The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9 (January 1, 1930)
Second Annual Country Excursion
Second Annual Country Excursion
A Tour through the North Auckland Peninsula
A handshake between city and country” is an apt description of that now most popular innovation in railway excursions—the Commerce Train. The success of the first Commerce expedition launched by the combined efforts of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and the New Zealand Government Railways Department was so great that there was cordial approval of the proposal for a similar train in November of 1929, and the experience gained on the pioneer excursion enabled the promoters to make this tour an even pleasanter one. A year ago the first Commerce Train made a comprehensive tour of 1,300 miles, covering most of the railage in the Auckland provincial district. It was rather strenuous travelling, and so this summer's trip did not cover so great a distance, but gave the travellers more time to look around them in interesting districts. It was arranged that the tour should begin with a run to the great dairying valley of the Waihou, extending from the Thames inland to Matamata, this trip giving an opportunity of seeing the Hauraki Plains and the proposed route of the Pokeno-Paeroa railway; and thus then the line of travel should be through the North Auckland peninsula. This programme proved in every way satisfactory. The tour was less hurried, and there was a feeling that more good would come of it than of a hasty run over a great many districts.
When the sixty men of commerce returned to Auckland from their nine-days’ excursion (November 15–24) they had travelled 584 miles by rail, 506 by motor-car, and 44 miles by motor-launch. The train ran a total distance of 780 miles in the nine days; it travelled empty for 232 miles in order to pick up the passengers at various points where the motor tours ended.
The train was a most comfortable travelling home. There were three sleeping cars, each with a capacity of twenty beds (four berth cabins), a quite luxurious lounge car, with its easy chairs and settees; there were day cars, and a canteen which supplied many wants. Everything that a painstaking management could devise was done to ensure the comfort and pleasure of the travellers who were out to do what they could to bring town and country interests closer together.
“Who's Who” on the Train.
Commerce Train Scenes In The Dargaville District.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Top: At Dargaville Station. Centre: Donnelly's Crossing: The Stationmaster, his wife, his dog, and his garden. Below: The Commerce Train party at Kaihu.
“An importantce factor in the brilliant success which was achieved last year in the running of the first commerce train,” said the Auckland Star in a preliminary description of the tour, “was the presence of leading officials of the New Zealand Railways, and members of the party are gratified that most of them have again been able to make of table he next few days, and meanwhile he is represented by the Divisional Superintendent, Mr. E. Casey. (Mr. Sterling joined up during the North Auckland journey.) The Commercial Manager, Mr. D. Rodie, is in charge of the arrangements on the train, and with him is the Business Agent, Mr. A. W. Wellsted, who for two years running has toured the districts in advance to make plans in conjunction with local committees. The Publicity Manager, Mr. G. G. Stewart, is again travelling, and to his department are due the thanks of the party for an excellent brochure descriptive of the places to be visited. Mr. R. B. Morris is acting as secretary, and Mr. A. H. W. Eveden, Supervisor of the Refreshment Branch, is again giving efficient oversight to the catering on the train and in wayside refreshment rooms.”
There was that important group known as the “diplomatic corps,” and consisting of the Trade Commissioners, who welcome the opportunity of touring on the Commerce Train. A newcomer this time was the British Trade Commissioner, Mr. L. A. Paish, but old friends were Messrs. C. M. Croft and Julian B. Foster, Commissioners respectively for Canada and the United States, and Mr. L. J. Thedens, Trade Commissioner for Austria. Members of the “corps” played an important part in the speechmaking at the various social gatherings along the route.
A pleasing feature was the presence of representatives of Chambers of Commerce in other parts of the Dominion. These included Messrs. H. A. Brown and A. Seed (Wellington), C. H. Burgess (New Plymouth), W. Lock (Nelson), A. R. Crane (Whangarei), H. D. M. Hazard (Waihi), and H. C. Ernest (Papatoetoe).
The Hauraki Plains.
The first day's tour was not by train, but in motor-cars from Pokeno station eastward over the Mangatawhiri hills and across the Hauraki plains—once the great Piako swamp—to Paeroa. The purpose of this jaunt was to give the business men an idea of the character of the country which it is urged should be traversed by a short-cut railway line, thus saving 47 miles in distance and two hours in time on the journey from Auckland to Paeroa. The sight of this broad belt of fertile reclaimed fen land covered with homes and farms—the homes of four thousand people—was a revelation to most of the travellers, and made many page 12 strong champions of the much-discussed railway. For one, there was Mr. Merritt, the president of the Chamber of Commerce. At a social gathering in Paeroa he said he had been converted from an official supporter to an ardent advocate of the project. There were several other strong supporters of the proposed line among the speakers.
The Land of Butterfat.
The men of commerce did not dally long in Paeroa: they moved on that Friday afternoon up the Waihou Valley to Waitoa and Te Aroha. At Waitoa they inspected the great factory of the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Co., where butter, dried-milk and condensed-milk are produced on a very large scale. From the roof of the factory building (three storeys high) the visitors obtained a grand view of the splendid rich country spread around.
There were some cordial speeches at afternoon tea in the Y.M.C.A. building which stands in the centre of the neat factory settlement. The Chairman was Mr. F. W. Walters, who was described by one of the speakers as “the biggest dairy farmer in New Zealand”; his milking herds numbered just on a thousand cows. Mr. P. H. Saxon, in endorsing the Chairman's welcome to the visitors, spoke of the importance of making known the country districts and of settling the unimproved lands.
Mr. F. J. Strange, an old resident of Te Aroha, spoke of the time fifty years ago, when the total dairying output of the Valley consisted of two barrels of salted butter shipped from the Thames by the weekly steamer. Now the combined districts of the Waihou Valley sent out dairy produce to the value of £2,000,000 per annum.
Sunday, 17th November, was spent at Te Aroha. Most of the visitors went to the Spa in the morning and many tried and enjoyed the famous warm baths. In the early afternoon there were visits to the surrounding country and to large dairy farms. The farms selected for a look-around were those of Mr. F. W. Walters, at Waitoa, Mr. Fred Strange, at Mangaiti, and Mr. J. Mackay, at Elstow. The visitors were entertained by members of the page 13 family to afternoon tea, and thanks were warmly expressed for the opportunity which had thus been afforded of seeing some of the best dairy farms in New Zealand. “When the sheltered plains between Hauraki Gulf and Matamata are divided into farms of 50 acres and those farms are under intense cultivation,” said an expert among the visitors, “the district will produce as much butter-fat as is now produced by the whole of New Zealand.”
Along the Northern Wairoa.
Next morning (Monday, 18th November) found the travellers in quite another part of the province, the north Kaipara and northern Wairoa country, after a smooth night run.
After breakfast the party went on from Kirikopuni to Tango-wahine; thence there was a run by motor cars to the metropolis of the northern Wairoa, the town of Dargaville, crossing the great river by the new bridge. The Commerce Train made history by being the first to carry passengers over the ten miles of new line between Kirikopuni and Tangowahine. It was predicted by Public Works officials that the remaining seven miles to Dargaville would be completed in a year's time.
There was a hearty welcome from the Mayor of Dargaville, Mr. F. A. Jones, and the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. W. Whitmore, and more cordial greetings came at Ruawai, where the travellers were entertained at lunch by the Otamatea County Council and settlers. Mr. Rodney Coates, the County Chairman, was the chief spokesman.
From a hill at Rehia, there was a remarkable panorama, the look-out over this great reclaimed swamp land of Ruawai. Once this area, 30,000 acres, was nothing but a great marsh; now it was drained and settled, and this season it is expected the local dairy factory will turn out from 800 to 900 tons of butter.
A particularly interesting speech was made at Ruawai by Mr. L. A. Paish, Commissioner of Trade for Great Britain, who had just arrived from London and was greatly pleased to find New Zealand so far advanced in industry. “It had sometimes been said,” he told the audience, “that there was a danger of over-production, but there was little danger on that score. The imports of butter into Britain were at the rate of 6,000 tons a week, of which New Zealand supplied 1,500 tons.” They could aim at securing more of the balance supplied by the other countries, and this applied also to other produce. In this endeavour the Empire Marketing Board was going to be of great assistance.