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Railways

Events In History

25 October 1971

The Christchurch–Dunedin overnight express, headed by a JA-class locomotive, ran the last scheduled steam-hauled service on New Zealand Railways (NZR), bringing to an end 108 years of regular steam rail operations in this country.

24 December 1953

The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the central North Island.

15 December 1951

The 38-m-high railway viaduct, near Johnsonville, Wellington, was built in 1885 and had not been used since 1937. It was demolished by army engineers as a training exercise.

4 June 1943

The Cromwell–Dunedin express, travelling at speed, derailed while rounding a curve near Hyde in Central Otago.

2 July 1938

On 2 July 1938, Minister of Railways Dan Sullivan and Wellington Mayor Thomas Hislop officially opened the electrified rail line between central Wellington and the northern suburb of Johnsonville.

8 May 1926

Originally intended as a journal for the Railways Department’s 18,000 staff and their major customers, the New Zealand Railways Magazine evolved into a hugely popular general-interest periodical.

4 August 1923

The opening of the 8.5-km Ōtira tunnel completed the long-planned transalpine railway between Christchurch and Greymouth. At the time, it was the longest tunnel outside the Alps and the seventh-longest in the world.

24 September 1917

Ten New Zealand soldiers were killed when they were hit by a train at Bere Ferrers in southern England. The accident occurred as troops from the 28th Reinforcements for the NZ Expeditionary Force were being transported from Plymouth to Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain.

6 November 1908

Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward ceremonially opened the North Island main trunk railway line by driving home a final polished silver spike at Manganuioteao, between National Park and Ohākune.

20 July 1892

The Wellington and Manawatu Railway (WMR) Company’s locomotive No. 10 established a world speed record for the narrow 3 foot 6 inch (1067 mm) gauge, averaging 68 km per hour on a two-hour run and hitting a top speed of 103 kph.

3 November 1886

Built by the privately owned Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company (WMR), the line helped open the Kāpiti Coast, Horowhenua and Manawatū to European settlement.

15 April 1885

Politicians and Māori leaders ceremonially turned the ‘first sod’ of the central section of the main trunk line – a project that would take 23 years to complete.

11 September 1880

Four children were killed and 13 adults injured when two rail carriages were blown off the tracks by severe winds on a notoriously exposed part of the Remutaka incline railway. This was the first major loss of life on New Zealand’s railways.

9 December 1867

After 6½ years of construction, it took just 6½ minutes for the first trainload of passengers to speed through the 2.6- km tunnel linking the Canterbury plains to the port of Lyttelton.

5 February 1867

The 27-km line between Invercargill and Bluff was the third public railway in New Zealand. Southland's railway ambitions helped drive the province into bankruptcy.

Articles

State housing

New Zealand's first state house was formally opened on 18 September 1937. But the government has provided rental housing for New Zealanders for more than a century. Explore the history of this country's various state housing schemes and their contribution to the New Zealand way of life. Read the full article

Page 8 - Outside the mainstream

Many of us associate the beginning of state housing with the hipped-roof cottages built by the first Labour government of the 1930s and '40s. But the origin of state housing has

First World War memorials

The New Zealand war memorials of the First World War have become part of the common fabric of our lives, like stop signs or lamp-posts. Virtually every township in the country has one, usually in the main street. Read the full article

Page 2 - Remembering the dead

430 war cemeteries in Northern France, Belgium and the UK and more than 500 public memorials in New Zealand serve as permanent reminders of the terrible toll of the First World

Tangiwai disaster

New Zealand's worst railway disaster occurred 60 years ago on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the swollen Whangaehu River near Tangiwai. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed. The tragedy stunned the world and left a nation in mourning. Read the full article

Page 1 - Tangiwai railway disaster

New Zealand's worst railway disaster occurred 60 years ago on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the swollen Whangaehu River near

Page 2 - Wrong place at the wrong time

The unfortunate sequence of events that led to the Tangiwai

Page 3 - Search and rescue

How locals and police responded to New Zealand's worst railway disaster

Page 5 - Death at Tangiwai: a class affair

Survival at Tangiwai depended on which class of carriage you were travelling

Page 6 - Further information

Recommended links and books relating to the Tangiwai

Māori King movement - 1860-94

King Tāwhiao's reign was dominated by the Waikato War and the fallout from it. Read the full article

Page 6 - Tensions ease

It was clear by the 1870s that the Kīngitanga could no longer fight a war. Attempts were made to ease relations between the king and the colonial

The North Island main trunk line

All aboard! The North Island main trunk railway was 100 years old in 2008. Take a trip back in time to explore the epic story of its construction, the heyday of the steam passenger train and the place of the iconic railway refreshment room in New Zealand life. Read the full article

Page 1 - The North Island main trunk line

All aboard! The North Island main trunk railway was 100 years old in 2008. Take a trip back in time to explore the epic story of its construction, the heyday of the steam

Page 2 - Building the main trunk

On 15 April 1885 Premier Robert Stout, Wahanui Huatare and Rewi Maniapoto ceremonially turned the ‘first sod' of the central section at Puniu, near Te

Page 3 - Rise and fall

A history of the North Island railway main trunk line since the first through train left Wellington on 7 August

Page 4 - Travelling by train

For most second-class travellers, travelling the main trunk meant a long, sleepless journey on hard-backed seats, struggling to find 'elusive comfort with the NZR

Page 5 - Refreshments

Refreshments are an essential and often talked about part of any train

Dominion status

On 26 September 1907 the colony of New Zealand ceased to exist. It became, instead, a dominion within the British Empire. Read the full article

Page 6 - New Zealand in 1907

What was New Zealand like when it became a

Rail tourism

From the late 19th century the expanding rail network opened up exciting leisure and tourism opportunities for ordinary New Zealand families. New Zealand Railways promoted rail holidays through bright, attractive posters and its own popular monthly magazine. Read the full article

Page 1 - Rail tourism

From the late 19th century the expanding rail network opened up exciting leisure and tourism opportunities for ordinary New Zealand families. New Zealand Railways promoted rail

Page 2 - Day excursions

From the early days of rail, excursion and special trains gave people new opportunities to visit beaches, lakes, parks, racecourses and

Page 3 - Holidaymakers

As well as day excursions, from the mid-1890s New Zealand Railways offered special deals for travellers taking longer rail journeys over the Christmas and Easter holiday

Page 4 - Railways Studios

In 1920 New Zealand Railways established it own Railways Studios – the country’s first outdoor advertising studio. The studios produced posters, pamphlets, maps and pictorial

Page 5 - Railways Magazine

During the inter-war years no other monthly magazine matched New Zealand Railways for its commitment to promoting a popular literary culture in New

Page 6 - Post-war changes

After the peak years of the 1920s and late 1930s, tourist travel all but ceased during the Second World War.

New Zealand disasters timeline

The disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused major loss of life. Read the full article

Page 1 - New Zealand disasters timeline

The disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused major

Railway stations

Before most people had cars or telephones, let alone television and the Internet, the railway provided many communities with their main connection to the outside world. Read the full article

Page 1 - Railway stations

Before most people had cars or telephones, let alone television and the Internet, the railway provided many communities with their main connection to the outside

Page 2 - A community hub

In the heyday of rail travel the station was a vibrant hub of community

Page 4 - The dark side

Like other public facilities, railway stations often attracted loafers and drunks, bored teenagers or lonely souls seeking human

Page 5 - The changing rail landscape

Today fewer than 100 railway stations survive, and only about 40 wooden stations remain on their original sites.

Cook Strait rail ferries

On a fine, calm day ‘Cruising on the Interislander’ can be like a luxury Mediterranean cruise. But on a bad day Cook Strait can be one of the world's roughest stretches of water: seasickness, dodgy food and wildcat strikes have all been part of the colourful Cook Strait ferry story. Read the full article

Page 1 - Cook Strait rail ferries

On a fine, calm day ‘Cruising on the Interislander’ can be like a luxury Mediterranean cruise. But on a bad day Cook Strait can be one of the world's roughest stretches of water:

Page 2 - 'The floating bridge'

Before 1962 rail struggled to compete with ships for inter-island business, but the road/rail ferries changed that.

Page 3 - 'An array of awful pies'

In the 1960s, the ferries' food and services fell short of the glossy ads, but now they are more

Page 4 - Rough crossings

Crossing Cook Strait is often idyllic, but it can be one of the world’s roughest stretches of water as it's part of the westerly wind belt known as the Roaring

Page 6 - Strikes and strandings

Cook Strait ferries were vital to the flow of freight and passengers between the North and South islands, and  interruptions because of bad weather, mechanical problems or

Page 7 - Fast ferries on Cook Strait

The old fable about the tortoise and the hare was replayed on Cook Strait as fast ferries offered travellers a quick dash across the

Seddonville

The West Coast coalmining settlement of Seddonville, 50 kms north of Westport, was named in honour of the Liberal Premier Richard Seddon. It was also the site of an early experiment in state socialism – New Zealand's first state coal mine opened there in 1903. Read the full article

Page 7 - Seddonville's rail heritage

The Ngakawau-Seddonville branch line was built solely for the transport of coal from mines near Seddonville to Westport harbour, where it was then transported around New Zealand

The 1920s

The 1920s was the decade that modern New Zealand came of age. Despite political and economic uncertainty, the country shrugged off the gloom of war to embrace the Jazz Age - an era of speed, power and glamour. Explore an overview of the decade and a year-by-year breakdown of key events. Read the full article

Page 6 - 1923 - key events

A selection of key New Zealand events from

Page 7 - 1924 - key events

A selection of key New Zealand events from

The Vogel era

In 1870, Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel launched the most ambitious development programme in New Zealand’s history. The ‘Vogel era’ was a decisive moment in New Zealand’s 19th-century transformation from a Māori world to a Pākehā one. Read the full article

Page 1 - The Vogel era

In 1870, Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel launched the most ambitious development programme in New Zealand’s history. The ‘Vogel era’ was a decisive moment in New Zealand’s

Page 2 - New Zealand in 1870

Three decades after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s two main islands were like two different

Page 3 - Vogel's vision

In June 1870, Vogel unveiled the most ambitious public works and assisted-immigration programme in New Zealand’s

Page 4 - Building Vogel's railways

Julius Vogel wasn’t the first colonial politician to promise to fund public works and immigration with borrowed money. But the early 1870s offered better prospects for

Page 5 - Vogel's legacy

After the initial enthusiasm of the 1870s, Julius Vogel’s reputation suffered in the 1880s when New Zealand’s economy slumped into a long depression that was triggered by an

NZ Railways at war

The railway system and its workforce was one of the most valuable assets available to the New Zealand state to support the national effort during the First World War Read the full article

Page 1 - NZ Railways at war

The railway system and its workforce was one of the most valuable assets available to the New Zealand state to support the national effort during the First World

Page 2 - Railways in the First World War

The steam railway was a driving force of the industrial revolution and European imperialist

Page 3 - NZ Railways in 1914

On the other side of the world, New Zealand’s rail network was a small link in the vast wartime supply

Page 4 - Railwaymen in the NZEF

More than 5000 permanent NZR employees served overseas during the war, about 40% of the 1914

Page 5 - Manpower challenges at home

How did New Zealand Railways (NZR) keep up its massive manpower commitments during the First World War, while still maintaining services to its

Page 6 - Railways war memorials

Railway workers honoured the service and sacrifice of their colleagues in numerous

Page 7 - Further information

Rolls of honour and obituaries

Government rolls of honour and obituaries published at the end of the First World War. Read the full article

Page 4 - Railways Department Roll of Honour

This Roll of Honour lists 450 men from the Railways Department who died in the First World

Page 6 - Railway workers' obituaries

Obituaries were published during the First World War in the New Zealand Railway

Specialist Units of the NZEF

Overview of the role of Specialist Units in the First World War Read the full article

Page 8 - Railway companies

The role and organisation of the New Zealand Railway Company and Light Railway Operating Company during the First World

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Railway houses in Tarikaka Street, Ngaio, Wellington, in the 1980s

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