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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 7 (December 15, 1926)

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Mr. W. T. Penny, veteran secretary of the Palmerston North A. & P. Show Association, is also a railway fan. He writes thus of trains and names, engines and colours:—

Will you kindly allow me as an outsider to tender you very sincere congratulations on the very excellent journal now being regularly issued by the Department. I have had each of the five publications and have read them practically through with the greatest interest. This evening I have perused No. 5 and am impelled to address you with a twofold object, the first being to place on record my appreciation and secondly to offer what may perhaps appear to be a somewhat trivial suggestion.

Let me explain that from my boyhood which was spent in the old Homeland, I have always been attracted by railways, in fact I just failed to obtain a cadetship on one of the larger Railway Companies not long after I left school—that was forty years ago. The “London and North Western” and “Midland” Companies both had lines in my native town, and one of our boyish amusements was to collect the names of the L. & N.W.R. engines. No doubt there are many of your readers who remember that famous engine the “Charles Dickens” that hauled the Manchester-London Express so many years. I think it made its last trip as a fast express engine the last time I was in England in 1901 or 1902. They had good stuff and excellent workmen at Crewe. The “Cornwall,” an engine with an exceptionally big driving wheel was another one that I well remember.

But I am drifting away from the second part of my object in writing you which was prompted by Mr. Munro's article on “Development of Locomotive Power in California” in which he states, inter alia, that “The railway Companies of U.S.A. have a happy plan of giving romance to railway working by naming not only their trains (e.g., the Sunset Limited), but also their locomotives and railway carriages.” He also states that “an extension of the principle to all express trains and locomotives would meet with general approval from the public, who, in this country, actually have a proprietary interest in them.” Mr. Munro's sentiments have my cordial support and approbation. But I wish to go a step farther, and I am prompted herein by “Paint Brush's” interesting article in which he states that only two or three colours are used in the New Zealand Railways Workshops. This is amazing and let me here say that the very drab appearance of both locomotives and carriages was one of the first things that forcibly struck me when first I landed in New Zealand in the year 1888. It effectually killed any interest that I might have still retained for railways and which revived as keenly as ever when visiting Great Britain again in 1897. Can one ever forget the Royal train drawn by the “Royal Sovereign”—a mass of scarlet and polished brass, with crossed flags and Royal Arms in front—when Queen Victoria visited the North of England? The sight of that brilliant turn-out remains well fixed in my mind and I contend, perhaps wrongly, that expenditure to this end is well worth while.

If there is glamour to attract the young much of that glamour will remain with them in after life. Let us by all means have polished brass name plates on our passenger engines at any rate—native names if you like,—also some brighter colours and more of the New Zealand coat-of-arms on the passenger trains. Visitors to our country note these little details, and I am entirely with Mr. Munro that it would meet with the general approval of the public. I thank you in anticipation for a little space to promulgate these views and wish both the Department and the journal every success