The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 2 (June 1, 1928)
Since the inception of modern advertising, the selection of an apt phrase to use as an all-embracing slogan has exercised the keenest brains in the publicity world, and wonderful indeed has been the quality and quantity of slogans given forth to the reading public. Some of our most successful business houses owe their prosperity to a happy selection of a slogan and to the fact that they have lived right up to the letter of the same. On the other hand, however, it is one matter to adopt a slogan whether it be for propaganda or commercial advertising purposes, and quite another to live up to the traditions implied thereby, and in this latter respect has the New Zealand Railways Department left no stone unturned to carry out the implication behind the slogan “Safety First.”
Those who have occasion to travel the North Island Main Trunk line are the better able to fully appreciate the effect of the Department's safety policy; but most of us do not give sufficient thought to such matters, taking our up-to-time arrival at our destination, after an all-night run through some of the most rugged and difficult country traversed by any railway system in the world, just as a matter of fact. If we but care to meditate, we would find that our safe arrival was not the mere result of a clear line ahead, but the culminating point of years of skilful organising and training, resulting in the bringing together of a band of officials and train crews without superior in the railway world, so far as ability and conscientious execution of duty are concerned. Only those intimately connected with the running of the through Main Trunk expresses know the huge volume of detail work connected therewith, while the men essential to the running of those trains form a lengthy chain, where weakness in a single link would place many lives in jeopardy. Each man, however, is equal to his task, and carries it out to the fullest extent of his powers, with the result that the slogan, “Safety First,” is not a parrot-call, but a reality. On all lines throughout the Dominion the same effect is to be noticed daily.
New Zealand is only a very young fellow far as the age of nations runs, yet its fair isles are interwoven with a string of railways which brings heretofore isolated parts into reasonable transport distance of the trade centres. In the years that railways have been in existence in the Dominion some three thousand odd miles of permanent way have been laid down, and by pursuing a policy of cheap fares and low freights the system has grown to be one of the greatest factors in the industrial life and prosperity of our country. Success, too, has come from the rigid adoption of a perpetual “Safety First” campaign, which has earned the whole-hearted praise and respect of the travelling and commercial public, users of the great steel way. Annually, over seven million tons of goods and live stock are carried, and handled, by the Department with expedition and care, and this huge volume of traffic says a great deal for the faith merchants and farmers have in the Railway Administration. Stock requires the utmost care in handling, yet despite the many thousands of head carried annually, the loss in transport is infinitesimal.
Passenger travel on our Railways is exceptionally heavy, and each year over twenty-six million people, including season ticket holders, page 29 are carried on all lines. From this number it will readily be seen that great care and watchfulness is required of the Department's Officers in the handling of this side of the railway service. Human life is valuable in the extreme, and no risks are taken whereby a single soul would for even a moment be placed in needless danger. Accidents to passenger trains, even of a minor nature, are so infrequent here that we must surely hold a record for safety in travel by rail. Of course, there are occasions of accidents to passengers under circumstances over which neither the Department nor its officers have control. No act of Parliament will ever prevent foolish (I nearly wrote criminal) people from trying to beat the engine to a level crossing, and when to lose means certain and dreadful death—the result of ignoring the “Safety First” warning issued by the Railway Department. Again, there is no teaching the hot-headed young man who will persist in alighting from a train before it has finally pulled up at the station. He is in no particular hurry but he just does it, that is all, and Mr. Coroner returns a verdict of accidental death.
An Odd Irish Railway.
(Photograph supplied by courtesy of Mr. D. Wright, Rotorua.)
This picture illustrates the only example of a railway on the Lartigue principle which exists in the United Kingdom. The line runs from Ballybunnion to Listowel, and has a single line of rail only. The engine and carriages are mounted astride the rail, the carriages and the two boilers of the locomotive hanging down like a pair of saddle-bags on either side of the central rail. Two small lateral guard-rails near the ground serve to steady the carriages in case of any oscillation. It is claimed for the system that it is economical, owing to the use of a single rail, and that it favours simplicity of construction, because by lengthening or shortening the supports of the rail, irregularities of surface may be overcome without recourse to embankment or cutting.