Story: Railways

Railway labourers

Railway labourers

Railway labourers, or navvies, excavate a cutting through typical New Zealand hill country, around the start of the 20th century. They did it the hard way – tools and methods had developed little since the first railways were built in New Zealand, some 40 years previously. Workers still used dynamite, pickaxes, wide-mouth shovels, horse-drawn tipcarts, and the gravity-fed timber chute popularly known as a ‘Chinaman’. The surplus earth would probably be tipped into a nearby gully.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: 1/2-051892-F

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Neill Atkinson, 'Railways - Building the rail network', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 April 2024)

Story by Neill Atkinson, published 11 Mar 2010, reviewed & revised 11 Mar 2016