EXCURSION TO COMO AND SUTHERLAND.
Any additional extension of the Illawarra line, however short, which brings the public into closer communication with their great recreation-ground, the National Park, is naturally a matter of great importance, and therefore the announcement made by the Railway Department at the end of last week that passengers would be carried as far as Sutherland on Boxing Day was received with much satisfaction. Prior to Saturday the line was only open to Hurstville, but the line may now be considered practically available for a distance of 13 miles, although until the station buildings, &c., are completed at Sutherland, regular trains will not run there. Sutherland may be said to be on the north-western boundary of the National Park, the entrance-gate of which is about a mile further on, so that when the next extension is thrown open for every-day traffic numbers of excursionists will use it as a means of getting to and exploring the park, and enjoying the privilege of yet another glimpse of varied southern scenery. The love of change is a feeling more or less intense in human nature, and no doubt there are thousands in the city working steadily on from one year's end to another, with no chance of getting outside the boundaries of the metropolis even for a
day or two, who are often tempted to exclaim, with Long-
" I hate the crowded town !
I cannot breathe shut up within its gates.
Air,—I want air, and sunshine, and blue sky,
The feeling of the breeze upon my face, The feeling of the turf beneath my feet,
And no walls but the far-off mountain tops !
Then I am free and strong, once more myself."
These sentiments, so vigorously and yet so beautifully ex- pressed, were no doubt uttered just as forcibly, if in a more prosaic way, by the hundreds—we may say thousands —who went out to Sutherland on Boxing Day. The journey between Hurstville and the present terminus of the Southern line is a most delightful one, and as at present there is little indication of settlement along the route, the excursionist feels the pleasing sensation of enter- ing upon new country. Indeed it is difficult to realise, as one is rapidly carried through or round well-wooded hills or across romantic-looking gullies, that he is within less than an hour's run from Sydney ; and the height of enjoyment it reached when the train arrives at George's River, and crosses the well-constructed bridge which spans it. A short stay at Como, on the other side of the river, enables the excursionist to admire the picturesque expanse of water on either side, en- closed by hills, and the locomotive, with its loaded cars, then proceeds, and has to negotiate a steep gradient, up which it struggle's at a moderate pace. Coming round a lengthened curve of the line not very far beyond Como, the passengers have a splendid view of the bridge which they have just traversed, and are enabled, to admire its symmetry and the evident harmony as well as strength and stability of the entire structure. In a few minutes the summit of the gradient is reached, and the locomotive, eased of the strain, puts on pace and soon runs alongside the Sutherland station, which will
be for some time the terminus,
Having thus endeavoured to give some idea of the pleasure to be derived from the trip, the incidents of Saturday's excursion may be worthy of more than passing reference. According to the timetable there were 10 trains to Sutherland during the day, the first starting at 8.35 a.m. This and the succeeding train carried the passengers without undue crushing, but that timed to start at 11.36 was uncomfort- ably crowded, and, much to the disgust of confirmed smokers, the carriage specially set apart for their con- venience was invaded by ladies and children ; and even with the notification staring them in the face that " the public are prohibited from riding on the car platforms," a number of persons had to be content with standing-room on these somewhat airy positions, and hold on tightly to the iron guards. Passengers were taken on at almost every station until the train reached Kogarah and Hurst-
ville, where the pressure was somewhat decreased. Before reaching Como a driving shower came up from the south-east, and there appeared to be every in- dication of a wet afternoon ; but notwithstanding the
dispiriting outlook, a number of people standing below the embankment at Como waved a welcome as the train ran up to the platform. A few persons landed in the hope of obtaining shelter at a primitive-looking hotel a short distance away ; but the great bulk of the holiday makers went on to Sutherland, where the majority got down, while others, and more particularly those who had children with them, remained in the train, resolved to return to Sydney rather than face the prospect of a soaking. Those who remained at Sutherland sought what shelter they could in the unfinished station- house and out-buildings, or boldly marched into the bush in search of suitable camping-places for the day's picnic. The soil in the vicinity of the station seems to be admirably suitable for brickmaking, but proved too tenacious for pedestrians, who soon presented the appearance of hav- ing come out in boots many sizes too large for them. Fortunately, however, the rain was only tempo- ary, and the clouds having passed away, the ground soon dried, and the rest of the afternoon turned out fine and warn. Each train as it came in increased the number of visitors, who wandered about the bush in every direction in search of the pretty red and yellow bell flowers which abound in the locality, and the Christmas blossom.
A few people, with a weakness for exploration, walked as far as the National Park, where even near the entrance-gates were to be found the long stems and dead blossoms of the gigantic lily, and a variety of flowers and ferns. Crossing the mile of undulating park- like land, those who ventured so far came to a steep zigzag path winding down into the deep gully at the bottom of which were the placid waters of the river, almost hidden by the trees. The scene here is calm and beautiful, and no one save those who are insensible to nature's handiwork can fail to appreciate it. The lugged and uncompromising- looking rocks in the background seem by contrast to intensify the dark green foliage of the gum trees and undergrowth, while every now and then a glimpse is obtained of the rose- coloured bloom of the Christmas tree, presenting at a cursory glance the appearance of a tree whose upper branches have by some unaccountable means caught fire. The fair expanse of water extending from the explorers' feet assists the pleasing contrast of colouring, and to the poetic or artistic mind the display is all-absorbing. The practical mind of the man who has half walked and half rolled down the slope declivities of the zigzag the all absorbing question will, how- ever, probably be, " How am I to get up again?" The rejoinder of the poetic dreamer or enthusiastic artist would perhaps be that he should have considered that before he descended. And really such an answer would appear very apropos to a man who contemplated the distant summit of the hill which, in a moment of mental aberration, he had departed from. Of course, the return journey must be made, unless the visitor chooses to remain in the sylvan shades until the unpoetic nature within him demands substantial nourishment. He will then, no doubt, as others did on Saturday, brace himself for the journey, and after the first spurt the happy thought will strike him that there is no particular hurry, and that the inner man can wait. It will be found better
to negotiate the hill by short instalments, and this will give
the weary climber time to absorb air and anathematise the
pioneer who first conceived the possibility of descending to the river, and carried his idea into practical effect. Per- severance and muscular power will, however, over- come the difficulty, and once on the top the pedestrian will naturally feel proud of his achievement, and resolve that at the first opportunity he will bring out a select party of friends (or enemies maybe), and put them in the way of enjoying the scenery below, while he calmly waits on the top of the formidable path to receive their enthusiastic ex- pressions of gratitude whenever they return and have gained sufficient wind for articulation. On the way back to Sutherland picnic parties were to be met with in every direction, but as evening closed in they all "struck camp," and before nightfall the last train had left the station, and all reached Sydney in safety.