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FIRST LINE TO NORTHAMPTON. UNIFORM GAUGE QUESTION.
Addressing members 'of the Perth Ro tary Club recently the Acting Commis sioner of Railways (Mr. E. A. Evans) said: — 'Next year (1020) will -mark the hun dredth year since the foundation of Western Australia, and the railways of
the State are just half that age, the first Government line being constructed from Geraldton to Northampton, a dis tance of 35 miles, and opened for traf fic on July 2G,'1S79. ' ' That the railways at their inception were not a payable concern will be gathered from the fact that the first year's working resulted in a loss of £727, without making any allowances for interest, while for the year 1890, 11 years later, with a mileage of 188, the wdrking expenses exceeded earnings by £(5257. In 1928 there are 3977 miles of railway open, which have carried 3,(597,642 tons of goods, and 16,032,536 passengers. The earnings' this year amount to £1.858,051, and working ex penses total £2,910,811.' 'It may be stated,' continued Mr. Evans, 'that the growth of the State has been linked with that of the rail ways throughout. In 1879 the popula tion of the State was 28,688. To-day the figure is over 400,000, with a trackage of just on 4000 miles of railway, or ap proximately a mile of railway to every 99 persons. The original line to North ampton was principally for mining pur poses, while in the same year a com mencement was made on the line from Fremantle to Perth to connect the capi tal with its port. Further lmss con structed during the next few years were confined to the more settled coastal area until the boom on the eastern and Mur chison fields, when the demand for cheaper transport. to and from the mines necessitated the construction of long sections of line out to the mining cen tres. With the later decline in mining, at tention was turued to agricultural de velopment, and a policy of railway con struction to open up the agricultural areas has since been earnestly indulged in, with the resultant network of lines which now covers the south-western por tion of tho State. With the strides made in agricultural development, par ticularly in the wheat belt, the railways are continually being called upon to cope with increased traffic, and the depart ment has not stood still in the matter of providing improvements to deal with the situation. 'An improvement which has recently been installed is that of train control over the main south-west line to Bun bury. By the. means of special ap paratus and direct telephone lines the control of all trains running on the main line between Perth and Bunbury is under one man, situated in Perth, who arranges timetables, crossings, etc. By this means the -'on*Tol!?r is enabled to sec at a glanro th-? most expeditious and economical handling which can be ar ranged, instead of, as hitherto, trains being worked practically in the dark so far as knowledge of the movements of other trains on the section are con cerned. The inauguration of . thjs system in the formerly congested south-western district has enabled the speeding up of trains, reduction of delays and number of cases of long hourse of train men, and other very real benefits to the de partment. .?Coupled with the improvements to the track and service,, new improved locomotives of higher tractive power .and new wagon stock of increased carrying capacity have been built. Dur ing the past few years a regeneration of locomotive stock programme has been in operation whereby a number of old wornont engines have been written off the books and replaced with engines of greater tractive power and lower run ning costs. The 'P' class engine, the latest type of heavy passenger and goods engine, ten of_which were recent ly built in England to our own design and a further 15 built in our own workshops at Midland Junction, have a tractive effort of 23,0001bs., or equal to some of the large British engines on the 4ft. 8§in. gauge. The engines built at Midland Junction have actually been built at a lesser cost than those imported, although of identical design and arc giving equally satisfactory ser vice. In addition, of course, the rolling stock is built at Midland Junction. The railway workshops* at Midland Junction employ about 1950 men, are. regarded as efficient as any in the Com monwealth, and the work turned out there can be regarded with pride by every citizen of the State as an example of what can be done locally. It is tho policy of the Government that as far as possible all. new rolling stock should be built locally, and with this end in view new and up-to-date machinery is constantly being installed. Apart from new rolling stock, repairs of all de criptions to existing stock are carried out, while millions of bolts and spikes for the permanent way are made by the machines put in specially for that purpose. In the revenue estimate now before Parliament the total revenue which it is anticipated will be collected for the year ending June 30, 1929, will be £10,223,000, and of this amount £4,200 000 will come from the railways, or 41 per cent of the whole State's total. The expenditure for the same period is an ticipated for the State at £10,317,000, of which the railway department . will spend £3,125,000, or 30 per cent of the total. From these figures it will be seen the important part the railways have on the State's finances. It is most pleasing for me to say that our railways are the only ones in Australia to show a profit after payment of work ing expenses and interest for the year ended June 30, 1928. Before closine I would like to sav a
few words on the question of uniform gauge,' added Mr. Evans. 'There is no doubt that transport between the various States is hampered consider ably by the varying gauges in use in the different States .of Australia, and it is unquestionable that in the course of time Australia must face the ques tion of making a uniform gauge throughout the whole continent. Every country of importance has had to face this question at some time or another, and Australia is rapidly reaching that stage. At the same time the decision at the time when the construction of railways in Western Australia was first mooted to use tho oft. 6in. gauge must not be regarded as lack of foresight on the part of those in . charge of the destinies of the State at that time. It is a well known fact that the wider tho gauge the heavier the cost of con struction and maintenance,- and it may safely be said that had a wider gauge* been decided on in the first place, the mileage of track would not be so great as it is to-day, nor probably would we bo in such a favorable position so far as our financial results are concerned. Western Australia is vet in the devel opmental stage, and if the State is to progress it is necessary that cheap rail way construction, which is only possible with a narrow gauge such as ours, should be carried out in opening up the outer parts of the country. This phase must receive full consideration before any decision re unification of gauge af fecting tho whole of Australia can be arrived at.' Make up your mind that your greet ings and presents will be posted in ample time for delivery before Xnias. Shop and post early. Delays and disappointments to Xmas Mail can be avoided by shopping early, packing securely, addressing plainly and posting early.