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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 5 (September 1, 1927)

Railway Worries Of A By-Gone Day

Railway Worries Of A By-Gone Day.

We can think of nothing that adds a brighter lustre to the romance of business progress than the way in which the railways have met and—as the fittest—survived every kind of competition, and found a way past every kind of obstacle. One reason for their success is that they have always kept a keen eye on whatever enemy, for the time being, seemed likely to wrest from them their transport supremacy.

In glancing through the Annual Report of the New Zealand Railway Commissioners for 1891—written 36 years ago-one sees that, keeping their eye on the main chance, the railway controllers of those days saw the chief competitive menace in—of all the unlikely, harmless, necessary, and slow adjuncts of transport—the traction engine?

But hear what these old-time administrators say, and then consider whether Solomon was right with his conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun.

“Some representations have been made to the Commissioners on the subject of the carriage of wool by traction-engine in preference to the railway in certain localities. Such a practice is carried on at the expense of the ratepayers who maintain the roads, and who, as a rule, derive no benefit whatever from it. The persons who gain are the owners of the goods and the proprietors of the tractionengines. Those persons who lose are the local ratepayers.

“The owner of the traction-engine, who gets full loads and continuous work for a few weeks during the year, and who can stop work in slack times, and who pays nothing towards the heavy injury which he does to the roads can, over certain distances, and under certain conditions, compete with the railway, the charges for the use of which have to cover the cost of maintenance. If the ratepayers, who are in no way benefited, are willing to maintain the roads free for the advantage of the very few persons who elect to take their wool by road, the railways cannot be expected to secure the traffic, and it is a question which may properly be considered whether in future it is desirable to extend railways into remote country districts, which may be served by traction-engines in this way more cheaply.”