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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 3 (July 1, 1929)



The time-keeping of the heavenly bodies must be the envy of every transport organisation. In his “Yankee at the Court of King Arthur,” Mark Twain tells how the hero saved his neck by remembering the exact time at which an eclipse of the sun was due to occur, and giving orders accordingly.

Not many would care to stake their lives upon the exact arrival of any train, steamer, service car, bus or airship, though careful scheduling and precise working allows a large margin of correct timing in most of these means of movement.

But earthly affairs are subject to so many unpredictable happenings that approximate accuracy is the utmost that can be hoped for even in those things that seem most amenable to systematic prearrangement. Even in factories, where supplies of material are constant and the piece-work principle has been applied to the limit on standardised jobs, variation in output cannot be wholly prevented.

The causes of checks to regularity in the realm of transport are numerous, and railroading has its fair share. This last month has seen, in addition to an unusually heavy budget of disturbances to traffic through floods, slips, and break-downs, the most serious earthquake that modern New Zealand has experienced. Geological studies of rock formation in most parts of our country indicate that in by-gone times the land was the plaything of subterranean forces. The strange contortions of strata found in most parts of the Islands have added to the engineering difficulties of railway building and maintenance. But settled conditions over a long span of years seemed to give assurance that whatever disturbances occurred above the surface, the earth was firm. Even that assurance, however, was shaken by these recent serious earthquake shocks in the north-western sector of the South Island.

The railway habit of keeping the services going, no matter what happens, is well established. Periods of coal shortage, war, and flood have caused curtailment, but never cessation. Continuity and reliability of service is the aim towards which all our energies are directed. And this habit has served the country well on the present occasion. From the Nelson and Westland provinces have come unanimous tributes both to the excellent railway arrangements made to assist through the time of trouble, and also to the steadfastness of the staff in attending to their jobs though the earth rocked.

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An apt story upon the point is told by the general secretary of one of our leading staff organisations. He had written expressing regret and sympathy to one of the West Coast Branches of his Society, and his letter crossed in the mail a letter from the same Branch. He expected this to contain a tale of earthquake troubles, but on opening it found no reference to the upheaval at all—merely the usual catalogue of local railway matters about which societies of the kind generally correspond.

The only sensible course is to let disturbances of any sort interfere as little as possible with the regular routine of work. Viewed in that way, and excepting when of a scale to cause calamity, they are rather welcome than otherwise, for they give occasion for the exercise of initiative, and for that triumphing over difficulties which is the chief source of individual development, as it is the main pleasure of life.

Railways aid Earthquake Suffers

The Minister of Railways (the Hon. W. B. Taverner) made immediate arrangements for prompt assistance by the Department in connection with the recent earthquake. Refugees were conveyed free out of the disturbed area, special trains were run where necessary, free meals were provided at railway refreshment rooms, and free conveyance given to consignments of clothing, etc., for earthquake relief work sent from other parts of New Zealand. Many grateful acknowledgments for the thoroughness of the measures taken have been received.

Empire Trade

The British Trade Commissioner for New Zealand (Mr. W. D. Lambie) certainly opened the eyes of New Zealanders to the activities of the Empire Marketing Board by his recent exhibition and lectures in the Wellington Art Gallery.

Speaking of the posters and advertising matter artistically displayed upon walls and stands, Mr. Lambie said the idea behind the movement was to intensify the feeling of Empire unity and arouse interest in the subject of inter-Imperial trade relations in all parts of the Empire.

All towns and villages with a population of over 10,000, in Great Britain, have been postered with special maps of the Empire to concentrate interest and enthusiasm in regard to the lands won by the great pioneering soldiers, sailors, travellers and statesmen of the Empire. This is being supported by special articles in the Press of the Motherland, and by a campaign in the schools there to teach boys and girls the part the Dominions are playing in Empire development.

Whenever a manufacturing plant at Home receives an order from New Zealand special posters are placed through the works advising the workers to reciprocate by buying New Zealand products. Another way by which the sales of overseas products are stimulated is by broad-casting particulars of what Empire-grown food-stuffs are in season. “Empire” recipes and menu cards are prepared for the same purpose; and Mr. Lambie was able to give particulars of an “Empire” Christmas pudding, the recipe for which was prepared by the King's own chef. The effect of these activities on business has doubtless been a principal means of dispelling trade depression at Home, and has had healthy reactions in this country.

Visit of Inspection to Railway Workshops

In a letter to the General Manager of Railways, Mr. H. H. Sterling, the secretary of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Mr. H. Snowdon Fairchild, refers to the recent visit of members of the Chamber to the Department's new workshops in the Hutt Valley, as follows:—

Many members of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce availed themselves of the kind invitation to visit, on 19th June, the Railway Workshops at Hutt; and at the meeting of the Council last evening expression was given to the appreciation of those participating, and I was directed to convey to you the thanks of the Council and members for the courtesies extended.

The tour of inspection proved of exceptional interest, and the scope and magnitude covered in the operations of these workshops was most impressive, being thorough testimony to the efforts of your Department to cope with the transport problems of the Dominion.

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