09 January 2012

Whilst I write, a perfect hurricane blows

From the diary of British businessman James Brogden (1832-1907), detailing his early impressions of Wellington during his visit to the capital in November 1871:

The houses are all built of wood on account of the earthquakes. One earthquake shook the houses so much that the large chandelier in the Govt. House swung about so much that it hit the ceiling breaking it down on each side. The Harbour some miles in extent was raised 3 feet at once. Several large vents in the earth like the bed of a small river are still remaining. The Great Earthquake occurred in 1854 , - and it is said there is one due now! I cannot give you an idea of the winds. They are something terrible. Whilst I write, a perfect hurricane blows and the wind sweeps over the hills on to the water in the bay, carrying clouds of spray along in a way I dare say you have scarcely seen. When it is fine, showers of dust and pebbles are driven along the beach, which make it quite distressing to be out. But when a still clear day appears, I assure you the view is fine, and about equal to the views in Morecambe Bay looking towards Windermere and the Lakes.

Brogden was in Wellington to negotiate his family firm's contracts with the Government to build railways in New Zealand. The Brogden Contracts, as they were called, were highly controversial and much debated in the House and in newspaper letters columns; they would eventually involve the construction of six new railway lines in New Zealand. By 24 November 1871 the contracts had finally been signed for the Wellington to Masterton railway, with construction to begin in December; in fact, work on the first section of the line through the Hutt Valley did not commence until August 1872. The building work for the entire line was tricky, encompassing the rocky harbour shores and the steep Rimutaka Ranges. It would be nine years before the line finally opened all the way to Masterton. 

Hutt / Wairarapa Line opening dates (via Wikipedia)

Wellington to:
Lower Hutt    April 1874
Upper Hutt    February 1876
Kaitoke         January 1878
Featherston   October 1878
Carterton       July 1880
Masterton      November 1880
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