The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 8 (February 1, 1933)
Praise for New Zealand's train service, considering the difficulties of construction and running in a country such as the Dominion, was bestowed by Mr. John Ellis, who has been in the service of the London and North-Eastern Railway all his life, when interviewed recently by a Dunedin Star reporter prior to his departure for the north. Mr. Ellis has retired from the position of District Superintendent in Glasgow, which he held for some years, and is at present touring New Zealand.
Mr. Ellis said that New Zealand's train service was “wonderful, considering the hilly nature of most of the country and the tortuous routes that have to be followed.” He has been in the country some weeks, and has travelled on the lines from Auckland to as far south, as Invercargill.
He thought the carriages were “quite good” from the point of view of the passengers’ comfort, but he was surprised at the width of them. “You have such a narrow gauge,” he remarked. The standard gauge in England, Europe, and elsewhere is 4ft. 8 ½ in., but it is only 3ft. 6in. in New Zealand.
The wider gauge in other countries is partly responsible for the high speeds at which the trains travel. “The Flying Scotsman,” for instance, does the 400 miles from London to Edinburgh in 7h 45min.
Nevertheless, Mr. Ellis thinks that the way our trains travel “over rugged country and by circuitous windings, ” is very good. Indeed, he thought it “really remarkable.” He admitted, however, that this rugged and circuitous country had its compensations. One thing that could not but impress the overseas travellers on our railways was that the country traversed was “so picturesque.”
Incidentally, he remarked that New Zealand towns and cities were the cleanest he had seen on his travels, and these included England, the United States, and Canada so far. He was charmed “with the congenial atmosphere of Dunedin,” and thought the Dunedin railway station the finest in New Zealand. In his opinion it was a better working station than Auckland's, and was laid out and arranged in the same fashion as the Waverley station, Edinburgh.
The service provided by our trains he thought satisfactory, considering the population to be served. The London and North-Eastern, for instance, can run trains at any time almost and get plenty of passengers. Mr. Ellis said that the available traffic governed timetables to a great extent, and New Zealand did not do badly considering the size of the travelling population.