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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 2 (May 1, 1939)


Low thunder reverberates in the distance, assuming gigantic proportions as the sudden light far down the grade rapidly develops into a hurtling monster of gleaming metal, driving pistons, lighted windows and swaying coaches. With a confused blur of faces, carriage after carriage flashes by, followed abruptly by red tail-lights, which diminish in brightness, flicker, and are in turn swallowed up by the enfolding darkness.

The “Limited”—No. 229—with its cosmopolitan living freight, has passed, speeding on its long journey south. Vague shadows hover intermittently at steam-darkened windows, and in the long coaches passengers read or doze; experienced travellers are prosaically sleeping as if in their own beds.

What hope, ambition, or sorrow, may be locked in the breast of each of these night voyagers, cleaving the darkness in the wake of a Juggernaut! Borne swiftly over a bridge, they roar, suddenly through a tunnel, or click rhythmically along foothills. A vibrant whistle sounds and faces peer from windows at startled stock in flight.

Now, from some remote dwelling or farmhouse, a lonely light appears, in that fleeting countryside, and the occupant automatically checks his clock. “It's the Limited,” he murmurs to the drowsily stirring form beside him, while on the footplate of that swaying cab, two men control the leaping, roaring monster of power and speed. The safety of the long train lies in their hands; each individual life in those following coaches is their responsibility.

“What's your total?” is the query shouted at one busy station.

“Ten, total,” laconically calls the driver of a long train.

Thirty years on the footplate! Thirty years in which driver and fireman have had the handling of many engines, and known affection for some few. Mr. M. Johnston, well-known Rugby referee and administrator, and popular masseur of the victorious 1934 All Black Rugby representatives, looks back over a full thirty years of Railway service.

Joining the Department in 1908, he spent his first three years at the old Christchurch cleaning sheds, long since demolished. He was then transferred
(Rly. Publicity photo.) The Auckland-Wellington “Limited” crossing the Waikanae Bridge.

(Rly. Publicity photo.) The Auckland-Wellington “Limited” crossing the Waikanae Bridge.

to Masterton, working as fireman on “O” and “N” class engines to Palmerston North or Cross Creek.