The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 7 (December 15, 1926)
Editorial — Christmas
Greetings! And a Merry Christmas to all! How the dear words knock at the portals of memory till the doors swing back exposing to view the kindly ghosts of many a Christmas past.
Not for us the old fashioned Christmas of the Homeland with its “holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit and punch,” but the New Zealand Christmas. For our summer season restrains such concentration on the decorative and dietary sides of life. It leaves, however, to the average New Zealander, a period of feverish shopping, elbowing amongst crowds; a glut of entertainments; a rushing hither and thither for family and company reunions; gastronomic tests ranging from the lightest of delicacies to the heaviest of dough products—all deemed to be meet for hot weather nourishment. Then there is bathing, camping, fishing, hiking, sports of all sorts, and holiday junketing generally. The season is rich with the spirit of release; it is freedom triumphant, and means, to most, a superlatively good time.
To the railwayman, the word “Christmas” conjures up a deluge. It stands for an orgy of tidying up, cleaning, and polishing—that's the preparation. Then comes the performance. A rush of work, extra services, long hours, piles of luggage, heavy trains, anxiety, sheaves of instructions, and a sustained alertness to meet emergencies—all this in the course of a constant race against the flying enemy, Time.
The urge which ordinarily actuates the staff to give the best possible service develops out of a natural desire to experience the satisfaction which springs from all good workmanship. This is now reinforced by an underlying feeling of good fellowship induced through efficiently contributing, under exacting circumstances, to the happiness of others during the season of “peace on earth” and “goodwill toward men.”
In this work they look for reciprocity—and obtain it from a multitude.
The forward-looking and precise among the public see to it that their tickets are purchased well ahead, and that seats and sleeping berths are reserved in good time. They order the goose and forward their presents in ample time for safe delivery on due date. They legibly address and label everything, strong in the belief, which experience justifies, that a well labelled package seldom goes astray; and they realise the value of checking their page 3 luggage. These are the people who help to relieve the worries of transport officers: for their early preparations supply a guide as to the number, composition, and size of trains required, and indicate the general trend of holiday traffic. Dealing with them is a sum in simple arithmetic.
It is the last-minute travellers who supply the unknown factor, the variable quantity, the perplexing complex in the traffic anticipation problem that brings about overcrowding of trains, taxes the capacity of luggage vans, strains the larder of refreshment rooms and the good humour of staffs, and helps to create those innumerable fragmentary causes of delay which no preparation can fully anticipate, and which find their ultimate expression in a result, distasteful to railway and public alike,—late running.
But who is to blame these procrastinators? They may have decided to stay at home and have a quiet Christmas. Others have done it, why not they? That at least is their cool November attitude. But as the time approaches, the spirit of the season gets into their blood. Life is short—why miss the best that it can give? Away with sedentary melancholy! Pawn the family jewels, if need be; sell the pet lamb; but the trains are calling, the crowds are gathering, there's a world of enjoyment at journey's end: Puff,—puff, —we're off! This is the genesis and exodus of Christmas crowds. It is thus that the decorous monotony of every dull annum is broken.
The experienced railwayman knows his Christmas season and welcomes its advent as a test of his capacity and that of the whole system to deal with a maximum of business in a minimum of time. And, as he pulls the lever, waves the flag, opens the throttle, or loads the van, he puts an extra measure of goodwill into his work with a view to making as far as he can “A Merry Christmas for all.”
Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.—Milton.