The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)
In these days of change and flux, of hurry, of impatience at the slightest delay, when the airplane whisks one through space at an incredible speed, or the high-powered motor-car races with a “Limited” train and out-distances it, one hears frequently the remark: “Why, I rarely travel by rail any more. Think of the time one saves by 'plane or motorcar!” Here one may recall the whimsical rejoinder of a Japanese gentleman, who was being urged by a hustling Occidental to rush and make a certain train and thereby save a few minutes. “Ah,” he said, “and what would one do with those few honourable minutes?”
That is the question in a nutshell. What is usually done with the minutes spent or saved by these latter-day modes of rapid transit? To be sure, no sane thought would advance the suggestion that an emergency trip by air, for instance, enabling one to transact certain business expeditiously, is not a veritable godsend; but what has one to show generally for the time spent in transit in motor-car or airplane—the time which can be so profitably employed in the quieter and less distracting travel by train? The writer, despite a nomadic experience covering not a few years, still confesses to a near-thrill when he settles himself in a comfortable Pullman, exchanges a cheery greeting with a smiling porter (and has one ever seen a porter who could not be coaxed to smile?) gets out some books and papers and luxuriously waits for the train to start.
And what freedom from responsibility one feels in one of these splendidly equipped modern trains! Everyone who drives a motor-car knows that, as a rule, he is not a restful passenger with someone at the wheel other than himself. He finds himself “putting on the brakes” or assuming some responsibility in watching the road. At all events, he does little or no reading, and absolutely no writing, while travelling thus. Result: Time lost in transit.
And what one misses who has not in some measure learned to know and admire page 47 his railroad brethren! Note the average engineer and fireman. Look up at them as they stand at the cab door or window at the end of a trip. Invariably one sees the picture of men who are temperate, honest, fearless, and kindly. Surely such generals should have at least a passing salute from those whom they have carried safely to their destination.
Many times at night on a train the writer finds his thoughts going out in gratitude to those faithful sentinels in the engine cab who are making possible his safe and comfortable passage. And who has not, on some journey, learned to fathom the geniality and kindliness in the heart of practically every conductor and brake man? Readers and keen appraisers of men are generally these gentlemen of the iron rail. They know genuineness and true brotherliness when they see it, and invariably respond thereto. It is really a great family. One cannot but feel sorry for the man or woman who never makes its acquaintance.
And as for the one who has discarded, for other methods of transportation, the dependable, luxurious railroad train, with its precious gift of carefree moments for self-improvement, meditation, reading, and a genuine rest—well, that is just too bad!—John Randall Dunn, in The Christian Science Monitor.
Wellington Officers Of The Railways Motor Transport Department, 1929.
Back row.—Inspectors: Messrs. F. A. Warner, J. W. B. J. Lucas. F. C. Randell. Foremen: Messrs. R. A. V. Hawke, D. O'Keefe, J. O. W. Wilcox. Front row.—Messrs. W. J. Taylor, T. C. Johnston, E. T. McKain (Officer in Charge), J. Connolly and T. E. Mills.