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Railway workers at Chain Hills tunnel


Railway construction workers at the Chain Hills tunnel, near Mosgiel on the Dunedin–Clutha line, around 1874.

The railways built in New Zealand during the Vogel era of the 1870s were rudimentary by the standards of Europe or north-eastern America. In order to build railways cheaply and quickly, New Zealand adopted a narrow 3 ft 6 in (1067-mm) gauge, laid light iron rails, built small tunnels and wooden trestle bridges, and tolerated tight curves and steep gradients. While it was always intended that lines would be improved as traffic increased and finances allowed, the Vogel imprint would place severe limitations on New Zealand’s later railway development.

See enlarged detail from this image.


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: 1/2-066645-F

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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Railway workers at Chain Hills tunnel, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated