THE 10.37 train to Hastings last Wednesday carried more than passengers – it brought with it the welcome legacy of 125 years of rail travel to the town.
And what a celebration it heralded. On the platform to greet it were 100 guests waving flags, some wearing period costume, as well as memorabilia from the period, marquees, primary school choir, Western Port Secondary College’s salza band, dignitaries and a town crier. Oh, and even a birthday cake.
Admittedly, the function was not as grand as that which launched the opening of the service in 1889, when it was regarded as a vital link in putting Hastings ‘on the map’.
Long-time station supporter Cr David Garnock spoke of the original parade through the town, with crowds reportedly carrying banners proclaiming “Advance Hastings” and “Union is Strength” and marching through the town to the station singing songs.
Then, when the train arrived, the children sang the national anthem before marching to the sports ground where they raced, jumped and played football – and later a enjoyed a banquet. In the evening there was a well-attended dance at the Athenaeum.
“So, you can see that, after years of persistent lobbying from the community, they were rather thrilled when the Stony Point line was completed and Hastings finally had its own station,” Cr Garnock said.
The co-chair of the Hastings Community Alliance and member of the organising committee, Brian Stahl, told the gathering: “Patience is a virtue and I won’t labour that point, although it is sufficient to say that, as the local councillor, I chaired a meeting on 10 March 2005 under the banner Hastings railway station revitalisation project, with the following objectives:
To set up a stationeers’ committee; gain Mornington Peninsula Shire’s approval for the project; identify a Green Corps project for Hastings railway station, and undertake a design of the building and landscaping on site.
“On 18 July 2005 we launched The Bittern Project because there already had been a Hastings Green Corps project on the foreshore initiated by Flinders MP Greg Hunt. Under the project, beautification works were carried out in the area through to High St,” Mr Stahl said.
“Then, in November 2009, under the Hastings Neighbourhood Renewal Program, with the support of the Western Port Warriors Football Team, Men’s Shed, other volunteers and financial support from Hastings Bendigo Bank, we repainted the station buildings.
“Since then there has been a lot of promise but nothing came to fruition until a local university student, Chris Fisher [a member of the Hastings Community Alliance] alerted us to the fact that today was the 125th anniversary of the railway coming to Hastings.
“So, as we celebrate this momentous occasion today, I appeal to those of you who may be interested in joining me in re-forming the Hastings Stationeers’ Group, to look at ways we can maintain the works which have been carried out, and pursue other measures which would make Hastings railway station a more welcoming place and, hopefully, a showcase of which we can be proud.”
Mr Stahl thanked David Garnock, Neale Burgess, Diana Hildebrand, Shirley Davies, Barry Fay, Mac Henshall, Sue-Ann Lowther, Rohan Allan, Nicola Belcher, Gary Mogford, Greg and Jenny Bradshaw, Leo Degroot, Wally Rachid, Cameron McCullogh, Barry Fay, Ron Wood, Mornington Railway Preservation Society, Richard Armstrong and Len Butcher.