THE BREAK OF GAUGE. A PROTEST.
A large deputation from Terowie waited on the Commissioner of Public Works on Wednesday morning to protest against the proposal to remove the break of gauge on the Northern line from Terowie to Peters- burg. Besides the local deputies there were present-- The Treasurer (Hon. F. W. JMilerl, the Hods. C. Wiileox, S. Ton Uiiisoii. II. Adams, .1. Wiirren, J. Lewis . \V. liusscll. and F. Ha.-edow, und Messrs. \Y. Copley, ('. R. Coode. .1'. ]liili-liis..n, \Y. 11. Duncan, and A. J). H;:iul\-iJi'. iucinliti-s of Hie House of As
sembly. 'J 'hi' ' TicJiMirci . in infroduoinp the dejiu t.-itii'ii, said !ln'\ would speak to the (.'ciinuii.--umer on I he tiueslion of the eix tci'r-ii'ii i-f I hi' broad piujie from Teiowic to I'lU'i^l'iiiL'. 'I he mailer had oeen lie I'i-iv i lie pulilir I'cir 12 years past, and lit1 hi'pc'l I hi: deputation would convince the ( ?'?niiiiissionor that tlio decision ol' I lie 1 ? i --- 1 should he nminUiiiieil in 1 lie* future. Mr. U. (.ioodo, ~S\.l'.. supported. The l!ev. .1. (.'. Hill requcsu'i. the Oo Vi'i-iuiu'iii to oppose tin1 |iro|iosetl re moval :is lieinp; ii wasteful and useless ex |ieii(lituiL' of ]iublic money, ana altogether j ui :1011s in the town and trade ot Te rowie. They made the' request in tlio in terests ol' public economy. The advisn liilily in1 otherwise of removing the break 1 of (liiugf. according to Mr. C. (iiles, M.L'., and in her interested parties, was made to turn upon Ihe (|iiention— would it pay? [iiio iidvucates of (lie removal said yes. and ; in support of their position they adduced . the Railway Commissioner's estimate. The 1 profits shown there on working expenses*, j after deducting the interest, which would have to be paid for money borrowed to make the alteration, was about I per cent, —a. small margin of profit and one which, with increased and unlooked for expendi ture, would be easilv turned into ;i innrgin , of loss, and he thought they would be able! to show the great probabilities of ;i tar; target expenditure in altering the break! of gauge station than the Commissioner anticipated. Before criticising the particu- lars of this estimate they reminded trie ] Commissioner that as a rule such esti- ! mates were under rather than over the! mark. The instances of this were legion, j and some of them were not likely to Tie 1 won forgotten by the taxp.nycis of this! colony. To refer more specifically to tTie I Commissioner's figures, they were under; the disadvantage, of not. possessing the de- tails of the statement by which he ar- rived at tne estimate given, but even so, and acknowledging frankly that they were not skilled engineers, fully competent to pass judgment, they ventured to think that ihe estimate on the face of it was open to criticism. The estimate for alter- ing the line was set down at £39,000, and tint must appear to anyone knowing the1 character of the country, with its several, deep cuttings, many culverts, and bridges, through which the line passed to be anything but excessive. Then the alteration of the Petersburg station yard was set down to cost £35,000. The Commissioner said thai land neiulel: have ro be acquired, and thev said that the Government might expect under the circumstances to pay heavily for it. The large amount of money .spent in the pur- chase of necessary Jand Mould have to be Hrtdcd to the cost of the work, and would rediKv the imaginary profits to a vanishing point. ]t would no doubt be a very gieat ' source of profit to the disinterested specu lators in Petersburg, but the colony whose: interests they were .so unselfishly . cousoning in this proposal would have to! pay for it. Again, it was proposed by the Commissioner to remove the present trans- fer and other sheds, the platforms, &c., and re-erect them at Petersburg. The sheds were iron buildings, but they were reliably informed by persons who had ex- amined them, and whose opinion was en- titled to every respect, that though the sheds and platforms as they stand would last for many years, yet such was their condition that if they attempted to remove them the bulk of the material would be found worthless for reconstruction. There were other buildings erected at Terowie at great expense which must fol- low the break of gauge, or kindred struc- tures must be provided, in Petersburg. This contingency seemingly found no place in the Coininissioner's estimate. The bar- racks, with its necessary accommodation for the loco. men. was, for instance, a stone building, which was erected at consider- able cost. The refreshment-room, another stone building, was also built. If the cost of these and several other structures, which would he referred to, were added to the Commissioner's estimate it would considerably increase the expenditure of this work of removal, and the anticipated profits would be transformed into a cer tain loss. Again, it must not be over- looked that to fit Terowie for being the break-of-gauge station large sums of pub- lic money had been expended from year to yenr iu the construction of costly works. The Gumbowie reservoir, for instance, cost tens of thousands, and against any apparent saving must be set the interest to be paid by the colony on the money ex- pended on what would then be turned into ' useless works. The third considerable item in tbe Commissioner's statement had to do with the working expenses of the new arrangement, and he reckoned that there would be a total saving of t'3,400 per himum, but the members of the deputation ?would bo able to show that the saving was j more apparent than real. Whether the, break of gauge bo at Petersburg or Te- 1 rowie, the employment of the me-ii i't-\v engaged would not be lessened, as Mr. j d'iles, with charming candor, in a m- lneiit : of forgetfulness liatf admitted. The i-ame | number of guards, drivers, cleaners, check j clerks and transhippers would have to be ? employed. There would simply be a t'ans lerenc'e of the work to the advantage of ;i lival town, but no lessening of the cost to the colony. If the matter was to turn upon the question whether it would pay or not they asked the Commissioner to seri ously consider the probabilities and facts which they advanced, showing the under estimated cost of this work of removal. '.[ 0 leave the broad aspect of the Question as it affected the genera! taxpayer of the colony, anil to refer to its local aspect, or bow it affected the town which they re presented, there was not a man, woinan, or child of the 800 or 900 inhabitants of the town of Terowie that would not suffer grievous loss if this uu.lust proposal were rarried. 'J'hey said without exaggeration that the town of Terowie owed its present size, position, and its very existence to the fact that it whs the break of gauge Station, and to take away that which was the sustenance of the town would prove absolutely fatal to its' interests. What could justify an issue of that character? The Commissioner estimated that there would be a saving of £ per cent. They believed there would be no Rav ing ; but even Granting that such a small saving would result, would that justify the Parliament in wrecking an iin poi'tMit town und reducing many of their
fellow colonists to absolute ruin? Many railway men, on the strength of Govern ment assurance, verbal and practical, that the break of gauge was fixed at Terowiu, had invested their savings of years in homes of their own in Terowie. Of what value would them1 homes he and what would become of the life savings of these railway men il those assurances were broken and the break of gauge removed? They trusted that Parliament would not g)\'y any encouragement to a proposal which would work such injustice. They claimed that the case of Terowie was not parallel with thai of a temporary ter minus. Prolilable extension of the line from such a place often caused hard ships to 1 hose concerned, hut provided no reasonable1 ground of complaint, liven ii it wen: a question of the profitable ex tension - of the broad-gauge system gene rally thev could not reasonably jjruinbie, but under present circumstances the break of gauge had to be somewhere, and (hey claimed that in all fairness it should 1 eniain at tlio town which had been built up and nourished by its establishment under Parliamentary action instead of being removed to a rival town only 15 1. ilc., further on. They also chiinuil that under the circumstances 'J'erowie was the best and most serviceable place for the hrcak-of-gauge system. It was asserted by Mr. Giles and other interested parties that Petersburg was the natural place for it, as being the junction of the lines to Port Augusta and Port 1,'irie and VJroken Hill. .Aii.vMie who knew the necessarily conlincd space available at Petersburg would know that even with the purchase of laud the addition of the elaborate system of lines, required with the brcak-of-gaugo work, sheds, &c, would severely complicate the small and already crowded station-yard at Petersburg. It was a distinct advantage to have a station not too fir from the junction — a station like Terowie, where the space was ample, and where Hie necessary transferring work tould be sepaialely attended to. To sum up— The proposal in brief would incur frefh expenditure of public money, expen ( itnre which probably in the matter of construction would be largely in excess of the estimate; it would make an alteration to the railway system, which would result in no saving of working expenses; it would wreck h tow:i of eight or nine hundred in habitant1?, whose settlement in the place had been brought about by practical assu iav;ce from the Parliaments that the ques tion was settled, and it would mean rndertaking of a work which would .serve iu. public utility or convenience, and all to feed the inoidinale greed of a rival town, 'flic proposal was conceived in sellishness. und had been shapen iu misrepresentation, and should have a speedy fate. Mr. J. \\\ llosking argued that n.. siv iug would be effected by the change. Mr. (J. K. .Jenkins (chairman _-f the 'i erowie District Council) believed tin1 cost of the change would far exceed the esti mate of £75,000. Federation would pro bably mean unilicatioti of 'gauges, so that the expenditure on the proposed alteration would be wasted. Mr. W. H. Woods (clerk of the Terowie District Council) argued that large sums were given for land in Terowie at the auction sale owing to the representation that it was to be the break-of-gauge town. Some of the quarter-acre blocks fetched as much as £200, and £100,000 had been spent there on the land and improvements. The population was 800 or 900, and there were 61 railway employes who were house- holders, representing 320 persons, without counting single men employed on the line. There were also 20 transhippers, so that about 400 people were directly concerned in the railway, or half the population. It- would mean the min of 20 or 30 railway men who had erected cottages and in- vested their savings there. The Commis- sioner stated in last year's "Hansard" that he saw no reason for undertaking the heavy expenditure necessary for the exten- sion of the broad gauge. He did not be- lieve there would be any saving by making the change. Mr. H. Weinrieh considered the cost of 1 the cbaii-ie would be sheer loss, and that j the work would be a national foffy. Mr. P. Pendlebury .said he had a busi ness both in Petersburg and Terowie, but he attended only as a taxpayer. As to the ;-lateinent of the Haihvays Commissioner | that there wc-uld he a saving in wages, it j could not be correct. The guards on the 1 passenger trains between Adelaide and Te- j rowie worked 13 hours a day, and it the | break were extended to Petersburg they 1 Must wojk 15 hours a day. or the R:ii'way.s , ( finmissiouei must provide, additiona1 | guards, and let the first shift go as far j its th« Hurra only. Then the diivers' iind stokers of goods trains never ' worked Jess than 13 hours a day, nnd often had to work 10 1 1 17 - hours a day on the trip between Adelaide and Terowie. It the brenk wcvt? extended to Petersburg they must either work about IK hours, or extja drivel's and stoi'ers ?. Mould have to be provided so as to divide! the work into two shifts. It was jiot true | there were two delays for passengers' lug- ! g- ge at Torowie and Petersburg. The half-hour at Terowie whs to enable the ' passengers to get a meal, and there was ] iio :3e-:oiui wait or transfer at Petersburg. ' There was a little delay with regard to the dispatch of the Port Pirie train from ' Petersburg, but thai was merely a mutter! loi better management. The change would certainly benefit Petersbuig by saving then: half ;i:i hour in the journey to and from .Adelaide, but ii would benefit no cue else. The Commissioner of Public Works, in reply, said a little over a year ago a depu tation waited upon him to urge the neces sity of removing the break of gauge from ' Terowie to Petersburg. At that time the . Hailway Commissioner reported that he did not see the necessity for the expendi ture of the money. The report of the Hail way Commissioner, which was laid on the table of the House of Assembly, dealt with the cost of the alterations and Mr. ' Pendleton expressed no opinion one way i or the other— he simply gave his estimate. ; He recognised the force of the arguments used by the members of the deputation, ' especially Mr. 11!II, whose, position made ' him quite a disinterested parly. They knew that with the YVesleyan Church its' ministers might be in one place to-day : and another place to-morrow — Mr. Hiil -? might be at Petersburg one day and at! Tijiowie the next day. The residents of ' Terowie felt thnt if this change were made they would suffer a great grievance, nnd unless a good case were made out the Go vernment would not be justified in tearing dew u one town to build up another one, From a national point of view this would not be good political economy, lie would convey the arguments of the deputation to the If ail way Commissioner, -whom he would ask to make a further report, which he would submit to Cabinet. Of course he could not tell how the dis cussion on Mr. Giles's motion in the House would go, but his personal feeling was that unless a very good case could be shown, and a large profit in connection with the alteration they should hesitate be fore recommending it to the Government. If 600 of the 800 inhabitants of that town were to be deprived of their home-
steads and savings, there should be shown something more than a sim- ple margin of profit to justify the ex- tension. There was a good deal of force in what Mr. Jenkins had said as to fede- lation, for no doubt federation would cause an agitation for a uniform Austra- lian gauge. It might not come off for the next 15 or 20 years, but it would come some day, and it was an additional point for consideration whether they should spend £75,000 or £100,000 in making the change. (Hear, hear.)