On the right track

 We boarded the train en famille at Frankton last Saturday morning at the start of our 'winter break', all six of us frantically recording every moment for the family social media groups. It's a commentary on the times when the best view you get of a scene is when you watch it back on video.

The train pulled out of Frankton and the rail yards and suburbs gradually gave way to farmland, which turned slowly from dairy to forestry. For a while I put on the supplied headphones and listened to the commentary which was very interesting. I learned of the rich, albeit short, history of the logging industry in the King Country and Central North Island, of some of the characters and challenges involved in building the railways and transport links with which to remove from the forests the trees, each of which had been growing there for hundreds of years.

It was necessary to cut down the trees so that houses could be built for the people who flocked to the area to cut down the trees. 

Perhaps that was a cheap point - but a point nonethless; it can only be seen as a shame for our culture and our country that the native forests of this land were so brutally and suddenly plundered. Yes, of course I am judging the actions of our forbears in the light of modern values and understanding. And no, of course they could not have been expected to do anything differently - that was what you did; you cleared the forest, built houses with the wood, and farmed the empty land to feed the people living in the houses. And fair enough it was too. It still seems a bit sad to journey through the relatively (in the big picture) recently cleared landscape and through the remaining areas of native forest which are indeed majestic and beautiful.

Shortly before we arrived at our destination of Ohakune, a very cheerful man came through the carriage collecting all our rubbish - and there was a lot of it. The cafe car of the train dispenses a huge amount of single use materials, all of which were now being swept into a black bin liner and whisked out of sight. This has been niggling ever since, especially since the NZ Rail Journeys website talks about sustainability and the benefits to the environment of travelling by train.

So this morning I rang NZ Railways and asked them what becomes of the bin liners full of rubbish at the journey's end.  I was surprised and delighted to hear that I am nowhere near the first person to call with the very same question, and that the rubbish is sorted and recycled at the station. They just don't do it on the train because there isn't enough space - and they are actively working with their suppliers to increase the amount of recycling which can be done and improve the way in which it is done. Full marks to NZ Railways.

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