Parade of transport given great treatment

By Graeme Barrow


New Zealand's road and rail networks are rather indifferent by World War I standards. Blame a rugged and very difficult terrain, and a small population that lacks the necessary capital.

Nonetheless, it's not too hard to get where you want to go these days - positive travelling nirvana compared to the early days. Rail's difficulties have always been exacerbated by the narrowness of the gauge. For this, the country has former treasurer Julius Vogel to blame. Before the 1860s, rail was run by private companies or provincial administrations.

Then the government took it in hand. In 1868, a special committee recommended any gauge except the 3ft 6in one, but that was the one Vogel chose - for cost reasons. And rail has had to live with that decision and its consequent difficulties ever since, although some remarkable engineering feats have enabled rail to cope well.

The variety of transport modes which have come and gone is remarkable, and Wright details them all - from the early days of bullock-drawn carts to the planes, automobiles and diesel rail engines of today. After the carts came stagecoaches, and there is a stunning photograph - among many others - of a mail coach leaving Dunstan for Roxburgh in the 1860s. It could so easily be a shot from a Western movie by John Ford.

It's all here: train engines, favourite motor cars such as the Mini, the Hillman Minx, Vauxhall Viva, Cortina, Mitsubishi Galant, and Toyota Corolla; the motorbike equivalents; railcars; passenger planes and transport planes; and the much-loved, locally assembled Trekka.

Those were the days when New Zealand had a motor assembly industry.

This a well-researched, photographed, and laid-out book - and a very interesting one.

New Zealand on The Move

by Matthew Wright

Random House, $50

- THE AUCKLANDER

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