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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 2 (June 1, 1931)

Pioneering Value of the Railways

page 57

Pioneering Value of the Railways

Even those who have given but little serious thought to the matter, must realise the part which the railway system has played in opening up the country— how it has been responsible for bringing the “never-never” parts of the Dominion into close association with the cities and ports, thereby adding immensely to the value of the areas thus tapped (says the “Timaru Post”). Immense areas would to-day be almost valueless had those who controlled affairs in the early days not shown enterprise in pushing railways into far back country. The unearned increment, as far as the holders are concerned, resulting from the expenditure of public money on such railways, is incalculable. When the greater part of the lines were constructed, transport fell far short of what it is to-day. Road traffic was carried on with the aid of bullocks and horses! Petrol-propelled vehicles could scarcely be regarded as even a dream. The issue at that time was: Railways and prosperity, or stagnation.

A Typical Workshops Scene On The N.Z.R. (Rly. Publicity photo) A section of the Machine Shop, Otahuhu Workshops, Auckland.

A Typical Workshops Scene On The N.Z.R.
(Rly. Publicity photo)
A section of the Machine Shop, Otahuhu Workshops, Auckland.

Sir Julius Vogel and his associates chose the former course; those who succeeded to power later improved upon the work of the founders of the Public Works policy, and as a result the country blossomed like a rose. Then came competition, due to improved roads and motor vehicles. But the railways had already done their pioneering work—they had in large measure eliminated distance. The good which they accomplished in the past is ineradicable; they made settlement possible, and to-day it is interesting to contemplate what would be the position had our early politicians shown lack of courage and vision in this connection. The Dominion would still be largely uninhabited, vast areas would still be in their primeval condition; our population would be relatively small; we would be unable to look back, as we can to-day, to our proud traditions on the plane of Empire affairs. But benefits like these cannot be expected without our making recompense.

page 58