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Editorial to Part 8

MY New Zealand friend whose ambition was to “tell the world” something about the miracles performed by railway engineers in his native country should this week enjoy the pleasure of seeing his suggestion come to fruition, for in the present number I begin the extraordinarily fascinating chapter on pioneer work in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The Auckland-Wellington line, with its twenty-two viaducts varying in length from 200 ft to 1,185 ft, and its thirty tunnels of from 250 ft to 3,515 ft, provides a striking testimony to the work and vision of man. The story of the railways is, after all, the story of great difficulties overcome by engineering skill backed by faith, and New Zealand is another example that illustrates the basic soundness of human ingenuity and courage.

In that country the lines of the pioneers were frequently menaced by the then war-like Maoris, who quite naturally resented the intrusion of the steel highway. It must never be forgotten that a new idea is generally an offensive idea to the majority of people, primitive or otherwise, and progress has invariably been made in the teeth of almost fanatical opposition. Human nature - black, white, or red - seems to be built that way. Suggest something novel and you are simply inviting cries of horror and protestation - and, if you are not convinced of a great faith and have not sufficient strength of purpose, you will surrender to the pressure of a prejudiced majority. It was ever so; but the men who planned the railways of the world. were made of strong stuff and, as it has since transpired, builded better than they knew.

The New Zealand chapter (which, by the way, is contributed by my colleague, Mr. Cecil J. Allen) continues into Part 9, about which issue I should like to make a few observations. My correspondence, which is still great and of infinite variety, continues to reveal the readers’ astonishing appetite for more and more varied and widespread information. It reveals, too, a diversity of character that is a little short of astonishing. To give but one example, one mail included a most interesting communication from “Mrs. E.” (London, N.16), who is 83 years of age, and another from “V.R.S.” (Bristol), who, at 11½ years, is also an enthusiast. “Mrs. E.” states that her mother and aunt were among the first passengers to travel in Stephenson’s “Rocket”, but claims that the “Rocket” was built at Manchester. In this, of course, my correspondent is wrong if we are to judge from all the evidence to the contrary. The “Rocket” was built at Stephenson’s own works at Newcastle. Another reader, “S. M. A.” (Sunderland), has been patiently waiting for a chapter telling the complete story of the Great Western Railway, on which service he himself worked for many years. His patience is now to be rewarded, for Part 9 will incorporate this story - which must again bring to our minds the name of the famous engineer, Brunel, who fought so valiantly for the broad gauge. The Great Western is most appropriately called great, and this year is celebrating its centenary.

ALL those readers who have expressed a desire to see chapters on subjects of more than special interest to them, will find in time that their eagerness will be satisfied; and to those who have made practical suggestions I offer my warmest thanks. Extensive plans were, of course, made long before this publication was first issued a few weeks ago, but I have received a great deal of help from many readers who can rightly claim a share in increasing the already wide scope of this production. Railway Wonders of the World, it would appear, has developed rapidly into a kind of correspondence club. A most agreeable development.

ANOTHER feature of Part 9 will be the fifth chapter on famous trains. This time we shall deal with a train that has more than a special interest for me - the Santa Fe “Chief”, for I went to the United States to travel the 2,228 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles in California on this particular “hotel on wheels”. And you can’t spend days and nights on one train without becoming thrilled by it, especially over so varied a route as that on which the “Chief” runs. The journey is full of fascinating contrasts, as state after state is passed through. There is a vast difference between Illinois and Arizona, and between Kansas and California, and the traveller is therefore afforded a constantly changing spectacle as he speeds along in the redoubtable “Chief”. At one stage of the journey in the Raton Tunnel (New Mexico) the train climbs to 7,622 ft.

I am finding that the art plates which I am publishing in this work from time to time are exceedingly popular, as is their diversity. A number of these has been planned, and next week I propose to include a three-colour reproduction of the “King George V”, the Great Western’s most powerful express passenger locomotive, designed by the Company’s Chief Mechanical Engineer.