THEY came from the orchards on the hills and valleys of Mornington Peninsula yesterday to witness the official opening of the railway extension of 10 miles from Bittern to Red Hill.
For nearly 40 years these settlers had been struggling for a line, and as the first passenger train steamed into the new station at the foot of the hills they saw the consummation of their hopes.
It was a great day for the district. The small town enthusiast is the finest enthusiast of them all, and from Bittern to Red Hill there were 1000 enthusiasts about the possibilities of the railway.
They claimed that it would give a great impetus to the fruit-growing industry; that it would open up virgin country for settlers; that it would create another profitable and picturesque tourist resort, and that it would lead to the expansion of the district generally.
Invariably the residents confessed that the construction of the line meant a great deal to them. And it seemed that the line meant a great deal to Samuel Tuck also.
Samuel Tuck has lived in Red Hill district for 77 years – he was taken there when three weeks old – and he is still a confirmed optimist.
Age has not affected his optimism. As he leant against the luxurious ministerial carriage in the blazing sun yesterday he told the story of the days when the State was young and trains were not.
His family had secured the grant of a cattle run from the New South Wales Government, and had settled by Manton’s Creek.
Today he still attends to the cattle on 330 acres of the old run with the aid of his brother, who seemed ashamed that he was only 75 years of age.
It appeared from their story that the trip to Melbourne in 1860 was not such an easy matter – it took five long, weary days with a team of four bullocks to negotiate the journey from Mt. Martha to the hamlet of Melbourne.
Of course, the coaching days had followed, but the brothers expressed a tentative belief that the train will cover the distance far more quickly. It will.
There are many other residents who have not lived as long in the district as the Tuck brothers who will benefit by the railway facilities.
For a period of years Red Hill had been asleep, and the old settlers were gradually dropping out. Then came the war, and the district began to shake off its lethargy.
Now it is being vitalised by the infusion of new blood and the introduction of fresh methods; there is a growing air of virility about the place.
In a degree the returned soldier orchardists have been responsible for the change, and Red Hill is now succeeding through the elements of experience and youth.
Therefore it was singularly fitting that when the Minister of Railways (Mr. Barnes) performed the ceremony of opening the line by cutting a thin ribbon – which one speaker described as the obstacle which had stood between Red Hill and the world’s markets for so long – that the ends of the ribbon should have been held by Mrs. Haig, who celebrated her 92nd birthday on Thursday, and diminutive Mary Forest, who is only five years of age.
And as the ribbon was whirled away by the wind the engine made the official journey down an avenue of spectators, who cheered till the hills echoed their rejoicings.
The ceremony passed off without serious consequences, despite the efforts of the adventurous youth of Red Hill to investigate an engine in motion at perilously close quarters.
It was inevitable that there should be innumerable enthusiastic speeches.
Before the picnickers retreated to the hills in the afternoon 25 speeches had been delivered by members of the visiting Parliamentary party, councillors of the Flinders shire and officials of the Red Hill Fruit Growers’ Association.
The Minister, who declared that he had listened to a deluge of Parliamentary oratory since entering the Legislative Assembly at 11am on Thursday and leaving it at 8am on Friday, comforted himself with the remark that while sorrow endured for the night joy came in the morning.
Nevertheless he confessed that even in his most mad-tempered moments he would not wish his greatest enemy to suffer a similar ordeal.
Later, however the visitors were entertained to lunch in the new cool store, where Mr. Everard, M.L.A., who among other things, is a warm advocate of the fruit grown in Evelyn electorate, informed his audience that he had hunted kangaroos and wallabies in Red Hill 40 years ago or thereabouts.
Today there are more profitable pursuits in Red Hill than hunting kangaroos. The prosperity of the district according to the testimony of residents, is becoming more evident each day.
Beside the station, a new coolstore – one of the most modern in the State – has been equipped for the storage of 25,000 cases, and the necessary plant is available to increase the capacity to 50,000 cases when the demand arises.
The stores cost £17,000 to build.
Although Red Hill was famed formerly for the production of strawberries, the orchardists are now growing apples for export, with berry and soft fruits of all kinds.
With transport problems solved by the railway it is stated that onions and potatoes can be grown profitably.
The district, according to an experienced orchardist, is ideal for fruit growing, because, situated between Port Phillip Bay and Westernport, it is free from frosts and hot winds and enjoys the most uniform climate in the State.
It is estimated that 1000 acres are covered by orchards and that the annual production ranges from 130,000 to 150,000 cases.
Apart from the railway, the Country Roads Board has spent £23,000 in road work in the district, and contemplates spending another £11,000 before the work is finished.
Three developmental roads leading from Dromana, Shoreham and Bittern running towards Red Hill station are at present being constructed, and even if another extension is made to the railway it is considered that Red Hill will remain the centre of the fertile fruit growing country.
But there were visitors yesterday who discovered another side of Red Hill.
They wandered about in the shade of the valleys, where the crude tracks lost themselves in fern gullies, gullies of superb beauty, and where the tall gums reached up to the sun.
From the top of Calder’s Hill could be seen Westernport, with Phillip and French islands, while on the other side Port Phillip Bay stretched away to the Heads.
Down below Main Creek and Manton’s Creek chuckled their way to the sea.
It was very beautiful.
A FAIR, in connection with the Anglican Church, was successfully opened by Mrs Bruce in the Mechanics Hall, Frankston, this afternoon.
THE Peninsula School Committee’s Association meets at Frankston next Friday night.
ST Paul’s vestry have presented Mr J. B. Jolly with a handsome rose bowl as a recognition of services rendered.
TOMORROW night a social and dance will be held at the Mt Eliza dining rooms in aid of the public hall building fund.
From the pages of the Frankston and Somerville Standard, 9 December 1921