The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 3 (June 1, 1938.)
He Heyday of Railway Progress in N.Z.—
He Heyday of Railway Progress in N.Z.—
(continued from page 39 ).
Under the provisions of the District Railways Act, 1882 direct powers to levy rates had been granted these railways and these powers were actually exercised by a number of them (e.g., Waimea Plains).
The Royal Commission of 1879–1880.
The end of the year 1879 rather marks a milestone in the history of railway construction in New Zealand; for, with the onset of depression consequent on progressive falls in the prices realised by New Zealand's staple exports abroad, lines were on the average earning only 2 1/4 per cent. per annum on capital and costing over 5 per cent. A situation had arisen both as regards the lines in operation and those not completed which seemed to warrant the appointment of a Royal Commission of five leading men drawn from throughout New Zealand.
At this date the following lines or portions of lines were open, dates of completion of the last section being given in brackets in each case:—
|N.I.M.T. to Ohaupo||(1878)|
|Kai Iwi-Palmerston North||(1879)|
|Shag Point Branch||(1879)|
|Port Chalmers Branch||(1872)|
*Napier. The Commission's main findings were:—
(1) A number of stations then manned should be reduced to flag station status.
(2) The number of trains run should be reduced.
(3) Wages should be reduced.
(4) A number of charges should be reduced and rigid uniformity of tariff throughout the Colony should be departed from.
(5) There had been too much political pressure on the departmental heads and an independent Board should be substituted (e.g., pressure from sectional interests was impairing the efficiency of the system by leading to the provision of unnecessary stops for long distance trains; so that, although 10 hours 55 minutes had been allowed in 1878 for the Express between Christchurch and Dunedin, this had to be raised to 12 hours 40 minutes in 1880, and in 1882 it was still 11 hours 30 minutes).
(6) Many railways had been constructed too far in advance of settlement.
The Vogel plan of railway construction had been a comprehensive one, involving the completion and extension of lines already begun by the Provinces, so as to make ultimately two main trunk lines running the length of both islands, with feeders into the interior wherever a profitable traffic could be developed. But the pressure of local influence had proved so great as to compel many deviations from the original plan. In some districts railways had been built far in advance of requirements, while in others people had waited long for lines that might have been immediately profitable. Railway construction activities were also too diffused to give the economies of concentrated expenditure, and capital was. in consequence locked up for too long a period in incomplete lines.
As regards the uncompleted lines, they were arranged by the Commission in four classes. A number were recommended for completion to points where their earnings might be expected to be substantial; while others were recommended for prosecution when conditions proved more favourable. Certain others were wholly condemned; while still others were regarded as possibilities for the future. Amongst the lines adversely reported on were: from Wellington to the lower reaches of the Manawatu River, the Akaroa Line beyond Lake Ellesmere, the Otago Central line, and all save the Oxford-Sheffield section of the 85-mile long “Canterbury Interior Line”—to run from Oxford through Wad-dington or Sheffield, Methven, Spring-burn, and Geraldine to Temuka; which had been originally proposed in 1878, on the ground that short branch lines from such towns to the main line would all require separate services very costly to work. Actually the only portion of this line ever constructed (Oxford - Sheffield—completed 1884) carried much less traffic than the short spurs to the main line. For most of its life it called for only two trains per week and then did not pay; it was finally closed to traffic in March, 1933.
A successful trial run of the first power coach and trailer of the multiple-unit electric trains for the Wellington-Johnsonville service was made on 1st May, 1938. The picture shows the train at Khandallah station, with the Minister of Railways, the Hon. D. G. Sullivan, standing between the Minister of Labour, the Hon. H. T. Armstrong (left) and the General Manager of Railways, Mr. G. H. Mackley (right).