The formal opening of the first section of the Eastern Railway for general traffic
on the 1st of March 1881 was not a particularly brilliant affair, and no very great interest was manifested by the public in the ceremonies which took place on the occasion. But
this may probably be accounted for by the fact alluded to by Mr. J. C. H. James at
the Town Hall in one of the most brilliant of the many brilliant speeches which he has
made in this colony when returning thanks for his constituents “The Ladies,” that,
practically, the railway had already been ‘opened’ so many times before, and that
the running of trains was no longer a novelty. The Commissioner of Railways
had issued eighty-four invitation cards, the invited being members of the Executive,
Legislative, and Municipal Councils, heads of religious denominations, and a few other
gentlemen holding prominent public positions. A large issue of cards was, unfortunately, rendered impossible, owing to the small number of railway carriages available.
The special train drew up at Perth railway station, which was decorated with flags
and greenery, shortly before 10 a.m, and immediately on the arrival of His Excellency who was escorted to the station by a guard of honour consisting of the Volunteer Artillery troop a start was made, the run down to Fremantle being accomplished in 26 minutes.
At Fremantle the local Volunteers paraded on the
platform as a guard of honour, and His Excellency on alighting was presented by
the Chairman of the Municipal Council (Mr.E. Solomon) with the following address :—
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY, On behalf of the inhabitants of Fremantle, the members of the Municipal Council congratulate Your Excellency on the successful opening of the Eastern Railway; and we would also express our pleasure
at welcoming you to our town on arriving by train from the capital.
We feel persuaded that the facilities the Eastern Railway will afford for more frequent and rapid intercommunication between the inhabitants of Perth, and of the towns of Fremantle and Guildford, will conduce to their social and material prosperity; and we look upon this event as the dawn of a new era in the history of the colony. We recognise the deep and zealous interest Your Excellency has always manifested in the completion of this important public work ; and we trust it may be during Your Excellency’s administration of the Government of Western Australia that the extension to the Eastern Districts may be undertaken.
We believe Your Excellency’s journey by rail today is a happy augury for the future, and that the progress of Western Australia, will henceforth be such as to give her a worthy place amongst the Australian colonies.
His EXCELLENCY replied as follows :
Mr, Chairman and Gentlemen,– I thank you for the kind manner in which yon have welcomed me to Fremantle on my arrival by train from the city. I thank you also for your reference to the interest which I have always taken in the highly important work which it is my pleasing duty to open this day for public use. I entirely concur in your
estimate of the many advantages which must necessarily follow on the establishment of railway communication, and it is therefore with peculiar pleasure that I am able to inform you that Her Majesty’s Government have sanctioned a further loan for the extension of the railway towards York, and that immediate steps will be taken for
carrying on the work. The weekly visit which I am in the habit of making to your town will be none the less agreeable in the future from the fact that I can now
visit you by rail. I am indebted to you and your fellow townsmen for many cordial receptions, and it is a satisfaction to me to believe that Fremantle, which must always continue to be the western terminus of the line, will benefit as largely as any
part of the colony by the establishment of railway communication with the agricultural districts in the interior. I have much pleasure in declaring this section of the line open for public use. A bountiful supply of champagne, fruit, and other refreshments had been provided by the Town Council, and, after full justice had been done to the proffered hospitality, the party, reinforced by the Fremantle contingent, started back along the line ; the train, which stopped a few minutes at Perth, reaching Guildford shortly before
At Guildford there was another parade of Volunteers ; and here very pleasing,
though somewhat patriarchal, arrangements had been made for the entertainment of the guests. The line terminates in a grassy paddock, and within the paddock is a large
spreading gum tree. Under the grateful shade of this survivor of the primitive forest, chairs and tables had been arranged, and champagne and fruit provided. The Governor immediately on alighting was conducted to this leafy bower, where the acting Chairman of the Municipality (Mr. Harper) read the following address :
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY,-We, the Acting Chairman and Councillors, on behalf of the inhabitants of Guildford, have great pleasure in congratulating Your Excellency upon being enabled upon this your second period of Administration in this colony to graciously declare open for public use the section of the Eastern Districts Railway.
We trust that this event may prove to be the dawn of a long day of prosperity to this colony, and we beg to assure Your Excellency that, whether this hoped for success is realised or not, it will be with feelings of respect and gratitude that we shall ever associate Your Excellency’s name in connection with this well constructed and useful public work. We sincerely trust that circumstances may enable Your Excellency to initiate the construction of a further section of this railway, at an early date, feeling confident that its full measure of advantage to the colony depends entirely upon its advance into the agricultural districts.
In concluding this address we beg to express the hope that this establishment of railway communication with Perth may be the means of affording us the pleasure of welcoming yourself and Lady Robinson to Guildford more frequently in the future than has been possible in the past.
His EXCELLENCY, in replying to the address, said : Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I feel exceedingly grateful for the kind terms in which you have addressed me on my arrival at Guildford for the purpose of opening the first section of the Eastern Districts Railway. It is highly gratifying to me that your name should be associated with this most important public work-a work which cannot fail to be of material advantage to your town, and to develop the resources and increase the prosperity of the whole of this part of the colony. It is a happy coincidence that within the last few days I have received an intimation of Her Majesty’s Government having approved the further extension of the line towards the Eastern Districts, and, judging from the efficient way in which the present work has been designed and superintended by the Works Department, I cannot doubt that the extension will be carried out in an equally satisfactory manner. I thank you, in Lady Robinson’s name and my own, for your kind wish to welcome us more frequently to your pleasant little town, and I would in conclusion express to you our thanks for the hospitality which you have extended to us in the past, and the pleasure with which we look forward to repeating our visits in the future. I have now the satisfaction to declare your section of the railway open to public use. After about half an hour agreeably spent under the gum tree, the start back for Perth was made. The metropolitan station was reached about 1 o’clock, and on the platform Councillor Scott, in his capacity of acting chairman for the municipal body, was in attendance with the following address :
To His Excellency Sir W. C. F. Robinson, K.C.M.Q., Governor and Commander-in-Chief, etc. SIR,-It is with feelings of respect and gratitude that we meet Your Excellency here today. The prompt and able way in which this important work has been carried out under your Administration claims our respect, and our gratitude is due to you for the lively interest you invariably evince in all that affects the welfare of our colony.
We congratulate you, Sir, on the opening of this first section of the Eastern Districts Railway, venturing to anticipate that you will at an early date find us in a position to undertake the extension of the line through Guildford to the more important centres of agricultural-and it is to be hoped in the future of other-pursuits. We trust that, on the establishment of railway communication, these our corn producing areas may enable us not only to do away with any protective duty on flour, but to compete with our sister colonies in the exportation of that necessary of life.
Lastly, in viewing with satisfaction the opening up of the colony’s general resources, we assure you, Sir, that we shall always recognise the necessity of rendering our city worthy of its position as the capital of Western Australia.
His EXCELLENCY replied as follows :
Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN, I thank you sincerely for your cordial address, and for your generous recognition of the interest which I take in all that relates to the welfare of your colony. I need hardly say that I warmly reciprocate your congratulations on the opening of the first section of this railway. It is nearly four years-namely, three months before my departure for Singapore, since I forwarded to the Secretary of State the preliminary surveys of the line, and urged on Her Majesty’s Government the importance of proceeding at once with “this, desirable and much-needed under- taking.” It was with great satisfaction I found on my return to the colony that the work had been commenced, and was progressing in such a satisfactory manner as to promise its prompt completion ; and you will readily believe that the gratification which I experience at taking part in this ceremony today is greatly enhanced by the fact which it is my good fortune to announce to you that the Secretary of State has sanctioned a loan for the further extension of the line towards York, and that the object of the special session of Council which has just been summoned is to give effect to the legislation which is necessary for carrying on the work. I trust with you that the establishment of railway communication with the Eastern Districts may enable. us in time to do Away with a protective duty on flour, to which, on principle, I am opposed, and to compete with our sister colonies in the exportation of that necessary of life. The steps recently taken by the Municipal Council of Perth for borrowing a sum of money for city improvements evinces a progressive spirit which reflects much credit on the Municipality. I cannot doubt that as your city increases in importance, as, under existing circumstances it cannot fail to do, the increased responsibilities which will necessarily devolve upon your Council will continue to be so discharged as to satisfy the citizens that their interests have been placed in zealous and competent hands. I now declare this section of the line open for
This brought to a close the opening ceremonies, after which the assembled company
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