Rail tourism

Page 5 – Railways Magazine

The New Zealand Railways Magazine was launched in May 1926 and was published each month until June 1940. Based on British and American railway company magazines, it was originally intended as a shop organ for the Railways Department’s 18,000 staff and major customers.

Alongside railway news and technical articles from New Zealand and overseas, the magazine promoted domestic tourism through numerous travel stories, photo spreads, advertisements and accommodation listings. It soon expanded to include New Zealand verse, short fiction, humour, sports news, historical yarns, biographical sketches and book reviews.

In 1927 the magazine introduced a regular column ‘Of Feminine Interest’ (later entitled ‘Our Women’s Section’) featuring recipes, fashion tips, society gossip and notes on children’s health. As well as catering for the small number of female staff (85 at that time), New Zealand Railways hoped that the wives and daughters of the 12,000 married railwaymen would ‘appreciate the regular appearance of a page devoted to feminine and household matters’.

In 1933, apparently at the urging of journalist and regular contributor Pat Lawlor, the Railways Magazine further widened its brief to become a general-interest monthly for all New Zealanders. In the mid-1930s its circulation peaked at 26,000.

The historian James Cowan was the magazine’s most prolific contributor, writing more than 120 historical and travel features, including 48 sketches of ‘Famous New Zealanders’. From 1935 to 1936 the writer Robin Hyde produced a lively travel series, ‘On the Road to Anywhere: Adventures of a Train Tramp’.

The Railways Magazine survived the Depression but closed suddenly in June 1940 – a victim of wartime economies, paper shortages and the imminent retirement of G.G. Stewart, who had been its editor since 1926. Over its 14-year history, it had grown from a house journal into a hugely popular general-interest monthly. During the inter-war years no other monthly magazine matched its commitment to promoting a popular literary culture in New Zealand.

How to cite this page

'Railways Magazine', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/rail-tourism/railways-magazine, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012