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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

Business Agents’ Conference

page 41

Business Agents’ Conference

A Conference of Business Agents lasting for two days commenced on the 29th April. The Business Agents present were: Messrs. Greig (Otago), Marshall (Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay), McNeil (Dunedin), Wellsted (Wanganui), Stanley (Wellington), Welsh (Auckland), Pawson (Christchurch).

The feature of the Conference was the brisk keenness displayed by all the Agents, and the thorough knowledge of business conditions in their districts which discussion on the various points brought out. Remarks were always short and to the point, and unanimity was reached in regard to every recommendation.

Mr. A. W. Mouat, Commercial Member of the Board, in opening, drew attention to the advantage that had accrued through the establishment of the Commercial Branch. He stated there was now evidence that the whole staff was intent on securing for the Railway every passenger, and every ton of traffic that could be carried. Guidance, however, was expected as to the direction in which effort should be applied, and useful guidance should be obtainable from the combined experience and matured opinions of those whose special business it was to go out and mingle with the community in order to secure fuller traffic and increased public good-will towards the Department.

The Right Hon. The Prime Minister, who attended the opening session in his capacity as Minister of Railways, then addressed the Conference. (See page 6.)

Mr. D. Rodie (Commercial Manager) expressed the appreciation of the Commercial Branch in having the Prime Minister present. Team work was already in operation throughout their Branch, and this spirit was being spread. None of the members of his staff were concerned as to who got the credit so long as progress was made.

In the discussion which followed all were ready to speak immediately opportunity offered and had their views well thought out.


It was felt that the operations of the High way Boards were helping the Department.

Mr. Marshall said that North of Masterton there was now practically no opposition, and revenue had been augmented between Hastings and Ahuriri. Suggestion was frequently put forward that small lots should be carried pro rata. Mr. Greig found that the change in rate on benzine was helping the Railway. On the Fairlie Branch road competition in goods had disappeared. Mr. Pawson thought that some alteration might be made in regard to Southbridge passenger traffic. Mr. Wellsted was of opinion that in Taranaki everything reasonable had been done.

Linking Up With Carriers To Outlying Points.

There were several transportation areas where this might be carried out to advantage. Sections particularly noted were Inangahau—Westport, the Kaikouras Line, and between Wharanui and Parnassus. Some further adjustments in rates might have to be made in this connection.


Business Agents were continually having the matter of additional advertising by the Department put up to them. Attention was drawn to the standing advertisements which some of our competitors had in the newspapers. It was contended that if it had paid these people to advertise so freely it would pay the Department; fuller advertisement of fares and wider use of the screens were methods advocated.

“Red Cap” porters, said Mr. Welsh, had been a decided success at Auckland. They were much appreciated in Wellington. It was suggested that they could be employed with advantage at Christchurch, Dunedin, New Plymouth and Frankton. Mr. Mouat explained that the volume of traffic determined the possibility of providing sufficient employment.

Reservation Of Seats, Etc.

It was suggested that the reserved-seat system be brought into full operation at Frankton for the Auckland-Wellington expresses and that Rotorua be given an allocation for the summer season. Also that the telegraphic fee be abolished altogether and a flat rate for telegraphed reservations be substituted.

A demand for a further extension of Sunday trains was reported from certain districts.

Agents Attending Race Meetings

While it might in some instances be an advantage for Business Agents to attend race meetings, thereby gaining the opportunity of meeting racehorse owners and, at some of the country meetings, seeing farmers in connection with the traffic, the general opinion was that it would be advisable to leave the matter to the discretion of Business Agents as to whether they should or should not attend any particular meeting.

page 42

Highway Signs.

The opinion was expressed that a larger proportion of the space available should be made use of for Railway propaganda. This refers particularly to posters on hoardings facing public roads. It was considered that there would be fuller advantages obtained from posters if fares (including steamer fares) between principal points were included.

Public Hoardings.

None of the Business Agents had found that the objections raised by the various associations and newspapers to the display by the Department of posters had interfered in any way with their efforts to obtain traffic for the Railways. No individual has ever raised the point when approached in connection with prospective business; the opinion was that the Railway had led the way in improving hoarding sings by increasing their artistic merit. In the mater of buildings it was felt that, while judgment should be exercised not to interfere with their architectural beauty, the display of advertisement-signs was not in itself objectional so long as the signs did not offend the aesthetic sense of the public, or spoil the outlook in particular localities.

Rail Motors.

The opinion was expressed that rail motors might be used with advantage on long distance journeys, for example, Greymouth-Inangahua and Wellington-Masterton. Other possible tryout runs suggested were: Blenheim-Wharanui and Nelson-Glenhope, but for these services a fast running car capable of 40 miles per hour would be essential. Objection was raised to the “Clayton” on account of no space being available for luggage and parcels. It was suggested that on the Waiuku and Pukemiro Branches a car could be run to conserve traffic, but it would not be a paying proposition, although it might serve to stave off any other competition. Generally it was felt that experiment would be necessary to decide whether the cars could be placed on the Napier-Eskdale run and also on the Parnassus, Little River and Southbridge Branches. The rail car might be tried to find out whether the number of passengers offering would warrant its running. A night running rail car between Frankton and Thames was suggested. All the Business Agents drew attention to the risk of losing goods traffic should rail motors be put on and the ordinary services be interfered with. The general opinion appeared to be that all rail motors meantime should be used as supplementary to, rather than in lieu of, existing services.

Road Motor Buses.

It was felt that should the Department undertake the running of road motor buses on sections where motor competition was already successfully competing with the rail, the best course to pursue would be to purchase the plants of our competitors. In one sense the competition was considered to have been a blessing in disguise as it showed us possibilities for the further increase of passenger traffic through the provision of a motor service. Places mentioned where road buses might be used were: Oamaru-Tokarahi, Napier-Hastings, Hastings-Waipukurau, Masterton-Palmerston North, Masterton-Carterton and the Kaiapoi and Southbridge Branches. In Canterbury there was a certain amount of public clamour for an extension of the rail system by means of buses to supply a pick-up and set-down, door-to-door service.

Training Staff.

In their effort to meet public requirements all business Agents expressed their gratification with the assistance given by the staff. Both First and Second Division were alive to the advantage of securing traffic. It was felt that too much could not be done to keep the matter of service constantly before them in view of the necessity for organisation to obtain and retain business. The attitude of the public towards the Department has been vastly improved during the last year or two. It was suggested that new boys joining the service required careful training in courtesy towards the public. Business Agents in each District might with advantage take every opportunity that offered to address the staff on matters likely to contribute to the welfare of the Service. Such subjects as “Courtesy,” “Handling of goods,” etc., could be chosen as being matters in regard to which instruction would be likely to create a better feeling between the public and the Railway. The circular issued last year containing notices of appreciative reference by the public had created a better feeling amongst the staff, and had been much appreciated by them.

“N.Z. Railways Magazine.”

It was felt that the Departmental “Magazine” would provide a splendid means of communicating matters of interest to the staff. Suitable articles would help to keep the members instructed and educated in regard to the latest phases of railway working both in New Zealand and in other parts of the world. The principal branches of the Service through the medium of the unified magazine, would be drawn together in a community of interest not previously page 43 attainable. It was also felt that public appreciation of the Railway could best be maintained and expanded through the distribution of suitable railway propaganda by means of the “Magazine.”

Regaining Lost Traffic.

The general opinion was expressed that service was of more moment than fares, and in cases where we had been able to obtain traffic on account of extremely low fares—as in the case of workers’ tickets—it was a moot point whether our fares were not rather below the point at which they could be considered remunerative. A Shuttle service was suggested between Suburban stations by rail motor between the hours of say 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at reduced fares. A suggestion was also made that a reduction in return tickets might induce passengers to travel both ways by rail where at the present time they travel one way by road.

Excursion Traffic.

There was scope for an extension of excursion traffic by the supply of special services in particular localities. Effort should be made to induce promoters of “house” picnics to arrange travel for their annual picnic by rail. Excursions for farmers in the winter time between one farming district and another was recommended, the matter to be tried out between the Waikato and Taranaki Provinces. It was considered that this idea offered quite good possibilities. Negotiations were opened for running a farmers’ excursion from the Waikato to Hawera for the South Taranaki Winter Show about the end of June.

Train Crossing the Rimutakas, Wellington-Wairarapa Line

Train Crossing the Rimutakas, Wellington-Wairarapa Line

The question of the removal of the limitation of one excursion per annum now granted to schools was raised. It was felt that at times the restrictions prevented the Department from obtaining traffic which might otherwise have been available.


Mr. Mouat announced that the Department some time ago made arrangements for improvements in the tarpaulins and that those now being released from the workshops were of better quality in all respects than those previously in use.

An Acrobatic Engine.

On November 21st at 6.45 a.m. (says the Annual Report of the Japanese Government Railways), a passenger train, No. 621 (composed of five bogie passenger cars) was running between Fubasami and Imaichi, Nikko Line. No sooner had it reached the up grade than the engine began rolling in the air until it came to a standstill. A relief engine was sent from Imaichi station, but as the drivers on the latter failed to work the brake properly it rushed against the train in situ. The violent shake destroyed two engines, thereby injuring six passengers, three railway servants, and one railway post office servant.

A London Cabman, unable to pass a bus, was inflamed to paroxysms of unthinkable objurgation. “Oh, sir,” said the driver of the bus in tones of reverence, “that was lovely! Will yer kindly tell me where ye're preaching next Sunday? I should so like to ‘ear yer at yer best.”