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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)


As the British Navy made possible the development of the British Mercantile Marine, so the railways of the Empire have made possible the development and maintenance of trade and industry in the lands that fly the British flag. Thus the railways have a very definite interest in the Navy—they are both solid links in the chain that holds the Empire so strongly together. It was doubtless because they were felt to play so important a part in Empire development that so many of the British Dominions undertook the State ownership of their railways. Even where this has not been done, the State has usually retained a vital interest, by means of land grants and other privileges, in the building of privately-owned lines of national importance, and thus has them available for assisting development in time of peace as well as immediately convertible to the use of the State in time of war.

In Canada, Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand colonisation has been consolidated and trade extended by railway lines opening up to the seaways fertile areas suitable for settlement from which a beneficent circle of exchange has developed. British workshops were kept busy for many decades making the rails and supplying the rolling stock for newly opened countries, and when the settlement and primary production which inevitably followed had reached the exporting stage, the British market was the most open in the world for the disposal of such products.

In his “Romance of the C.P.R.” R. G. MacBeth states that the Canadian Pacific Railway “was particularly the outcome of a new national consciousness in Canada, arising out of confederation, and it was designed with the special idea of knitting the older parts of Canada in the east with the newer provinces and territory which were growing up in the wide west, and which would some day form an integral part of a Dominion whose western border would rest on the Pacific tide.”

It is just such a consciousness of Empire unity which lies at the root of most of the important railways which gird the other British Dominions.

page 6

Primary production is still the main business of New Zealand, and Great Britain the main market for our products, while the Navy remains the guarantee for the safe conveyance of commodities exchanged round half the globe between this Dominion and the Mother Country. With an increasing consciousness of their inter-dependence has come to British communities a spirit of mutual helpfulness that may do much at Ottawa and after to stimulate inter-Empire trade, to “make sure to each his own, that he reap where he has sown” and to encourage trade with kith and kin as an essential element in the well-being of the Empire. Such a consummation will do much to bring to the railways of the Empire that additional business which they are equipped to handle and on the handling of which depends the possibility of an adequate financial return upon the British capital invested in them.