Iron road to Worcester a colonial milestone
BESIDES a “few obstinate pig-headed folks… who cling lovingly to the ox-wagon and the mule train”, the passage of the railway line to Worcester was greeted with cheers in the Cape in 1876.
Or, as the report of June 20 that year put it: “In a country like ours, where a slow and phlegmatic temperament has always been one of the chief characteristics of the inhabitants, the gradual extension of the iron road with all its revolutionary influences is calculated to awaken the most pleasing and lively emotions.”
As for the poor old waggoneers, the paper said, their just fate was to end up “on a top shelf in the museum of curious abortions”.
The town was astir betimes on Friday morning in order to put the finishing touch to the decorations. Beginning with the railway terminus, a long strip of coloured linen was stretched along the station, bearing the appropriate inscription: “Steam, Progress, and Prosperity”, surrounded by a number of small bannerets.
The engine driver was busy decorating his locomotive with evergreens and bunting. Almost close to the station was a handsome triumphal arch spanning the main road at the entrance to the town, with the words “Welcome to Worcester” on one side and “Agriculture and Commerce” on the other.
In Market square all available bunting had been pressed into service. In front of the public schools was another arch with the inscription: “Enterprise waits and wins”. The top of the bank building, where His Excellency was staying, was festooned with a couple of large Dutch and English flags.
The Worcester station has evidently been constructed with a view to the probable extensive requirements of the times, and is not a pretentious building, but comfortable and commodious.
Some say stations ought to be pretty. It is true that people who travel much find, unwillingly, a great deal more time to admire the architecture of railway stations than they like, sometimes so long that it would need all the enthusiasm of a Ruskin to beguile the time in the prettiest station that was ever built, but we are glad to note that the Government has not sacrificed substantially any usefulness to meretricious ornamentation.
However, arrangements for the opening ceremony were not such as they ought to have been. Instead of a space having been kept clear on the platform, everybody crushed and struggled and squeezed, and left hardly any room where His Excellency and party could stand.