50 years on the rails end today

Last updated 08:07 22/01/2013

FINAL DAY: Peter Morton retires today as national manager after 50 years with Kiwirail.

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Steam trains were still a fixture on the nation's tracks when Peter Morton started working for the New Zealand Government Railway in 1963.

Luckily for him, his metalwork skills stood the test of time a bit better than the old engines.

Today, Mr Morton, 66, will call it quits after 50 years with the company now known as KiwiRail.

The native of Springston in Canterbury, who now lives in Waikanae, will retire having risen to the position of national plant and equipment manager, making him responsible for all KiwiRail's maintenance equipment from Kaitaia to Bluff.

He has come a long way since starting as an apprentice fitter and turner in the Whanganui rail yard, manufacturing train parts, at age 16.

Since then, he has seen the industry undergo massive change - one of the more obvious that trains were no longer part of our social fabric, he said.

"Fifty years ago, trains were more of a social thing. The ones going north would drop off the bread and the papers to places along the way, like Taumaranui . . . and you went out to see it. Now they just putter along in the middle of the night and no-one is the wiser."

During his career, Mr Morton has bounced from Palmerston North to Kaikoura and back again, before finally taking up his current position in Wellington about five years ago.

He may have been in the job for half a century, but the Morton name has been synonymous with trains for a lot longer than that, with his father, Jim, and grandfather, Harry, before him also working in rail.

Mr Morton said his father's claim to fame was inventing the "Morton Wheels", which workers load sections of track on to, which allows trains to tow them away.

They have been used since the 1970s and there are still a few sets around today, he said.

Mr Morton said the camaraderie among rail workers had kept him in the job so long.

"You can call up someone at two in the morning, and say there's been a derailment or something, and they'll never say they can't come in and fix it."

Contact Michael Forbes
Transport and metro reporter
Email: michael.forbes@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @michael_forbes

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- The Dominion Post


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