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



The traffic has been quieter of late, but fairly brisk for this time of the year and it seems the Department is in the way of successfully disposing of the decreases which obtruded themselves all too often in our traffic return of recent years. The success has not been the result of any particular stroke of management, but is due to the general awakening of our service. The service has been on the verge of stagnation, and, not only the public, whom it is designed to serve, but the Department's officials, were beginning to despair of it avoiding the fate of so many State enterprises which have drifted to decay. The change came. The bonds of cold officialdom gave place to sparkling business methods. The talent of the staff which had long been stifled was invited to give itself full vent. The result has been most gratifying and now a railwayman is proud of being a railway employee. The former popular criticism which stultified the railways in the public view is not now apparent, and some of those who once ridiculed what was stigmatised as the somnolent methods of the Department, now have reason to complain of its activity. We have increased our business capacity and are heading towards full efficiency. It cannot be achieved at once, but the new spirit which animates the service will surely attain that goal.

With the general awakening of our huge concern and the success which is attending our united efforts, it seems we can confidently look forward to a period of prosperity.

“Kawarau” has been a by-word in the southern provinces during the past few months and its purport has become known throughout New Zealand. The gigantic scheme by which its originators hoped to reclaim the hidden riches of the river bed, excited people from far and near. Its romantic plan resuscitated the lagging interest in gold mining which had long since faded. The rushes” of the ‘sixties became the daily topics. The possibility of a re-staging of that romantic period when men are reputed to have lit their pipes with bank notes, and when a nugget of gold was of less importance than a plug of tobacco in the miner's pocket, set the place agog. Old and grizzled miners knocked the rust from their dishes which had long lain dusty on the whare shelves, and there arose once again before these worthy veterans a vision of that pile of “dust” which goaded them in their labours in the days gone by. Old and young of more intrepid spirit readily sought shares in the venture which was calculated to lay hold of at least a portion of the golden store, vast enough to redeem the national debt. It seems that the initial closing of the gates has not revealed the anticipated treasure, but those immediately interested display a commendable optimism and are sanguine of the ultimate result.

All this enterprise has not occurred without advantage to the railways which transported large quantities of cement and other material for the Kawaran dam. The latest success has been the completion of a contract to convey a dismantled dredge from Alexandra to Garston a distance of 299 miles. The Nevis Gold Dredging Company has acquired a dredge which has been lying on the banks of the Molyneaux River for a number of years, and intends to assemble it in the Nevis River. The material will be carted to Alexandra, railed to Garston, whence the heavy fittings and material will be packed overland for a distance of 24 miles. The transportation of this material will test the resources of the Department, but the work will be carried out with confidence, and it will serve as a further proof of the efficiency of our service. The traffic which represents four hundred and fifty tons was secured as the result of the zealous and persistent efforts of our local business agent, Mr. Greig, who induced the company to use the rail in preference to the road transport which was contemplated.

The merchants and shopkeepers in our northern centre, Timaru, have lately been feeling the pinch of a lean business period and hit upon the idea of appealing to their clientele by the inauguration of a “shopping week,” No small amount of effort was required to complete the organisation of the innovation, and although perhaps the immediate results were not as gratifying to the organisers as anticipated, the enterprise was far from being a failure. It brought the country people into town and the townspeople were out in force to view the many fine window displays which were produced. The effort did not fill the coffers of the shops, but its indirect effect will be beneficial to business. It shows the tradesmen are keeping up with the times, the vast range of commodities displayed proving to the purchaser that he need not go outside his centre for any article whether it be an exquisite and expensive luxury, or any article of utility at a low price. It gives the purchaser faith in the local article and stimulates trade. The Department page 89 was not behindhand in co-operating with the organisers of the fair, and excursion fares were extended to the country patrons; the volume of passenger traffic, however, was in a measure disappointing, but it is realised that by assisting the business community the Department assists itself, and no doubt the indirect effect of the venture will be remunerative to tradesmen and railways alike. Other southern centres could follow with advantage the example of progressive Timaru.

New Zealand Railways 4–6–4 Wab. type locomotive. Weight in working order 71 tons 10 cwt. Tractive force 22,250lbs.

New Zealand Railways 4–6–4 Wab. type locomotive. Weight in working order 71 tons 10 cwt. Tractive force 22,250lbs.

The “Wab” engine is now familiar along the road from Dune-din to Palmerston and the several journeys it has run, which have been of an experimental nature, stamp it as a factor in solving the transport problems over the sharp curves and heavy gradients to be encountered between Dunedin and Oamaru. The irritating delays incidental to “double banking” must be avoided if our express passenger services are to retain their popularity. It is a most dispiriting prospect for the passenger by the late express south to Dunedin to find that on reaching the Puketeraki “bank” the speed suddenly diminishes, and that after a few convulsive puffs the engine comes to a stand. Should it be a wet winter's night the first thoughts of inquiry into the cause of the delay being satisfied they give way to gloomy meditation of a service which inflicts such inconveniences on humanity. The cause is not considered; the topography of the country which has called forth the best talent of our engineers in the laying of the track is forgotten, and quiet reason gives place to testy indifference to the Department's difficulties. The result is not flattering to our railway system. An engine which is designed to minimise these delays is as welcome as a harbinger of spring.