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


The desire to visit the Old Country, for so we term Great Britain, is inherent in every New Zealander. We may not all be able to gratify that wish or desire, nevertheless those who can do so usually take a trip to England, either during their term of Railway life or immediately on retirement. A few short notes in regard to my trip to the Old Land, may, therefore, be of interest to some of the readers of the Railway Magazine.

Before commencing my notes I would like to say how pleased I was to see a copy of this magazine and to note the excellence of its articles.

One of the special locomotives for mountain climbing on what has been termed the “crookedest” railway in the world-Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods.

One of the special locomotives for mountain climbing on what has been termed the “crookedest” railway in the world-Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods.

My wife and I left Wellington for San Francisco on the 28th April, 1925, by the R. M. S. “Makura.” We had a splendid trip and arrived at San Francisco on the 15th May. San Francisco is a very fine city, full of life and activity, and contains some very fine buildings. The climate is somewhat similar to that of Wellington.

Whilst at San Francisco we visited Mt. Tamalpais which is 2,600 feet above sea level. To reach the mountain we first of all travelled on the ferry steamer from San Francisco to Sausalita, a 35-minutes steamer journey. We then took the electric train to Mill Valley where we transferred to the hill train for Mt. Tamalpais.

On this hill train special engines are used with driving gear on the side of the engine. The grade rises about 45 feet per minute and negotiates 281 curves, the sharpest of which is 90 degrees. The engine pushed the train up hill. The maximum load of the train is three light cars, or one heavy car. More than one engine on a train is never used. When traffic warrants it several trains are run. The view from Mt. Tamalpais is, on a fine day, a magnificent one, a clear view of the beautiful harbour of San Francisco with the Pacific Ocean in the distance, being obtained.

From San Francisco we went on to Yosemite Valley-one of the famous tourist resorts of the United States. The waterfalls at Yosemite Valley are very wonderful. Owing to the heavy rain during the weeks previous to our visit there was a great rush of water and many of the falls were quite 1,000 feet high.A unique experience at Yosemite Valley was the “fire” fall. For some 40 years it has been the custom in the tourist season to light a big fire of wood on the overhanging rock at Glacier Point (3,200 feet above the level of the Valley). When the wood is burnt nearly out the red embers are pushed over the end of the rock and fall down on the ground below. The effect is that of a lovely fire fall. This ceremony takes place about 8 p. m. each evening.

We left Yosemite Valley on Sunday, 24th May in a Pierce Arrow Motor Car en route to the Railway Station at Merced. Included in our party were a number of Railway Transport Officers who had been holding a Conference at Yosemite Valley. The distance from Yosemite Valley to Merced is 111 miles. At one portion of the journey we were 7,200 feet above sea level. The road in places was very narrow and steep. On this trip, which is known as the Horseshoe route, our car ran through a forest of “Sequoia” or redwood trees, some of which are over 300 feet in height and about 24 feet in circumference.

Before reaching Merced we passed through an immense plantation of fruit trees-said to be the largest plantation of fruit trees in the world, and to contain some 350,000 trees. There were no fences of any kind around the plantation.

On arrival at Merced we had to wait some three hours for the train and filled in this time in sight-seeing in the town. The heat was very oppressive.

We left Merced at 8.25 p. m. and arrived at Los Angeles at 8 a. m. next morning-distance 400 miles. The train travelling was particularly smooth and comfortable.

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Los Angeles is a beautiful city and possesses some particularly good picture theatres. Whilst there we made the trip to Mt. Lowe (5,000 feet above sea level), to reach which we travelled through the city and suburbs on the electric railway until we came to the incline cable car. The incline is 2,682 feet long and in this distance the car rises 1,245 feet on grades ranging from 48 degrees to 62 degrees, or, as we would term it in New Zealand, from 1 in 2 to 1 in 3. The cable car took us to Echo Mountain (3,200 feet above sea level) where we transferred into an electric car which conveyed us for the remaining 3 1/2 miles to Mt. Lowe cavern. In this 3 1/2 miles run there are 127 curves and 18 bridges. The trip is a very pleasant one though not without a certain amount of excitement.

We stayed a few days at Los Angeles and then set out on our journey to Chicago via the Grand Canyon. On arrival at the Junction station (Williams) our Pulman sleeper was disconnected from the main line train and was then taken through to the Grand Canyon station. At night the Pullman sleeping car was taken on from the Grand Canyon to Williams and then connected on to the main line express train. Some idea of the immensity of the Grand Canyon may be gathered from the fact that it is about 217 miles long. The minimum breadth is approximately 8 miles, and the maximum 20 miles, the average breadth being about 11 miles. The river at the foot of the Canyon is some 300 feet wide. Looking from the top it appears to be but a very narrow stream. The El Tovar Hotel at the Canyon (a very fine hotel) is some 6,500 feet above sea level. Whilst we were at the Grand Canyon we met a party of Shriners who came from all parts of the United States to attend a Convention at Los Angeles (taking the opportunity of visiting this wonder region en route). Five special trains were utilised to convey this party.

We left the Junction station (Williams) at 3.40 a. m. on Sunday, 31st May, and arrived at Chicago at 8.30 a. m. on Tuesday, 2nd June. During the greater portion of this journey we passed through desert country-very bare and rugged with little feed for sheep or cattle. When nearing Kansas City which we reached on the Monday night, the country was much more fertile, and it was a treat to see the beautiful green fields. We passed a number of oil wells in the Kansas district and these were particularly interesting.

Chicago is a very big city and a most important railway centre. The Union Railway station which had just been completed is a very fine station and the arrangements and facilities for working are right up-to-date. Through the kindness of Mr. Holmes, Assistant Chief Engineer, I had the privilege of seeing over this station and was very much impressed with it.

The Famous Circular Bridge On The Mt. Lowe Railway.

The Famous Circular Bridge On The Mt. Lowe Railway.

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During the time we were at Chicago the city experienced a heat wave and the heat was unbearable. We have never experienced heat in New Zealand like that of Chicago.

From Chicago we went to Detroit where we had the privilege of being shown through Ford's Motor Car Works. The works are stupendous and everything is wonderfully arranged.

We travelled from Detroit to Cleveland and from there to Philadelphia. Our stay at Cleveland and Philadelphia was short as I was anxious to get on to Atlantic City to attend the Convention of the Railway Accounting Officers' Association which was to commence there on 10th June. We therefore left Philadelphia on the morning of the 9th June, and arrived at Atlantic City the same afternoon.

On the 10th June I attended the Convention of the Association as the delegate from New Zealand. In his opening speech the Chairman referred to the fact that he had had the pleasure of meeting a member of the Association who had travelled from New Zealand to be present at the Convention. At the request of the Chairman I gave an address on railway matters in New Zealand, and was given a right royal reception by the members of the Association. This Association exercises a very important part in railway accounting affairs in America. Practically every Railway Company belongs to the Association and the meeting of the Railway Accountants of America each year at the Annual Convention is a wonderful factor in securing uniformity of methods and the simplification of the accounts. At the meeting of the Association at Atlantic City in June, 1925, over 300 Railway Accountants were present, four days being devoted to the discussions.

Atlantic City is a very popular tourist resort for the people of United States. The Board-walk on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean is a very long promenade. On one side is the Ocean, and on the other is a long array of shops. The leading hotels are all situated on the Boardwalk.

From Atlantic City we went to Washington where we stayed for some days. Washington, though not so large as many of the other cities, is the show city of the United States. The Capitol Library and the Legislative Assembly are beautiful buildings. The Arlington Cemetery, situated on the Hill overlooking Washington, is the place of burial of America's Unknown Soldier. A most glorious view of the surrounding district is obtained from this eminence. Whilst at Washington I had an opportunity of seeing the Potomac shunting yard and was much struck with the volume of the shunting that was carried on there. On the day previous to my visit, some 5,700 wagons were shunted in this yard by means of the gravitation system. When at Washington we were taken to Richmond and to Baltimore -both places of great interest. The surroundings of Washington are very beautiful, and the Potomac Park is one of the finest to be seen anywhere. Mr. E. R. Woodson, the Secretary to the Railway Accounting Officers' Association at Washington, was particularly kind to Mrs. Hamann and myself, and he and his staff did everything they could to render our visit to Washington a most enjoyable one.

In The Region Of The Grand Canyon. Colorado River, foot of Hermit Trail.

In The Region Of The Grand Canyon.
Colorado River, foot of Hermit Trail.

In The Region Of The Grand Canyon. Antelope at Hermit Cabins (Tonto Trail.)

In The Region Of The Grand Canyon.
Antelope at Hermit Cabins (Tonto Trail.)

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From Washington we went to New York. On the train journey we passed under the Hudson river. Shortly before arriving at New York the steam locomotive was uncoupled and replaced by an electric locomotive, which then worked the train to New York. The buildings at New York are very big and impressive. From the top of Woolworth's buildings, which is 60 stories high, a magnificent view of the bay with the ocean in the distance, is obtained. One lift conveys the passengers up 55 stories at express speed, another lift being used for the remaining five stories. The lighting in the streets of New York is most brilliant and the effect is most striking. The Pennsylvania and New York Central Railway stations are wonderfully well equipped and right up-to-date.

From New York we went to Boston and from there to Niagara Falls. These falls have been so well and freely described that everyone is acquainted with them. I shall only say, therefore, that the famous falls came quite up to our expectations, and that the memory of our visit to them will ever remain with us.