Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand (RHTNZ) Aims to Conserve, Preserve and Maintain New Zealand’s Rail Heritage Property

Euan McQueen QSM 1937-2016

Athol Euan McQueen was a man of many interests and parts nearly all of which coalesced around railways and railway heritage. He was widely known in the heritage movement and will be sorely missed.


His interest in railways stemmed from early childhood on trips from Dunedin - and later Wellington - to the family crib at Karitane north of Dunedin. Even late in life he still vividly remembered these rail journeys and in an article on Oamaru in the October-November 2016 issue of the "NZ Railway Observer", published just after his death, he makes reference to these.


With his brother Ross, Euan was an early member of the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society (NZRLS). Euan was not however among thse whose main interest was in locomotives; his particular interest was in how railways shaped the economy and the landscape, especially at a local level. Thus he had an abiding interest in rural branch lines and wrote his MA thesis on them in 1966. He even spent part of his honeymoon at Otoko on the Moutohora Branch, then still operating from Gisborne. He revisited that interest in his 2005 book "Rails in the Hinterland: New Zealand's Vanishing Railway Landscape". 


Euan's first job was as a high school teacher in Waimate. While there the short Waimate Branch line was threatened with closure, and so Euan fell into the role of protester leading a delegation to the Minister of Railways. He also drove the school bus while there - naturally, an NZR Road Services bus - with Euan becoming a member of the union, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (now the Rail and Maritime Transport Union).


He then moved to Wellington, first working for the Department of Industries and Commerce, and then as a lecturer in Geography at Victoria University. Even there he wrote papers on railway subjects and acquired copious reference material, such as the manifests of every sailing of the Cook Strait ferries to monitor their rail use. He kept in regular touch with what was then the Commercial Branch of NZR, responsible for freight sales and marketing.


Euan was also interested in transport generally. He was President of the Chartered Institute of Transport from 1984 to 1986 and wrote on wider transport issues; his papers on both railways and transport generally are still in the catalogues of a number of libraries.


In 1969 he moved from Victoria University to work for New Zealand Railways, firstly as Deputy Director of the Economic Planning and Research Division, then to the Management Services Division where he rose to become its Director. Following that he became the Chief Administration Officer and eventually Assistant General Manager. The General Manager in those days was the equivalent of CEO, and as one of those reporting to him Euan had a very important part in running the system. To these positions he brought innovation and flair. He re-established the Railway's library (closed since the 1930s) and created a Design Panel to improve and coordinate Railways' image. It was a long way from the cadetship offered when he sought to join NZR fresh out of university when, as he recalled in an interview published in "Rails" in 1988, he was told his qualifications were irrelevant.


One event from that time illustrates the diversity of tasks he was called on to do. A well-known politican alleged that a ferry had touched the bottom in Tory Channel and no mount of denial would shake him. Euan had to spike the story by having the ship lifted out of the water in the then floating dock, and personally inspecting the hull.


Euan left the railways, by then the NZ Railways Corporation, in 1988. He took a job outside rail, but rail was never very far from his thoughts. In 1991 he founded the Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand and chaired it from its official inauguration at the Beehive in 1992. Even after relinguishing the Chair in 2012 he remained as a trustee and still regularly came into the Trust's office to carry out project work, the last of which was the restoration of the Greytown goods shed. He long had an interest in the Greytown Branch having written an article about it for "NZ Railway Observer" while still at school (updated and expanded in "NZ Railfan" in 2009). Euan took to the restoration with alacrity, and almost single-handedly shepherded it from the Council and funding applications right through to supervising the construction and repair work, and the laying of track. Euan achieved results by politeness, charm, and a command of the subject matter. A Council officer has commented that: "he was so good to work with over the Greytown goods shed - he really put his heart and soul into his conservation work".  


At about the same time as restoring the goods shed he developed his own 2-ft gauge "Great Martinborough Firewood Railway", which is to be celebrated in print next year.


But Euan's memorial in rail heritage terms is more than Greytown. The Trust has preserved the Wingatui station and signalbox, and the Moana station and goods shed precinct, largely through his efforts. He was personally involved with the Ormondville restoration group. When the Railway's tablet system was being dismantled he bought the Midhurst tablet machine and recently presented it to the Trust; it is now on display within KiwiRail's National Control Centre as a reminder to to modern controllers of what use to be. He donated a significant part of his personal railway library to NZRLS at Ava. His guidance and mentoring on rail heritage was sought by people throughout the country, and his personal support helped many with funding applications. His shoes in this area will be difficult to fill.


On a personal note, I owe a lot to Euan. His influence basically determined the course and outcome of my education, the choice and path of my career, my role in the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, and my current Chairmanship of the Rail Heritage Trust. I am deeply grateful for his leadership.


I will remember him fondly, and miss him greatly.


Murray King, Chair, Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand


Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand

Aims: to conserve, preserve and maintain New Zealand’s Rail Heritage

The Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand was establshed in 1991. This was in response to concerns that significant New Zealand rail and general heritage buildings, structures and relics could be lost unless those involved appreciated their value and gave consideration to options for their conservation.


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