Iron road to Worces­ter a colo­nial mile­stone

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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