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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 8 (December 1, 1933)

Christmas on the Home Railways

Christmas on the Home Railways.

Heartiest Christmas and New Year greetings to everyone! New Zealand railwaymen are fortunate in facing none of the climatic problems requiring the attention of their English colleagues at this season. In contrast with your genial sunshine, Europe will probably be covered deep in snow, and on many exposed routes train movement will be accomplished only with the greatest difficulty.

Northern England, the Scottish Highlands, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, are countries where traffic dislocation is experienced on account of heavy snowfalls. During recent years, however, marked improvements introduced in snow-fighting equipment have lessened, to a considerable degree, the hazards of train operation at this season.

Two types of snow-plough are favoured in Europe. One consists of a portable plough which may be attached to any locomotive, while the other takes the form of a more substantial and powerful appliance consisting of a specially strengthened covered truck with a huge “V” shaped steel plough at one end. The snow-plough gang travels inside the comfortably-furnished truck, and the whole outfit is propelled through the snowdrifts by two, three, or more locomotives.

Christmas travel discomforts, such as Dickens loved to describe, are now a thing of the past. Alongside the Great North Road, where the stage-coaches of days gone by used to battle with the snow, the “Flying Scotsman” to-day rides swiftly and smoothly on its long journey northwards. It would have to be an exceptionally heavy snowfall to seriously affect the running of crack daily passenger trains such as this.

Fast Freight Trains in Britain.

At this period of the year freight traffic assumes its peak point in Britain. Welcome increases have recently been recorded in the tonnage handled, and to meet traffic demands the freight train timetables of the four big group railways have been augmented by the inclusion of many new fast goods services. Apart from the ordinary standard freight trains, more than two hundred specially fast trains are being operated nightly between London and other centres. These give next-day deliveries at points as far distant as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Penzance and Liverpool.

Hand-in-hand with these goods train accelerations, the Home railways are greatly improving their terminal services. New and enlarged freight depots, equipped with overhead electric cranes, conveyors, and other modern handling appliances, are being brought into use. Nearly 1,000 warehouses are owned by the four group lines, situated at key positions, and having accommodation of over 25,000,000 sq. ft. Annual handlings of goods traffic total about 258,000,000 tons.

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Most of the miscellaneous freight is conveyed in covered wagons, while open trucks mainly are given over to traffics such as building materials, coal, and manure.

For the Tourist and Excursionist.

Even at this season, marked attention is given by the Home railways to the improvement of their passenger trains. Many new types of passenger carriage have been introduced recently, but probably the most interesting of these are the five new trains of novel type put into traffic on the London and North Eastern Railway for tourist and excursion use.

Interior of one of the new L. and N.E.R. Tourist Carriages.

Interior of one of the new L. and N.E.R. Tourist Carriages.

These trains have exteriors brightly painted in green and cream, while four different colour schemes have been applied to the interiors. Each train consists of twelve coaches, including two buffet cars. Semi-bucket type seats, with chromium plated tubular steel moveable chairs in the buffet cars, are fitted in the passenger saloons. Each train seats 552 passengers, every vehicle being lettered and all seats numbered, with 48 additional seats in the two buffet cars.

By no other-railway has such unique excursion stock ever been introduced. Coaches such as these should go far to retain business to rails in the present days of keen road competition. They should prove immensely popular with party organisers and all planning group travel on a big scale.

Rail-Road Co-ordination in Britain.

Rail-road co-ordination continues a feature in Britain. The action of the railways in acquiring financial interests in the leading omnibus concerns has proved most successful, and it is enabling many valuable economies to be effected, especially through the closing of branch lines and intermediate stations. To realise the situation in this respect, it may be stated that in the north of England, one railway alone—the L.M. and S.—has closed nearly twenty branch lines with more than fifty stations, railway-operated road transport taking the place of the rail services formerly provided.

Most of the Home railway time-table books now include as a special feature maps showing rail and road interchange stations. These are points where the road services have been extended from the centre of the town to the railway station, the running of the buses being page 43 timed so as to fall in with train arrivals and departures. Much new business has been drawn to rail by sane co-ordination with the road carriers. By linking up outlying centres with the railway, many country-folk are now led to patronise long-distance rail excursions which at one time were utilised almost exclusively by the city dweller. In this, and other ways, road transport is acting as a feeder to the “Iron Way,” instead of a competitor.

Traffic Pooling Arrangements.

The grouping of the individual railways of Britain into four big systems has enabled valuable economies to be effected, and has also resulted in an all-round improvement in the services offered the public. The Grouping Bill was, of course, a compulsory Government measure, but it is interesting to find that the Home railways are themselves supplementing compulsory grouping by a voluntary arrangement of traffic pooling which promises to prove far-reaching.

All the four group lines are concerned in these voluntary pooling schemes. Under the new plans, receipts from passenger business between points served by two or more lines are placed in a common fund and divided equally between the systems concerned. Passengers enjoy the privilege of being able to make the outward journey by one route, and return by the route of the second railway. Appreciable savings are being effected by the combination of office staffs at many points. Frequently it is being found possible to appoint a single station or yardmaster to supervise operations at stations or two or more railways in one city, where separate supervision was the rule formerly. Other economies are being secured by relegating to one railway the shunting, warehousing and delivery of traffic, formerly performed by two or more companies in a particular area. Whether all these working arrangements will ultimately end in the fusion of the four British group lines to form one compact system, remains to be seen.

Central Goods Station, L.M. and Railway, Leeds.

Central Goods Station, L.M. and Railway, Leeds.

Across the Channel, the railways of France are experiencing much the same difficulties as those of Britain in respect of road competition, unduly high taxation, and general trade depression. Many French branch-lines have been closed, staff reductions have been common, and everywhere the most rigid economies are being enforced.

The latest move takes the form of the amalgamation of the Paris-Orleans and Midi Railways, under which there are being pooled the financial, technical and commercial interests of the twin undertakings.

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An artist's impression of the Hutt Road near Pito-one (Petone) in the ‘forties.

An artist's impression of the Hutt Road near Pito-one (Petone) in the ‘forties.