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Synopsis

New Zealand railway builders surmounted many obstacles: the terrain, a sparse and scattered population, two islands separated by an often stormy stretch of water, demands from every small settlement for their own railway line. But build a railway system — and a comprehensive one at that — New Zealand did. This is the story of that railway, from its heyday to the day of reckoning as losses had to be confronted.

By 1953 the pattern was clear. The era of railways as the mainstay of land transport throughout New Zealand was ending. One by one, most of the rural branches would disappear over the next forty years; passenger train travel — other than commuter services in Auckland and Wellington — would almost disappear to a stage where there are just a handful of tourist services on the most scenic lines; all but the largest towns would lose their railway station.

But, until then, the railways of New Zealand were part of almost everyone’s life: you caught the train to visit friends and relatives in other parts of New Zealand, you depended on the trains to carry the bulk of the freight that moved to and from the ports. This is their story. Profusely illustrated with photographs and maps.

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