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K class locomotives & the railways

Model (1:24 scale) New Zealand Railways steam locomotive K900
Model (1:24 scale) New Zealand Railways steam locomotive K900 1936-1937, Roberts, Frank (1882–1963), New Zealand. New Zealand Rail Railway Model Collection. Gift of New Zealand Rail, 1993. Te Papa

New Zealand's first Labour Government (1935–49) used mighty K class steam locomotives to promote the railways as a driver of economic development. Its slogan was: 'The people's railways for the people's profits.'

New Zealanders took great pride in these machines, which were locally designed and built. The locomotives first traversed the countryside in 1932, hauling express passenger and freight trains up and down the main trunk line.

Almost all long-distance journeys were made by train at this time. The state owned railways, which had a monopoly on long-distance freight, employed around 20,000 people (compared to around 4,000 in the year 2000).

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.