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The Main Trunk Line – 100 years of travel

After two decades of construction, the first train north bound on the 680-kilometre Main Trunk Line left Wellington 100 years ago on 7 August 1908.

NZHistory.net.nz has compiled the history of what was for many years New Zealanders’ most important transport route at: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/2459

The main trunk was a great leap forward for North Island transport. Up until the Second World War at least, almost everyone travelling between New Zealand's capital and its biggest city took the train.

A media gallery at www.nzhistory.net.nz/media_gallery/tid/132 has 20 images, one video clip and four sound clips including an entertaining recount of the ‘Parliament Special’ train journey to greet the American 'Great White Fleet' – a journey that was re-enacted yesterday by MPs and train-lovers.

An interactive feature shows the expansion of the North Island rail network from just 46 miles in 1870 to a fully fledged mainline rail system in 1909. There are also lyrics to the famous 'Taumarunui on the main trunk line' and pictures celebrating the romance of the railways from posters to images of the bounteous railway refreshments which were such an important part of the experience.

The history covers everything from the building of the line and its rise and fall to the travel experience – whether a 'dimly-lit, meat-pie journey' or a voyage on the sleek Silver Star with its bow tie-wearing stewards. There are also links to rail websites, books and historic train events featured elsewhere on NZHistory.net.nz.


Updated on 23rd July 2015