Joy of School Holidays Tripping by Train (c. 1939 - c. 1942) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, New Zealand. Government PrinterMOTAT
How do you choose where to go on holiday? Stepping onto New Zealand train platforms in the 1920s or 30s passengers were surrounded by colourful modern art complete with inspirational slogans. Bright linocut prints of leaping figures and relaxing getaways pointed a captive audience towards adventure and discovery.
As our national identity developed, New Zealanders were eager to explore the country. In 1920, New Zealand’s Railways Department formed a publicity studio to entice the emerging domestic tourism market. The resulting posters offer us a window into New Zealand's past. They reveal where we went, what we did and how we saw our country.
Taking the train, taking the waters
Winter Sports The Hermitage Mt. Cook (1936/1936) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, New Zealand. Government Printer, George Henry LoneyMOTAT
Travel and tourism have always been important parts of New Zealand culture. From the late 1800s, tourist hotspots like Mt Cook’s Hermitage Hotel, the Milford Track and Rotorua’s hot pools were run by the government.
Rotorua nature's cure: best reached by rail. New Zealand (c. 1932) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity BranchMOTAT
The Department of Tourist and Health Resorts ran hotels across the country and from 1907 to 1922 ran the whole town of Rotorua. The department continued to run the Rotorua Bathhouse, as advertised in this 1932 rail poster.
As well as thermal baths, the resort offered a range of massage treatments and electric shock therapies.
Famous lakes, mountains, fiords, Otago & Southland / South Island New Zealand (c. 1930 - c. 1935) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity BranchMOTAT
The Regionalist art movement developed globally in the wake of World War I. It focused on the comforts of home and celebrated rural life and natural beauty. In New Zealand this saw artists distilling the landscape down to solid blocks of colour and emblematic shapes.
For your Holidays Travel by Train (1948/1948) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity BranchMOTAT
Regionalism lent itself well to the lithographic prints of the Railways Studio, as did the underlying patriotism of the Regionalist movement. Rail posters appealed to this patriotism, encouraging people onto the rails to explore the landscapes at their doorstep.
Xmas & New Year Holidays Cheap Travel by Train (1932/1932) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, New Zealand. Government Printer, Stanley DavisMOTAT
Special Christmas rail fares made it easy to see family over the holidays.
Napier Carnival: very low train fares. (1933/1933) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, Stanley DavisMOTAT
In the summer of 1933, Napier had even more reason to celebrate. Following the deadly 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, the sleepy town of Napier rebuilt and rebranded as ‘the Riviera of the South’. Rubble gave way to a wide Marine Parade and streetscapes in fashionable Art Deco style.
Only two years after the quake the week-long New Napier Carnival marked Napier’s official rebirth. Tourists flocked to the new seaside resort town, some surely enticed by this lively rail poster.
Keeping Kiwis on the rails
New Zealand the playground of the Pacific. Get in the "queue" for Queenstown: Best reached by rail (c. 1930 - c. 1939) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, C. M. Banks LimitedMOTAT
In 1920 the Railways Department opened its publicity branch. Their aim was to coax passengers away from its growing competitor: the automobile. Car ownership grew rapidly over the decade. By 1929 New Zealand had became the world’s most motorised country.
Waitomo Caves New Zealand: best reached by rail (1927/1927) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity BranchMOTAT
Rail travellers were bombarded with posters on train platforms and by billboards as they looked out their carriage windows. The posters promoted special holiday fares and exciting locations using a mix of idyllic scenery, clever wordplay and surreal imagery.
the "Break" at Easter by train "Mends" you for the Winter (1935/1935) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, George Henry LoneyMOTAT
These campaigns were so successful the Methodist Church denounced the Railways Department for making weekend trips look more appealing than Sunday worship.
Old world influence
World-Famed Tasman Glacier. Mt. Cook South Island N.Z. : Take the Train to Timaru (1938/1938) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity BranchMOTAT
In the 1920s the Department of Education began hiring British artists to teach at New Zealand’s technical colleges. Graduates of Europe’s prestigious art schools, these teachers influenced a generation of artists from Colin McCahon and Toss Woollaston to the in-house artists of the nation’s commercial studios.
Easter Better in the "Cosy" Train (1937/1937) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, New Zealand. Government Printer, Stanley DavisMOTAT
Another influential British import was Stanley Davis, Supervising Artist for the Railways Publicity Branch. Trained in London and Paris he worked for the Railways Department from 1922, creating many iconic posters. His wife, Amy Louisa Davis, frequently inspired his works. She appeared as a skier, a leaping swimmer and even knitted an egg cosy for an Easter campaign.
Drive on drive off..... New Zealand Railways Cook Strait Ferries (1966/1966) by New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch, R E OwenMOTAT
Cite this article
Dixon, Todd. Best Reached by Rail. MOTAT Museum of Transport and Technology. First published: 17 March 2022. URL https://artsandculture.google.com/story/XwURbxUl14GeYQ