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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 7 (December 1, 1932)

Official Opening

Official Opening.

Thousands of settlers from the country skirting the new Stratford-Main Trunk railway link gathered to witness the ceremonies connected with the official opening of the line on 7th November. Fully 3,000 people thronged the hill overlooking the line at Heao, at the point where the sections from Stratford and the Main Trunk end have met after over thirty years' work, and it was here that the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. G. W. Forbes, drove the last spike amid gala scenes.

Special trains left Taranaki and Main Trunk junctions at an early hour in the morning. Taumarunui was astir soon after daylight to welcome the Parliamentary party, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Works, the Rt. Hon. J. G. Coates; the Minister of Industries and Commerce, the Hon. R. Masters; the Postmaster-General, the Hon. A. Hamilton: the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. H. E. Holland and many members of both Houses of Parliament who had come from Wellington in three special cars attached to the “Limited” express, and which were detached at a siding.

Brilliant Sunshine.

The festivities were held in brilliant sunshine. Taumarunui had declared a holiday, and hundreds of holiday-makers crowded into two special trains amid the blare of band instruments, mingled with a brave show of festivity throughout the length of this rugged country to which the opening of the line will mean so much in settlement and fostering commerce.

Driving Last Spike.

The first ceremony took place in the Heao Valley, where the Ministerial train drew up under rows of bunting at a special platform. The official party included Mr. H. H. Sterling, Chairman of the Government Railways Board; Mr. F. W. Furkert, ex-Public Works Engineer-in-Chief; Mr. C. J. McKenzie, Undersecretary of Public Works; Mr. J. W. Albertson, District Engineer, Taumarunui; and Mr. P. Keller, District Engineer, Stratford, who were both closely connected with the construction work; Mr. P. Thomson, Mayor of Stratford; Mr. C. A. Coles, Mayor of Taumarunui; and a large number of local body and Chamber of Commerce representatives from the districts between Auckland and New Plymouth.

Mr. Forbes was presented with a silver spike by the Mayoress of Stratford and a silver-mounted hammer by the Mayoress of Taumarunui, and there were cheers when he drove it, as well as when Mr. Coates piloted an engine through ribbons stretched across the track.

Everyone was later taken to Tanga-rakau for lunch, the official party being entertained by the Stratford Borough Council.

More speeches were given, and Mr. Coates paid a striking tribute to the engineers of the department who had toiled on the line for so long. He made special mention of Messrs. Albertson, Keller and page 61 Mr. T. Ball, now of Dunedin. Then he came to Mr. Furkert, whom he characterised as a remarkable New Zealander who had earned the respect and confidence of the country during his service which ended last week.

Tangarakau Flat was crowded as the Ministerial carriages left for Stratford, and there were noisy farewells as this, the first through passenger train, drew out.

In the evening a banquet was given by the Borough Council.

More than 400 guests were present at the banquet in the evening, which was one of the biggest gatherings of its kind ever held in Taranaki. Stratford had also declared a holiday on the occasion of the opening of the railway, and it was en fete for the night of the banquet, streets and buildings being illuminated and fireworks displays being given. — (From the “Dominion.”)