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

Editorial. — Signs Of Progress

page 2

Signs Of Progress.

The interest of public and railwaymen alike cannot but be stirred by the visible signs of railway progress to be met with in all parts of the Dominion.

The now familiar Automatic Signal-ling posts, with their hooded lights, are making their appearance in new territory-sure sign of the advance of science in assisting the safe and expeditious handling of trains. Improved timetables and better rolling-stock have made passengers and freighters pleased and contented, a condition conducive to favourable reactions on the spirits and attitude of the staff. Better methods and machinery in workshops have lessened the cost of production, increased efficiency and created better conditions for those engaged in this work.

The general programme of railway improvements laid down in 1924 is proceeding apace. At Auckland everything about the new yards-their size, wealth of sidings, new postal outlet, and general evidence of organised activity in modernising the facilities of that important terminal-has favourably impressed primary producers, industrialists, and travellers alike-all, in fact, who recognise in improved transport facilities an important essential towards stimulating production and adding to the general well-being of the community.

At Wellington the three-quarter mile of sea-wall through deep-water, a structure intended to form the outer boundary of the new station yard reclamation, was commenced in May, 1923, and finished a month or two back-ahead of schedule. The filling in of this 68 acre area is now proceeding rapidly, dredges pouring material into the ample basin that the sea has resigned to the uses of commerce. The space still to be filled is known, the rate of filling is known, and no great strain is placed upon the engineering faculty in foretelling the approximate time at which the actual work of laying out yards and erecting buildings may be commenced.

But the “hope deferred” that “maketh the heart sick” has affected one writer so greatly that a sub-leader in the Wellington “Evening Post” of 16th August expresses doubt as to whether Wellington ever will have a new station-this, despite physical evidences, supplemented by an assurance from the Railway Board that the whole work of laying out yards and erecting station buildings would be well on its way in from 1 1/2 to 2 years. The Railway Department has been as anxious as the people of Wellington for this work to proceed, but the war period and subsequent term of high prices and industrial depression prevented the Government allocating any funds for the work before 1923. The four-year job of building the sea-wall an outstanding work in sea reclamation-brings us up to the present time, when a large portion of the actual reclamation (carried on concurrently) has been completed. The Department has its plans laid for pushing ahead with the yard-laying work as soon as physical conditions on the reclaimed area permit, and as Cabinet allocation of funds are made available.

The Middleton hump shunting yard to facilitate the sorting of South Island merchandise is practically completed, and the electrification of Lyttelton tunnel is under way.

All the above are among the major visible evidences of railway progress. No less real, however, are the indications of improvement in non-material things. Organised training of those entering the service, now applicable to all apprentices and cadets, has been developed quite recently but is already making its advantage felt at stations and in Workshops. page 3 Graded examinations promise to make clear the way for those possessing the necessary merit to progress to higher positions. The spirit of co-operation is permeating all ranks of the Service and assisting towards the effective prosecution of the Department's various business enterprises.

Optimism is every-where, and optimism like the roseate glow accompanying the first glimmering streaks of dawn-although not in itself the dayspring of prosperity is its best and most frequent forerunner.

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.”

Safety Of Rail Travel.

The present keen contest for public support between two Auckland evening papers has resulted in great offers of free insurance to home-delivering readers of the respective publications. The dailies in question doubtless base their scale of benefits on actuarial advice, so a comparison of the extent of liability to accident from various causes which these insurances disclose is decidedly interesting. For instance, the highest benefit offered by the free insurance scheme of one paper is £1,000 in case of death from railway accident. The next highest insurance is £250 covering death by tram, ferry, or fire. Then comes £100 death benefit on account of cycle, motor cycle, or street accidents, whilst travel by motor car or bus appears to be too risky to carry any free life-insurance at all!

The scheme, whatever its effect in other respects, must be regarded as a first class advertisement for the railways, they being considered for safety purposes, better by 300 per cent. than the next safest mode of conveyance.

With 26 million passengers carried last year and no fatalities amongst them, there is sound reason behind the low risk estimate placed upon the New Zealand Railways in the above accident scale.