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The first New Zealand railways were created by Provincial Governments in the 1860s. The real development of railways – as both a government department and a means of transport – began in the 1870s as a key element in Julien Vogel’s schemes for progress. Many of those who worked on the railways arrived in the country during the immigration boom of the 1870s.

The 4,496 records in this collection were compiled as a means of reporting employee details, including length of service and pay rates, to the House of Representatives. The records list the details of workers’ employment with the Railway Department, including the department with which they were employed, their length of service, pay rate and any other comments.