The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)
Dominion Transport In Retrospect
Dominion Transport In Retrospect.
Pausing, amidst the present disturbed social and economic conditions for a look round, and confining one's vision to a retrospect of the development that has taken place in the Dominion's transport system since the foundation of New Zealand as a British colony in 1840, then following the evolutionary progress of that transport, decade by decade, we are compelled to appreciate the distinctive benefits and advantages which railway communication has conferred upon this Dominion and its people as a whole.
New Zealand's transport requirements, in the first twenty years after its foundation, were served by bullock wagons, horse-drawn vehicles and coastal vessels, these methods serving—perhaps inadequately—to meet the needs of those hardy pioneers who, with a fortitude truly characteristic of the race and worthy of our highest admiration, faced and surmounted the difficulties and discomforts associated with the new land of their adoption.
With the progress of settlement over a period of twenty years the inadequacy and inefficiency of such transport methods became apparent, and the necessity for improvement became dominant, resulting in the inauguration of the first section of railway in the “sixties.”
Increasing Railway Progress.
The genesis of progress is necessity. Hence we visualise the extension of railway enterprise through the next three decades—small sections here and there with the ultimate objective of a main artery—till we arrive at the “nineties,” and then a rapid railway advance is made. Lines are flung far and wide, culminating with to-day's 3,280 miles of railway system. The goal has been attained—the development of this fair land accomplished and the transport needs of its people well and truly served.
True, coastal shipping service has survived and prospered, but horse traction is merely a speck on the horizon—the “iron horse” has taken its place. For practically sixty years steam has held sway, commanding homage from all sections of the community; and the acknowledgment of its power as the principal agency of development, progress and prosperity has been undisputed.
The supremacy of steam power over that of the horse did not occasion resentment, in fact its advent and progress were applauded and appreciated as it supplied benefits hitherto unenjoyed, cheapened the cost of haulage, opened up fresh markets far afield, and in this way expanded industry.
Its institution and advancement was essential to promote prosperity and it can be claimed as the primary and principal factor associated with the welfare of this Dominion to-day.
The Coming of the Motor.
Commercial Manager And Staff.
(Rly. Publicity photos.) Mr. D. Rodie, Commercial Manager (centre), and members of the Commercial staff at Railway Headquarters, Wellington. Top (from left) : Messrs. F. K. McKav. F. G. Craig, and A. P. L. Andrew. Below (from left) : Messrs. H. A. Steers and D. S. Broughton.
With the coming of competitive forms of transport traders and travellers were provided with an alternative means of conveyance which caused them to weigh the relative values of the two, not only from the point of view of cost, but also of facility and convenience, to an extent never previously indulged in.
The position that arose was one calling for prompt and expert attention. On the one hand was the Railway Department, the largest organization in the Dominion, selling its commodity—transport—to all and sundry, and compelled by law to publish or notify all its charges; its tariff scale open to everyone's inspection, and (subject to one or two minor conditions) compelled, as common carriers, to cater for all classes of traffic. On the other hand was a new form of transport enjoying the advantage of free selection of its business and at liberty to adjust its prices to what it might consider the purchasing power of any individual trader, manufacturer or farmer.
On the passenger side was arising a form of travel which, in spite of obvious discomforts, possessed an attraction for travellers which could only be ascribed to its novelty.
This led to a new appreciation of travel values by the public and engendered an anxiety on their part to secure more and more transport value for their money.