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Early railway construction workers


While this photograph of railway ‘navvies’ (labourers) was taken some years later, it gives a sense of the working conditions and methods employed during the Vogel era. Rail construction in the 1870s relied on muscle power (and dynamite), as workers laboured with pick axes and wide-mouth shovels, disposing of spoil with horse-drawn tip-carts or via a gravity-fed timber chute known as a ‘Chinaman’.


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PAColl-3060-016

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

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Early railway construction workers, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated