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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 11 (March 1, 1929)

Symbol of Progress

Symbol of Progress.

“The adoption of the progressive railway construction policy materially facilitated the settlement of the inland areas of the Dominion, and I am safe in saying that the railway became the symbol of progressive settlement and contributed largely to the prosperity which followed.

“The venture of the Canterbury Provincial Government in constructing the Lyttelton tunnel and the energy with which they added to their railway system was the first important step in unlocking the rich district of Canterbury; and I am sure we of the present generation must ascribe no small degree to the prosperity of the province to-day to the vision and faith of those sturdy pioneers.

page 13

“During recent years it has become quite evident that to continue working the Christchurch—Lyttelton line by steam traction on a single track was not satisfactory, and in order to overcome the discomforts experienced comprehensive investigations were made in order to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the problem. The growth of the traffic and the necessities of modern standards of travel required that something should be done in order adequately to remove any hindrances from the natural development of Canterbury, and, indeed, of the whole of the South Island. After due consideration, and having regard to the desirability of giving an improved service on this line, it was finally decided to electrify the Lyttellon-Christchurch section, and the work is now an accomplished fact.

The steamer-train ferry connection at Lyttelton, 1929.

The steamer-train ferry connection at Lyttelton, 1929.

“During the last few years the officers of the Department have been interested in assembling information regarding the early history of railroad development of this Dominion, and it has been found that, the material available in regard to that period is at times somewhat scarce. I was very pleased to learn that an early pioneer, Mrs. A. Williams, of Dublin Street, Lyttelton, was able to supply some of the gaps in our knowledge upon matters relating to the opening of this particular line. Mrs. Williams remembers seeing the first engine landed and seeing also how after the vessel that brought it arrived at Lyttelton, her masts were unshipped and she was towed round over the Sumner bar to Heath-cote and the engine landed at Ferrymead. I had much pleasure in sending an invitation to Mrs. Williams to be present at this function to-day, and I trust that after this long span of years she found an equal pleasure in travelling by the first electric train as she did when she made the journey in the first steam train ever run between Christchurch and Lyttelton sixty-one years ago, in the care of Driver Beverley and Guard Penfold.