the conclusion of their labours, an engine built by a country which 100 years before, had been at war with their forefathers. (American War of Independence, 1773-1781.) The people from Canterbury wanted the American engine, K88 to lead, whilst the Otago people said it had to be English! They wanted the double Fairle E175 Josephine to head the history making train.

    After much heated argument the Canterbury people won, and K88 was put in front of Josephine much to the disappointment of the Otago people.

    A move was immediately afterward s made, and here, as at Timaru, some of the members of the party, who were too slow in getting underweigh were left behind. Passing through the streets, which were lined with people, the locomotives in front cut off at a rapid pace on the second stage of the journey towards the Melbourne of the South.

    The first object of interest which attracted the attention of visitors was after they had passed the little township of Reidstown. This was a large quarry of the justly celebrated Oamaru stone, known as the Taipo Quarry, about seven miles out of Oamaru. Here they had a flying glance at the way in which the stone is got out by means of patent machinery, imported specially. The blocks are sawn out of the quarry as easily as though the hillside was made of cheese instead of stone, and they come out ready for working up.

    The land all along this portion of the line is of splendid quality, and here and there the passengers got glimpses of bits of scenery, combining forest, hill, and ocean, which delight the hearts of the Canterbury portion of the company, used as they were to the flat, treeless and somewhat monotonous plains of that great district.

    A little further on the express passed the Kakanui River, running between two ridges of hills sloping down to it on either side. Then they went past the township of Maheno, the Kakanui Station, and the township of Otepopo, hereafter to be made famous by its slate quarries. Passing through a small tunnel, they cross two branches of the river, which are called Rookery and Otepopo respectively. The former was noted for trout, being a shingly burn running between two ridges. Just beyond this is the township of Hampden. A very pretty little township, scattered picturesquely over undulating country, backed by bush, and facing the sea, which is some little distance off. The train ran in here at 2.45 p.m., and in a few moments was away again.

    Moeraki junction is the next point reached, and, without staying, they pushed on for Palmerston. On the way they went over some heavy gradients, but the big American engine made light work of it, and they arrived in Palmerston at 3.35 p.m. Here the Mayor and Council invite the party to partake of refreshment, which is served in the Goods Shed. After a short stay, the Mayor and Council proceeded to His Excellency's carriage, accompanied by the Town Clerk bearing the inevitable address. This is duly read, and His Excellency briefly replies, and "all aboard" is once more the cry.

    At 4 p.m., amid the cheers of a very large crowd, they steamed out on their way south. And now begins the most picturesque portion of the journey. Forest, sea, and hills all combined to make this the most enjoyable part of the trip. The line ran in and out around the foot of the hill, with the sea on one side of them, and, after a short run they passed through Waikouaiti at 4.30 p.m. From this to Blueskin the scenery was grand. The train wind close alongside the descent to the sea, and spread out before it like a panorama was the townships of Waikouaiti and Blueskin bay.

    The pace from the nature of the gradient was exceedingly slow, but though all were impatient to get to Dunedin, the views every now and then were really so lovely that no one grumbled because the train wasn't not going at an express speed.

    At the Maori Kaik a deputation of Maoris appeared on the high bank and danced a welcome, one old lady in particular waving a "mere" in a most demonstrative manner. Passing through two small tunnels, Deborah Bay was reached, and then they began to draw near the end of the journey.

    Next along the route is Port Chalmers, and as they pass an artillery salute is fired, the red flashes of the guns lighting up the dusk, which is just beginning to fall. Then everyone is on the alert to gather up his belongings as the train draws near Dunedin.

    Long before the train runs into the Station, the coloured electric lights and illuminations, with which Dunedin is ablaze, are seen, and on reaching the Station, and remembering the undemonstrative manner in which the event was celebrated in Christchurch, opinions are expressed that the two cities have changed characteristics. Every nook and cranny around the Station is packed with people.

    As the electric light fell upon them, a perfect forest of faces was seen. The train ran into the Station, which was lined with Volunteers. The guns thundered out a salute. The vast crowd gave cheer after cheer, and the marriage of Mr. Dunedin with Miss Christchurch, as felicitously (appropriately) remarked by one of the speakers at the banquet in Christchurch, was "un fait accompli." (an accomplished fact)

    His Excellency was cordially welcomed to Dunedin by Mr. R. H. Leary, the Mayor of Dunedin, and His Excellency briefly replied, expressing the pleasure he felt at being present on so auspicious an occasion, and being privileged to open a line which would be of the greatest benefit, not only to the two cities connected, but also to the Colony at large. His Excellency and party then drove off in a four-horse drag to Fernhill Club.

    On that September night long ago, Dunedin was brilliantly illuminated. There were four electric lights - on the Custom House, Watson's Hotel, Bank of New Zealand, and Guthrie and Larnach's. The Fire Brigade was stationed opposite the "Times" office with coloured lights. The various shops were brilliantly illuminated with Chinese lanterns and various devices. On Sargood, Son, and Ewen's warehouse was a pretty device in gas jets, forming the words, "Emulation with Combination."

    On the Bank of New Zealand gas jets, forming the words "Christchurch and Dunedin united." The Cargill monument was brilliantly illuminated, and over the Prince of Wales Hotel was a gas transparency representing Sir Julius Vogel in a railway train. Over the "Daily Times" office was "Christchurch - Dunedin. Welcome to our Northern visitors." The streets were thronged.

     

    The unusual part about it all is that K88 is still alive and well, whilst Class 'E' Josephine is actually in a glass case herself; just what the pioneers of over 120 years ago mocked K88 for. I wonder what they would say now, if they knew just what K88 was doing after all this time. 

  

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Last Updated: Wednesday, 05 April, 2017