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.
A few months after the last steam locomotives had been withdrawn from this country's scheduled rail operations, New Zealand Railways launched a new tourist-oriented steam passenger venture in the South Island.
The Christchurch-Dunedin overnight express, headed by a JA-class locomotive, ran the last scheduled steam-hauled service on New Zealand Railways, bringing to an end 108 years of regular steam rail operations in this country.
Premier Julius Vogel's great plan was to borrow heavily to build infrastructure and to lure migrants. It was controversial, but the money and migrants stimulated the economy and created a viable consumer market for producers.