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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1 (April 1, 1935)

On Going Ahead

On Going Ahead.

The day may come when mankind will reach the optimum of human advancement. Take the matter of speed. Nature has set the pace for all the major movements that affect us. The earth rolls on at a steady pace, the sun observes time in all his seasons, eclipses come and go with a well-regulated consistency over huge spans of years. Heart-beats, in health and normal conditions, keep to a time schedule with meticulous regularity. The optimum speed appears to have been reached in all these things.

But the question “How fast should a man go?” has not yet been settled. Campbell and his motor-makers spent a year and much money to raise the land speed maximum by 4 miles after waiting for weeks until Nature provided a sandy speedway suitable for the purpose. The British railways push their steam trains to a triumph of a sustained 12 miles at over 100 miles per hour. Airmen, cyclists, swimmers, [gap — reason: illegible]ners, keep on breaking records in their own particular element.

All this is helping to give quicker perception to those of the present generation. “Look-out, jump in time or take a toss” is the pedestrian's rule of the road when the wild bull road-hogs are running riot.

And this, with suitable variations, is the rule of life for the speedsters. So present-day man manages to live where his remote ancestor would die a thousand deaths.

Some day, doubtless, it will be possible to work out just what is the optimum speed for man — in each of the means of conveyance — consistent with the dictates of commonsense so admirably summed up in the formula of the New Zealand Railways—“Safety, Comfort, Economy.” And when this is known, either good sense or sumptuary law must make it so. But, as Kipling said,

“Until that day comes round,
Heaven keep you safe and sound.”

The keen interest in railways, the desire for more technical experiment, the activity with which facts relating to railway advancement are received by all classes of the community, young and old alike, the wonderful things that are being done to conserve fuel, increase steaming efficiency, produce smoother and faster running, add to the amenities of train travelling and supplement the facilities for freight handling—all these are signs that the optimum of railway advancement has not yet been reached. And while that interest is there, this Magazine will continue to devote some space to those things which make for the lure of the rail — the romance of locomotives individually and in the mass, and some of the technical details that appeal so much to the machinery-minded boys of to-day.

In going ahead, the world has gone well past the time when philosophical statements and arguments could hold public interest — “cut it short” is the most constant demand, because understanding is so quick. We may even reach the stage where speech becomes unnecessary (as it already is in some forms of perfected team work), when we all know as much as everyone else, act equally wisely, and naturally think the same way about everything. Meanwhile, however, there is much “going ahead” to be done; and New Zealand, the railways and this Magazine are all busy doing it.