The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 3 (June 1, 1939)
It is a useful habit to make comparisons between times and places, if the purpose is to measure progress, study the effect of policies, and obtain guidance for right action in the future. Such comparisons are odious only to the odious.
The world in the “gay’ nineties”—a time remembered by most of those in control of world affairs today—was not the place of “alarums and excursions” that it is now. Life was more peaceful, the future was more assured, conditions were more stable.
“Britain rules the waves” was then our sure defence against the ills of war at home. To-day new measures are needed for the same purpose. The plans are made and the Prime Minister's call has gone forth.
“New Zealand will be there” is a cry from an earlier day: but it still stands for the spirit of New Zealanders, who can be counted on—practically to a man—to do their bit, in defence against the worst, for their own country that does its best for them.
A cool appraisal of what we have, contrasted with what we had forty years ago, should give inspiration not only for an assured national defence but also for progress in all the desirable arts and objects of living.
After a long period of almost stationary condition, New Zealand's population is now increasing at a reasonably satisfactory rate, both by natural increase and by immigration to meet a real need for additional workers in many trades and professions. This is a definite and very favourable contrast with anything experienced since the early days of New Zealand settlement. It is a sign of the change resulting from the new encouragement of local manufactures, a change more profound and likely—in the long run—to be more favourable to New Zealand development than the change produced by the introduction of refrigeration in the 'eighties of last century.
Contrasts will provide an arresting feature in most of the historical displays at New Zealand's Centennial Exhibition and some picturing of the future may well be attempted from graphic illustrations of the present and the past.
Railway progress provides as marked contrasts as any among the major developments in New Zealand's industrial life. So rapid, indeed, has been the advance in recent years that there is real difficulty in keeping the public abreast of the times in matters of railway progress.
There was the recent case of the countryman who was so “car-ridden” that he had not been on a train for ten years. When he boarded the Express, the comfort and cleanliness of the air-conditioned carriages and their smooth and soundless running impressed him so much that, like the Pear's soap subject of Phil May's sketch “since then he has used no other.”
This contrast provides a piquant commentary on the excellent, though possibly apocryphal story about Sir Robert Horn, President of the Canadian Pacific Railways. He sleeps, it is said, so much better in a Pullman berth “soothed by the continuous rattle of train wheels” that he has had a special bed constructed “that rattles and vibrates like a Pullman.”
We have found many reasons for preferring train travel to all others; but this is a new one which, for contrast alone, is distinctly refreshing. Among the multitude it holds out still another novel hope for the future in the railway world of wheels.