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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 6 (October 1, 1930)

The Iron Horse and the Golden Goose

The Iron Horse and the Golden Goose.

Dear Reader, if one morning you ambled out to gather in the milk and found that some person or persons unknown had plucked out your front fence, or stolen your aerial pole for a clothes’ prop, you would naturally take offence and feel that you were more or less “up the pole.” Likewise, if, when you arrived at the place where the railway station should be, you found that the whole system had gone up into the blue without leaving even a puff of steam to mark its late existence, would you not experience a feeling of personal loss, as if a very intimate friend and protector had disappeared without leaving an address? Would you not run crying hither and thither seeking some sign of the trusty old black steeds of your earliest memory, whose very familiarity perhaps had led you to become a little careless in the manifestation of your appreciation? Would you not feel that something of great significance had gone out of your existence?

Truly, dear reader, life is like that. We never miss the golden goose ‘til she abandons minting for moulting. We take it as read that the sun will take the call tomorrow, that the tide will do its usual stunt, and that night will follow day (and vice versa) without any special announcement by the management. But if the sun got out on the skate with the Big Bear or that Irish star Orion, and failed to punch the clock for a week, or the days and nights got all mixed up, we would begin to appreciate the ordered regularity of the cosmography. But as long as Nature does her bit we accept her phenomena with smug indifference. By the same token, dear reader, we are apt to think that the Railway can run without visible means of support. We are like the parsimonious parent who is surprised that he cannot rear hundred-per-centers on food-less meals. Yet, if the Railways locked the stable doors on the “iron horses” for a day or two, the populace would rise in its wrath and demand that the rolling stock be immediately unrolled and started on the roll. Such is the mentality of man that he can only realise that white is white by seeing black.

A land without railways would be as dry as an empty bottle of champagne without the bottle. It would curl up and pass out from congestion of the digestion or commercial anaemia. It would die of constriction of the output, and the land would return to the conditions of the stage-coach. There was certainly romance in the stage-coach. There is as much romance in the “iron horse,” but its romanticism is combined with commercialism. The locomotive is the heart of progress, and the tracks are the arteries conveying the stream of vigour to the extremities of the land.