The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 12 (April 1, 1928.)
The New Central Booking-Office in Wellington. — Worthy of a Great Department of State
The rapid transformation taking place in the world of transport to-day is nowhere more strikingly manifest than on the railways. In New Zealand the railways, under the stimulus of vigorous competition, are responding to the demands of the new order with broad vision and thorough calculation of future developments. This is amply demonstrated by their general building and track improvement programmes.
Among the factors which have contributed greatly to promote the present measure of efficiency throughout the railway service and have tended to consolidate and advance the gains already secured, good public relations hold a prominent place.
Good public relations rest upon a multitude of contingencies — increasingly favourable tariffs for goods, travel concessions for young and old, comfortable, safe, frequent, and speedy services, centrally situated booking facilities in the cities, and that courteous, generous, ready attention to the little details of business—the “human touch”—which the public like so well.
It is a feature of the new order obtaining on our railways to-day that the public of New Zealand, in the multiplicity of their rail requirements are being catered for with scrupulous regard for the satisfaction of their wants. It might be said for the Railway Department that it has adopted the motto of Goethe: “I am very anxious to please the public.” The foregoing thoughts occurred to the writer as he stood the other day watching eager rail tourists filing into the new Central Booking Office in Wellington to book their trips by rail, to every point of the compass, for the Easter Holidays.
The provision of facilities in the Capital City for rail bookings and for the reservation of seats other than at the principal terminal station at Thorndon, dates from August, 1914. In that year, when the railways were under the management of Mr. Hiley, the Department secured premises on the ground floor of King's Chambers at the corner of Willis and Willeston Streets. These premises were immediately fitted up as a Central Booking Office, and business was commenced, with Mr. A. H. Hunt as Officer-in-Charge. In the whole of New Zealand, perhaps, it would not have been possible to secure a site more ideally suited for the purpose of a railway Central Booking Office. A constant stream of vehicular and pedestrian traffic converges on King's Chambers, and the office occupied the king position.
Necessity, however, taking no cognizance of place or circumstance, made the acquisition of larger premises a matter of urgency, if the ever-expanding business of the Central Booking Office was to be handled in a manner worthy of a great State Department.
The recent erection in Wakefield and Mercer Streets of the fine building for the “Dominion Publishing Company, Ltd.,” gave the Department an opportunity to secure accommodation for a Central Booking Office capable of meeting requirements for many years to come.
Negotiations were accordingly set on foot between the Railway Department, the Government Tourist Bureau, and the “Dominion Publishing Company, Ltd.”—negotiations which culminated in an eminently satisfactory arrangement being arrived at for housing the two State Departments in one commodious office on the ground floor of the new building.
Although, from a central site aspect, the new booking office does not command so unique a position as that of the old office in King's Chambers, yet, in some respects, it is more favourably placed. The new office is in the very heart of the civic and commercial area of Wellington— page break an area alive with the ceaseless hustle and bustle of business to-day, and potential of greatly increased activity to-morrow.
Responsibility for the fitting up and general arrangement of the new office was entrusted to three officers of the Department (Mr. P. G. Roussell, General Superintendent of Transportation, Mr. G. T. Wilson, Chief Clerk of the Commercial Branch, and Mr. A. Howitt, Chief Draughtsman of the Chief Engineer's Office), the work itself being carried out by the staff of the Foreman of Works, Kaiwarra. With the completion of the fitting-up and furnishing, everything was in readiness for the change-over from the old site to the new, and on Saturday, November 26th, 1927, the Department relinquished occupancy of the old premises and closed, as it were, an interesting chapter of railway history in Wellington.
The Department occupies about two-thirds of the floor area of the new office and the Tourist Department one-third—each Department being under separate control. The control of the Railway Booking Office is in the hands of Mr. A. C. Brown, Officer-in-Charge—a position which Mr. Brown has held for the past three years.
The Senior Clerk is Mr. A. Maxwell, who is assisted by Mr. M. J. Forde as Booking Clerk, and by Mr. L. E. Drager as Clerk in charge of reservations.
The new office has ample space. On its lofty white walls hang many beautiful gems of New Zealand scenery. On its massive pillars are displayed fine specimens of stag heads and trout—inviting the sportsman and angler to their haunts in the mountains and lakes of our country. Splendid examples of the Maori carver's art are also exhibited. The floor is of red and grey rubber tiles. Convenient booking cubicles are provided, and there are wide and long counters (38ft. 6in. and 23ft. 6in. long respectively) of polished New Zealand rimu. The new office is not only a credit to the Department, and to the artistic and practical capabilities of the men concerned in its fitting up and decoration, but it is also an asset to the City of Wellington.
The lighting and heating of the office has been planned and carried out in accordance with the latest ideas, the maximum comfort for public and staff alike being the object aimed at—and amply achieved. Besides a large window area in the front of the office, providing excellent lighting by day, there hangs, from the ceiling, a fine series of electric globes which will flood the office with light in the shorter and darker days of winter. The work of lighting and heating was undertaken by the Signal and Electrical Branch of the Department.
The outside aspect of the office presents a rich and attractive appearance—the gold lettering on page 7 the windows and doors being especially well done. (This work was carried out by Messrs. R. and E. Tingey and Company, Ltd., Wellington).
A flashing electric sign has also been installed in a prominent position above the verandah of the office. The lettering on the sigh has been done in ten-inch half-round gilded block letters mounted on metal frames. On the front fascia of the sign the wording reads: “Railway Booking Office and Government Tourist Bureau,” and on the side fascia are the words “Rail and Tourist Booking.” The flashing sign is a conspicuous object either by day or night.
Particularly convenient from the public viewpoint and, indeed, from the viewpoint of the two Departments concerned, is the fact that these two Departments (which, in the matter of bookings, supplying information, etc., to travellers, are more or less performing a similar public service) are now functioning in one main office. This co-ordination has long been wished for by travellers whose requirements frequently concerned one Department as much as the other. The new arrangement, it is pleasing to observe, is working without a hitch, and is giving the utmost satisfaction—the Tourist Officer (Mr. O'Connell) and his staff co-operating wholeheartedly with the railway officers.
The orderly despatch with which the public can be handled in the new office—the entire absence of confusion either in front of the counters or behind them—points convincingly to the fact that, in acquiring, the new office and arranging the internal layout on the most modern lines, the Department has solved, in this particular sphere of its activities at least, the problem of good public relations.
Decorated Engine of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Employees' Picnic Train, 1897.
Mr. Daniel Skinner (late messenger of Head Office), to whom we are indebted for the above photograph referred, in an accompanying note, to his years of service on the Wellington-Manawatu Railways as “The happiest of my life. …. This is how we turned out our engine on the occasion of our picnic in 1897. Prizes were offered for the best decorated engine, the driver and fireman of the engine illustrated winning the first prize—£10.”
Petone Workshops And Kaiwarra Maintenance Staff's Picnic.
“All was now turned to jollity and game”—Milton.
The combined Committee (of which Mr. A. E. P. Walworth, Workshops Manager, was president) to whose efforts the success of the picnic was largely due.
Scenes on the Ground.
On Saturday, 25th February, about one thousand members of the staff of Petone Workshops, together with the staff of the Maintenance Department at Kaiwarra, set off with their wives and familes, for a picnic—the first for sixteen years—at Maidstone park, Upper Hutt. Special preparations were made to make the day a memorable one—especially for the children. A well thought out sports programme was arranged for young and old, many happy participants taking part therein. The prizes were presented by Mrs. G. S. Lynde (wife of the Chief Mechanical Engineer). and included three silver cups, presented by Messrs. G. S. Lynde (C.M.E.), and E. T. Spidy (Superintendent of Workshops), and by the Pascall Belting Company. Altogether the oucing was a most enjoyable and successful one.