The Argus at KellyGang 17/4/1875

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Sir,-You treated some communications of mine on the then proposed construction of the North Eastern Railway with so much consideration, and your journal has so much influence in this district, that I am encouraged to trespass once again upon your courtesy on a collateral subject, namely, the Beechworth branch line. As the anticipations regarding the main line which some of us ventured to express have been more than realised, I will with your permission follow the same plan on this occasion-giving official statistics wherever available, keeping well within the facts where they are not, and offering any opinions of my own with diffidence, and merely for what they are worth I will premise by saying that I ask so much of your space on a matter apparently local because there is a general question of justice and fair play involved which affects, as I think, the honour of Parliament and the credit of the whole community.

Some of your readers may not be aware that, under the Railway Loan Act 1875, Parliament sanctioned the borrowing of £1,500,000 for the construction of a number of light lines, and that a branch from the main line near Wangaratta to Beechworth (22 miles) was one of the new lines set out in the Railway Construction Act which immediately followed Mr Gillies in the earlier part of last year obtained the further consent of Parliament, as required by the 5th clause of the Loan Act and the 16th clause of the Railway Act for the immediate construction of the first 12 miles, now under contract, and rapidly approaching completion. At first sight it would seem merely a matter of course that the second section would follow suit, but an agitation, by no means to be treated with contempt, has been organised to prevent the line being carried through.

The statements made in Melbourne by the opponents of the line - and they find an echo, even if they did not obtain their inspiration, in this district-are to the following effect :- That the construction of the last section being through granite, and over a difficult country, would cost £15 000 to £20 000 a mile involving gradients which would require separate rolling stock , that Beechworth is situated on a granite mountain, in the midst of an unproductive wilderness, without mining, manufactures or agriculture to depend on, the town being entirely supported by the expenditure of the public institutions and of a number of unnecessary civil servants; that 50 tons a week would more than cover the whole traffic of the district, that it would be no breach of faith towards the subscribers to the loan to abandon the line altogether, or if it were, that they would acquiesce.

To answer these statements in detail in your columns would be out of the question It must suffice to say for the present that there is not a vein of granite - I don't think there is a granite boulder - throughout the whole 10 miles, and a heavy two mile gradient of 1 in 31 will be considerably improved if not reduced to 1 in 35 by a party now engated for that purpose. When that matter is settled I will, if you allow me, address you on that part of the question. In reference to the absence of manufactures they are generally expected after instead of before a railway, but yet there are in the town of Beechworth two breweries, two aerated water and cordial factories, two iron foundries, a steam flour mill, a soap and candle manufactory, and two tanneries, not to speak of extensive manufactures of saddles, &c, all of an excellent description. If there be no mining in the district, it is difficult to see how the 2,797 miners in the Beechworth and Yackandandah divisions (see reports of mining surveyors for quarter 30th September, 1874) manage to amuse themselves.

I can only say there are reefs within a few miles of Beechworth, abandoned over and over again, now yielding an ounce and more to the ton. One of these has been giving as much as 1oz 15dwt from a depth of 410ft, and a newer reef now tunnelling has gone as high as from 5oz to 6oz, and never less than from 2oz to 3oz.

The average for the division during the quarter referred to was over 17dwt. 12gr. for 1,217 tons of quartz crushed (see report), and the country has never been regularly prospected. As to the alluvial, a company has just been floated, with a large capital, for the purpose of purchasing and working, by means of a tunnel under the town, the claims on Spring Creek, all lying within the municipality, and the principal sluicing miners have proved their faith in the venture by taking shares. The assertion that the inhabitants of Beechworth - (the Beechworth branch railway) - are depending on the expenditure of the public institutions, which are each. I suppose, served by a baker, a butcher, a grocer, a milkman, and a firewood contractor, is unanswerable.


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