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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)


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In one view of it, the whole of human life is a contest for superiority in some field or other, and anything which gives promise of a keen and obvious battle for supremacy, whether of wits—as between lawyers in a Courthouse—or of strength, agility, courage, or speed—as in the prize-ring, on the playing-field, or round the racecourse—draws the attention and interest of mankind in general. The more spectacular the stage setting, the greater the hazard, and the less the certainty as to result, the greater is the interest.

In all New Zealand's year, February is the month when physical contests of the most varied nature take place. It is the warmest part of our summer, when settled weather conditions tempt even the most frail to take outings of various sorts, and every park and playing field is filled with contestants and onlookers. And everywhere there are prizes for the winners, from the bags of sweets for the tiny tots to guineas by the thousand for the champions among racehorses.

There is just a chance that admiration for success in the realm of physical endeavour may place this in too important a place in general estimation, with results that may unbalance our judgment upon questions of relative merit, and more serious still, may deflect the natural desire for excellence of some sort, which it is to be supposed every healthy human being has, towards physical rather than mental triumphs, and for exhibition rather than for utilitarian purposes. It is certain, for instance, that the ends of general business would be better served if as much keenness could be shown by employees anywhere in their figures of output for the last day, week, or month, as in the various results of games and races announced in the sporting columns.

After all, it is the winners in mental effort who make possible the most material successes. An example of this was Lord Leverhulme, who dealt in prosaic soap, but who was aptly described as a “merchant venturer” in the best sense. “His head,” said Lord Riddell, “was of the small, compact variety, crammed full of brains of the best quality—also highly organised.” It is the capacity for attention to organisation in their mental equipment that makes world-beaters in business, science, and invention.

A well-regulated mind means order in the intellectual home, and is attained by training and effort. It is the best asset when combined with health, that anyone can have. One of the invisible but very real advantages of railway work—and transport generally—is that it requires the kind of concentration and alertness that makes for readiness of the brain, calling for cool and quick judgments, accurate observation and methodic arrangement.

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While the value of physical fitness can hardly be over-estimated, is it helped in any way by the fact that a Peltzer beats a somebody's record for some running distance by some portion of a second? If out of such contest and effort good to the human race could be definitely recorded, then the almost universal admiration which it excites might be warranted—even if, for instance, it helped to improve the physical stamina of the race so that the mental work of mankind might be carried on with greater efficiency. But facts have to be faced. The average record-breaker on the athletic field dies in the forties, and racing capacity in human beings is seldom hereditary, and even if it were, the instances of racers being leaders of thought are so rare as to lend colour to the conclusion that super-effort in the world of sport has rather a stunting effect upon mental development.

It might be too Utopian to imagine the general public taking more interest in, say, laboratory experiments to discover cures for diseases than in the respective scores of a pair of international billiardists; or to forecast the building of an arena in which scientific research workers might do their work in full public view—with an admission charge to be applied to assist further research, and the “full house” notice in frequent demand! But at least some new turn which will more justly assess mental in relation to physical excellence in popular estimation, may be looked for in the ideals of pleasure.

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Empire Farmers' Visit

The event of the month for New Zealand is the visit of the Empire Farmers' Delegation, the transport arrangements for which are being handled by the New Zealand Railways. A 32-page crown quarto booklet, “Empire Farmers on Tour,” with striking cover design, and fully illustrated has been issued by the Railway Publicity Branch.

It contains the following message from the Minister of Railways: (Hon. W. B. Taverner):

Gentlemen of the Empire Farmers' Party,—

“On behalf of the New Zealand Railways Department I am very pleased to welcome you to the Dominion.

You have my best wishes for a happy, helpful holiday, and I can assure you that everything within the power of my Department to make your mission an enjoyable and successful one from all points, will be gladly done.”

A foreword by Mr. H. H. Sterling, General Manager of Railways reads as follows:

“In a manner worthy of the importance of their mission, representative farmers of Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa have been warmly welcomed to New Zealand. Among their kin here they are obtaining further proof of that homely family feeling which strongly welds the British Commonwealth of Nations.

‘Historic occasion’ may be an overworked phrase, but this is a case to which the words can apply in their best sense, for this visit, conforming to the soundest principles of Empire-building, is assured of an honourable place amongst the “Principal Events” recorded in the official history of New Zealand.

Here to-day is that ever-desirable “personal touch,” that “human contact,” that “first-hand knowledge” on a large scale—so large that the value cannot be measured, as each of the envoys will be the means of spreading his impressions through extensive communities. With a continuation and multiplication of such delegations throughout the Empire, the lines of progress for all of its members will be improved for their mutual advantage. Although, primarily, the tour is concerned with farming, on which the Empire's welfare is vitally dependent, the advantages of the personal interchange of knowledge will not be limited to any special range of activities.

In their observation of New Zealand's progress in agricultural and pastoral enterprise, the visitors will see how the State Railways, with more than 3,000 route miles, reaching the main centres of production and connecting with the principal ports, have been one of the indispensable factors of success. The working-policy of the Railways has been always one to facilitate the development of natural resources, and the usefulness of the system for that purpose must continue.”

Holiday Passenger Traffic

From the 13th December, 1929, to the 11th January, 1930, the New Zealand Railways carried 617,631 passengers, the revenue therefrom amounting to £241,947. This was an increase over a similar period last year of 13,348 in passengers and £9,287 in revenue.

“I desire” said the Minister of Railways (Hon. W. B. Taverner), “to indicate my satisfaction that the steps taken by the General Manager of Railways and his staff to create additional public interest in the Railways as a means of holiday travel have met with so hearty a response from the public.”