The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 11 (March 1, 1929)
Essay by Leslie Gibb, Luggate School, Central Otago
Essay by Leslie Gibb, Luggate School, Central Otago.
Fifty years after the inauguration of railways in Great Britain the optimistic Government of New Zealand decided to adopt this same method of transport. Finding that the few miles of railway originally laid down were a great success, the Railway Department decided to extend the lines from time to time until to-day we have 3,180 miles of line, extending from Opua in the north to the Bluff in the south. The natural formation of the country is such that the laying down of a railway was a very difficult task, yet, notwithstanding this fact, the cost was £1,112 per mile, cheaper than the average cost in Australia. One wonderful achievement is the Otira tunnel, which is over five miles long, yet the building was carried out perfectly.
Passengers who travel during the day have carriages which are kept warm by steam-heaters, and can sit in luxurious chairs from which they may view the magnificent scenery for which New Zealand is famous. Those who go long distances have well equipped sleeping-cars. During the day they may adjourn to the parlour cars, which are equal to Continental cars in comfort.
Our Railway Department has adopted the principle of “Safety First” by having in use every modern safety appliance that human ingenuity can devise. Some of the safety appliances being the Westinghouse brake, which automatically applies the brakes should part of the train become uncoupled, and an automatic signal which allows one train only on a line at one time. The high state of efficiency attained is shown by the fact that during the past two years over 52,000,000 passengers were carried without a single fatality. This record could not be attained in any other form of travel.
The farming community depends on the Railway Department for the carriage of its produce and page 27 stock to and from the markets, special concessions being made for long distances to the advantage of the farmer in the backblocks. In order to encourage the farmer in the improvement of his land lime is carried free, and manures of all descriptions at a special cheap rate. Another generous concession is that on New Zealand-grown fruit, a single case being carried from any station to any station in New Zealand for the small sum of eightpence. The average charge for carrying one ton of goods for the distance of one mile is about twopence halfpenny. As this rate is far cheaper than any other form of transport the farmers must save thousands of pounds sterling each year, because last year over 7,000,000 tons of goods and about 10,000,000 head of stock were carried.
As the railways belong to the people of New Zealand everything that is possible to transport by rail should be carried in this manner, for without the support of the whole community it would be impossible to show a profit on such a huge undertaking.
The people of New Zealand depend on the Railway Department to provide cheap freights for goods and cheap fares for travel, for it is on these two items that much of the prosperity of the Dominion depends. Unless the people give their whole-hearted support these things cannot be carried out.