Events In History
25 October 1971End of the line for steam railways
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. Read more...
24 December 1953Tangiwai railway disaster
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 at Tangiwai. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed. Read more...
15 December 1951Belmont viaduct blown up
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. Read more...
4 June 1943Rail tragedy at Hyde
The Cromwell-Dunedin express, travelling at speed, derailed at Hyde, killing 21 people and injuring 47. The driver was later found guilty of manslaughter. Read more...
2 July 1938Electric trains come to Wellington
Opened on 2 July 1938, the Johnsonville suburban line was the first in the country to be served by electric multiple units. Read more...
1 May 1926NZ Railways Magazine launched
Originally intended as a journal for the Railways Department’s 18,000 staff and their major customers, NZ Railways Magazine evolved into a hugely popular general-interest periodical. Read more...
4 August 1923Ōtira rail tunnel opened
The 8.5-km Ōtira tunnel, which pierced the Southern Alps and linked Christchurch with Greymouth, was formally opened by Prime Minister William Massey. At the time it was the longest tunnel in the southern hemisphere, the longest in the British Empire, and the sixth-longest in the world. Read more...
24 September 1917Bere Ferrers rail accident
Ten New Zealand soldiers were killed when they were hit by a train at Bere Ferrers in the United Kingdom. The accident occurred as troops from the 28th Reinforcements, NZEF, were being transported from Plymouth to Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain. Read more...
6 November 1908Last spike for North Island main trunk line
The last spike was driven home by Prime Minister Ward at Manganuioteao, between National Park and Ōhakune. A regular express service between Auckland and Wellington began in February 1909. Read more...
20 July 1892Steam locomotive sets world speed record
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. Read more...
3 November 1886Manawatū rail link opened
Built by the privately owned Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company (WMR), the line helped open the Kapiti Coast, Horowhenua and Manawatū to European settlement. Read more...
15 April 1885First sod dug for North Island main trunk
Politicians and Maori leaders ceremonially turned the ‘first sod’ of the central section of the main trunk line – a project that would take 23 years to complete. Read more...
11 September 1880Rail tragedy on the Rimutaka Incline
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 Rimutaka Incline railway. This was the first major loss of life on New Zealand’s railways. Read more...
5 February 1867Opening of railway from Invercargill to Bluff
The 27-km line between Invercargill and Bluff was the third public railway in New Zealand, but Southland's railway ambitions helped drive the province towards bankruptcy. Read more...
Page 1 – The North Island main trunk line
Learn about the rapid rise and slow decline of passenger travel on the iconic main trunk line. Read about life on the rails and the vital role of the railway refreshment room.
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 Awamutu.
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 1908
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 pillow'.
Page 5 – Refreshments
Refreshments are an essential and often talked about part of any train journey.
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
- Page 1 - New Zealand disasters timelineThe 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
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 world.
Page 2 – A community hub
In the heyday of rail travel the station was a vibrant hub of community life.
Page 4 – The dark side
Like other public facilities, railway stations often attracted loafers and drunks, bored teenagers or lonely souls seeking human contact.
Page 5 – The changing rail landscape
Today fewer than 100 railway stations survive, and only about 40 wooden stations remain on their original sites.
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 shows.
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
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 Zealand.
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.
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 disaster
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 in.
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 19th
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 countries.
Page 3 – Vogel's vision
In June 1870, Vogel unveiled the most ambitious public works and assisted-immigration programme in New Zealand’s history.
Page 4 – Building Vogel's railways
Julius Vogel wasn’t the first colonial politician to promise public works and immigration on the back of 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
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
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 upmarket.
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 Forties
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
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 ditch.
Page 6 – Tensions ease
It was clear by the 1870s that the Kīngitanga posed no threat beyond its borders and was in no fit shape to fight a war. Attempts were made to ease relations between the king
- Page 6 - Tensions easeIt was clear by the 1870s that the Kīngitanga posed no threat beyond its borders and was in no fit shape to fight a war. Attempts were made to ease relations between the king and
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
- Page 8 - Outside the mainstreamMany 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
Page 6 – 1923 - key events
A selection of key New Zealand events from 1923
Page 7 – 1924 - key events
A selection of key New Zealand events from 1924
Page 9 – Remembering the dead
Just under 100 war cemeteries in Belgium and around 500 memorials in New Zealand serve as permanent reminders of the terrible toll of 1917.
- Page 9 - Remembering the deadJust under 100 war cemeteries in Belgium and around 500 memorials in New Zealand serve as permanent reminders of the terrible toll of 1917.
Page 6 – New Zealand in 1907
What was New Zealand like at the time of becoming a dominion?
- Page 6 - New Zealand in 1907What was New Zealand like at the time of becoming a dominion?
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
- Page 7 - Seddonville's rail heritageThe 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
- historic places
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- rewi maniapoto
- robert stout
- wahanui huatare
- joseph ward
- julius vogel
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- assisted immigration
- maori land
- land confiscation
- sling camp
- race relations
- passchendaele offensive
- dan sullivan
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- new zealand wars
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