McNab's gardens—The Rimutaka railway—The Fell
engine —The gorge itself—Grandeur of the scenery—Power of
the wind—The Wairarapa Valley—The town of Mas-
terton—An -antipodean hermit—Mr. Kohn's curios— The
Belmont Viaduct—Meat-preserving industry—The various
stages—A social blot.
about Wellington are not numerous, but they are well
at the Hutt, are unique in their way, and in the season
can boast of the very finest display of azaleas,
camellias, and especially rhododendrons, probably to be seen south
of the line. McNab himself is a fine specimen of
the good, thrifty, gentle-mannered, practical old Scottish
gardener. His buxom wife partakes of the practical also;
but nothing delights the worthy couple more than to do the
honours of their floral domain to any one who betrays a
curiosity to look and learn.
gardeners must have; real gardeners, I mean. Not the
frauds and shams, who invent names on the spur of the
moment to hide their real ignorance, and whose assumption
of infallibility is at times so exasperating.
McNab showed us
pines, palms, lilies, flowering shrubs, from Japan,
Brazil, India, Africa, Europe, all growing "cheek by jowl," yet in graceful
groupings and telling contrast, and the name of
every one came as pat as petitions to a mendicant, and was
accompanied with quaint little bits of description and touches of humour,
which made the old man's tale most enjoyable.
On St. George's
Day we took advantage of an excursion train at a marvellously cheap tariff
of ys. fare, to go over the world-famed Rimutaka railway.
very little fuss over St. George. What a fuss and fuddle
Scotchmen sometimes make over their dinner to St. Andrew;
and, of course, we all know that St. Patrick's memory is
embalmed in the heart of every Irishman, and annually
honoured by an amount of green ribbon, whisky, and
eloquence, which none but an Irishman could compass. But
St. George! Well, really, there was very little bustle in
Wellington on his account on the date I write about; and
the banks were the only institutions that seemed to hold,
his memory in any special esteem.
train was but poorly patronized, and, punctually at 10
a.m., we started in most inauspicious weather. It rained
heavily, and the clouds were low, and the air raw and
chill. We steamed through the mists and driving rain, away
round the harbour and up the valley of the Hutt,
past rural farms and rich pastures in the valley, and the
river at our feet rattling noisily over its shingly bars.
Stream, a pretty station, we begin to approach the bushy defiles and
half-cleared flats, where settlement is more scanty and
recent than in the lower valley. "The forest primeval"
still holds its own stubbornly here, and only a few
unsightly patches of slovenly clearing on the hillsides show that the
pioneer has begun to make his mark. These first rude
beginnings of settlement are so like the schoolboy's first writing
lessons—grim, unsightly blots and thick strokes !
Never mind ; the fine penmanship will come in time.
When we come to
the Upper Hutt, the outlook under the depressing influence
of the dull weather is not inspiring. There is a neat
little church, but that about exhausts the neatness.
Farming has retrograded here during the last five years. A
big timber trade was formerly done; but the forests
have been denuded, and a wilderness of black stumps are
all that remain to tell of the former bravery of foliage.
A wave of dullness has swept over the place, and it
languishes for the want of energetic workers and possibly
a good-natured banker or two.
From Kaitoke we
have two engines, and make a steady ascent through some
forest scenery of striking beauty. The look back, across
the valleys and down the wooded glens, is most romantic
and beautifully diversified.
At the top of
the steep, the Fell engine is attached to the train, and
takes us down the terrific decline to Cross Creek. There
is here a raised centre rail, and the engine is provided
with some intricate and ingenious mechanism which grips
this centre rail, and so minimizes the danger, and gives
additional power. I was informed that only on the Vesuvius
Railway and on one incline on the Alps is there such a
steep gradient as here, and that it is only on these three
lines that the Fell engine is in use. Not being an
engineer I cannot vouch for this.
At all events
the Rimutaka gorge is a sight which once seen can never be
forgotten. Critics of the carping sort say that the line
should never have been brought by this route at all. They
tell you of two alternate routes of easier grades
and much more suitable for traffic. All I can say is that
for the tourist, the Rimutaka line offers attractions
which are positively enthralling. The curves are very
abrupt. The pace is rapid enough to make standing on the
platform dangerous, as the oscillation is extreme; but the
scenery is thrillingly grand.
brawling stream dashes along at the foot of the
embankments, with here and there an abutment of logs and
gabions stemming its impetuous rush, and diverting the insidious waters
away from their work of undermining, and overthrowing the labours of
the engineer. Some of the glens are stupendous in their
depth. Two slender, spidery-looking chain-bridges span the
stream at two different gorges. The bosky hills
seem on fire, as the steam and mist curl and wreathe their
ghost-like fantastic columns aloft through the dark canopy
of matted creeper and dewy fern fronds.
Anon the sun
bursts through the driving scud, and for an instant the
gleam and glitter, the sheen and radiance, the play of
glowing brightness and gloomy shadow, are positively
bewildering, and superlatives are exhausted in the
attempt to render any of the faintest conception of the absorbing witchery
of the fairy display.
Through a long,
dark, curved tunnel we dash. We spin across the narrow
neck named Siberia, where at times the wind shrieks like
as if all the squadrons of the " Prince of the Power of
the Air" were hurling themselves upon the rugged
rocks in the attempt to dash them into pieces.
Great stones hurtle through the air at times. It was here
that terrible accident took place, when the train was
lifted bodily from the track by the hurricane, and many
lives were lost. Since then the naked spur has been
protected by high, strong barricade fences.
But what a work
has this been! How could the surveyors have possibly come
down these beetling cliffs? What a wild chaos is here!
Crags, cascades, towering heights, and dizzy steeps.
It beats the western ghats of Bombay for wild
And the mists!
Those columns of vapour on the steep mountain sides. "He
but toucheth the hills and they do smoke." Look up or down
the gorge as you will, we seem shut in from the outer
world as by the fiat of some fell magician, with
impassable barriers of the wildest rock and forest.
Ho! ho! a
beneficent wizard to the rescue. See through yonder rift
in the hoary glen the distant plains of Beulah. The sun
blazing on the Delectable Mountains beyond, and nearer,
the gleam and sparkle of a great lake. What a contrast!
Down there a picture such as one dreams of when fancy
conjures up pictures of the plains of Heaven. Behind,
looking away up to the mountain tops, they are literally
hidden in "clouds of thick darkness," and so majestic is
the whole that the mind is overwhelmed with its grandeur
and sublimity, and quite unfit to analyze it into
its component parts.
swiftly now into the famous Wairarapa Valley. The great lake now takes on a
muddy hue. It is like an inland sea of dull olive
green. The dun manuka hills around, and swampy flats
bordering the lake, seem very tame after the majesty of
the mountains and solemn grandeur of the gorges.
Valley is famous for its pastures. The centre of the
valley is poor land, mostly shingle and sand. The lower
valley, however, and the hollows alongside the hills are
very rich. It is well populated and dairy farms and
factories are numerous. The land about the lake wants
draining. The lake itself is the property of the
Maoris, and they are agitating now for permission to
prevent all European interference with their riparian
The towns in the
valley are Featherstone, Grey- town, Carterton, and
Masterton. At Carterton is an extensive saw-mill employing
over two hundred hands.
At Masterton are
three flour-mills, and the town is bustling and seems
thriving. The school was undergoing enlargement. There was
not a house to let in the place, and we noticed several
new buildings in process of erection. There are
numerous streams here in which trout-hatching has been
successful. There is a capital institute and reading-room,
and an efficient fire-service. Ladders are slung in
prominent places along the main streets, for use in case
of fires. They are supplied by the different insurance
companies. This is a good idea surely.
We had a good
lunch at Elkins's Club Hotel, and got back in the dark to
Wellington about seven o'clock, and had our usual
comfortable and hospitable reception at the Occidental.
celebrity that must be seen in Wellington is the far-famed Island Bay
Hermit. Some mystery attaches to this ascetic individual.
He lives in a miserable, cold, bare cave, lies on the
bare stones, and, while accepting food or clothes
from his visitors, rejects all money offerings. Herein he
differs from his Oriental prototype, the Fakeer or Yogi.
Possibly the dreary past holds its horrid secrets for him.
He converses intelligently enough on current topics. At night occasionally
he comes into one of the newspaper offices in town, where
he is supplied with mental pabulum in the shape of a great
bundle of mutilated exchanges. Over these he pores, and
possibly he may one day astonish the world in the role of
a new Mahdi, or Peter the Hermit. At present he
is an object of curiosity with the many, and
certainly, with some, an object of pity and kindly
If the visitor
wishes to feast his eyes on an exhibition of perfect good taste and
exquisite skill in arrangement, let him visit the atelier
of that artist in arrangement of curios—Mr. Kohn, the
jeweller, on Lambton Quay. Mr. Kohn has a wonderful
and most complete collection of Maori and Island
weapons, cloths, and other curios. They are arranged round
the walls of an upper room, where the light streams softly
in through stained windows, and the courtesy of Mr. Kohn
is on a par with his good taste. The room is a wonder. It
is something unique. Dr. Buller has another splendid
collection of Maori curios which I much regretted I was
unable to see, although Captain Mair had most kindly
provided me with a letter of introduction to the worthy
The museum and
botanical gardens, too, are worthy a visit.
of interest, too, I had the good fortune to behold, under
the guidance of its constructor. This was the Belmont Viaduct, erected
on the Wellington and Manawatu Railway about a mile
from Johnstonville, by Mr. Morton Dana- her, the
contractor, from the design of Mr. H. P. Higginson, the
engineer to the company.
The bridge is
said to be the highest viaduct, built exclusively of
timber, in the world. So that Wei- lington boasts the
possession of the largest wooden building and the highest
wooden viaduct, as is alleged, which the world contains.
The viaduct is
raised on sixteen concrete basements. It contains 212,000 superficial feet
of kauri timber, and there are thirty-five tons of
wrought iron used up in bolts, nuts, washers, and
straps alone. At a distance it looks like a gigantic web,
or the puzzle of a dreaming geometrician. It is 170 feet
in height, above the stream, and the span over the valley
is 185 feet. The erection of such enormous lengths gave
occasion for a display of fertility of resource on Mr.
Danaher's part which is, I think, well worthy of record.
It is a sample of what is being done, in hundreds of
cases, by our cousins at the Antipodes to conquer nature,
and a good illustration of the dogged fight which has to
be waged before modern civilization can subdue the
wild forces and primaeval difficulties which confront the
hardy pioneers of progress in these new lands.
All his sections
were built on the ground on the side of the hill. The
problem was to place them in situ without the aid of
ruinously expensive scaffolding, and, at the same time,
without undue risk to his workmen. Every log had to be
laboriously dragged up steep hill-sides, along the
bed of a mountain stream, and over ground which would have
daunted the resolution of most men.
How, then, did
built his section on the ground he raised it bodily into
its place by a vertical lift.
But how did he
get his vertical lift? Well that was the clever idea ! He
sank a tunnel into the rock on each side of the valley,
and made a shaft in each tunnel, and in this shaft set a huge
beam. Through the beam he rove a strong wire cable,
and then hauled it taut across the valley, and on it put
his blocks and tackle, and thus without scaffolding raised his structure,
section by section, and so the wonderful erection rose
without accident or mischance into being, and now stands
a marvel of skilful contrivance, and a lasting tribute
to the resourcefulness and energy of the genial and
My visit was not
wholly engrossed with beholding the wonders in natural scenery. My tastes
lie also in viewing the practical, and inspecting the
So it was that
we were glad to avail ourselves of an opportunity afforded
us of being shown over the Gear Meat Preserving and
Freezing Company's works by the courteous and intelligent
superintendent, Mr. Oldham.
The Gear Company
employs altogether about 250 hands. They have made
arrangements for turning out 4,000,000 lbs. of tinned and
preserved meats during the coming year. They are turning
out at present over ten tons daily, and they are the only
firm, I believe, in Australasia who have successfully laid
down corned beef in London to pass the Admiralty standards
The men were
engaged putting up Government supplies for her Majesty's
navy at the time of our visit.- Considering the nature of
the material being operated on, the cleanliness of the
works was wonderful.
We were first shown into the boning-room,
where mighty carcases were being stripped with a
deftness and celerity only begotten of long practice. The bones were
bundled off to boiling-down and glue works outside the
town. Some of them are used to make rich stock for the
The second stage is that wherein the flesh is
putin pickle tanks to extract the superfluous blood.
Thirdly, it is next blanched by being loaded in
an iron cage, which is worked up and down by
machinery, and dipped into boiling water. The attendants
forking in the huge masses of flesh with great steel forks
was a new sensation, and the forks would have suited "Blunderbore"
of Jack the Giant-Killer renown to a nicety.
Fourthly, it was then, after being cut to
requisite sizes, filled in hot into the cans, which have
previously all been made on the premises by a staff of
experts, and have been scalded in hot water, and
Fifthly, the cans are next subjected to
enormous pressure, ingeniously applied by a patent
arrangement of turn-screws at a long table, capable of
pressing many tins simultaneously. Each can has to undergo
a pressure of three tons to the inch, and the process is a
patent of the company.
The tinsmith now (sixthly) fixes the heads of
the cans in, and solders them down. A small orifice
is left purposely in the top of each can.
The cans are now (seventhly) placed in the
preserving vats in the cooking-room. Here the heat
was rather tropical, though the smell was most appetizing.
The lightly-clad workmen, with their clean white caps,
hurry to and fro, bending over the seething, bubbling
vats, like magicians busy over some magic cauldron. There
is the puffing, piffing, paffing, plop plop, of incessant
ebullition, and the cans in their simmering bath, steam
away each from its tiny aperture like so many independent
miniature steam-engines. The medium in which they are
immersed for half their bulk has to be a dense one to keep down
ebullition and lessen evaporation, and so a mixture of muriate of
lime and fat is used. When sufficiently cooked, the
orifice in the lid is soldered up, and the cans are next subjected to a
further treatment in a bath of a higher temperature. Here one or two
will occasionally burst with a terrific report and to the
grievous hurt of the attendants. Happily such accidents
They are then plunged through an orifice into
a bath of cold water, cleaned, painted, labelled,
and a neat finish given to the exterior, which at last
assumes a most attractive guise.
The tin-room was perhaps the most interesting
one of the whole factory. The whole work was so
neatly, cleanly, and expeditiously done that it was a treat to witness the
regularity and method so apparent in every department.
But we have lingered too long over our
descriptions and must leave Wellington. One painful thing
obtruded itself on our observation. We saw more
drunkenness in Wellington than in any city or town in New
Zealand. Whether this be a permanent or but a passing and
transitory phase of the social life of this fine town I
cannot say, but it is the only reproach I feel called on
We saw many deplorable cases of open,
brazenfaced, flaunting drunkenness, and sad to say not a
few of the lamentable instances were those of really
well-dressed, respectable-looking women, evidently
workmen's wives, probably mothers of families. Alas !
alas! under such circumstances is larrikinism to be