Storytime | Free pass


What you see here is a free railway pass, made of gold. This is how Members of Parliament in New Zealand travelled with the railway from the 1870’s.

The use of gold medallions instead of paper passes was being questioned, as we can read in this article in Tuapeka Times, 13 June 1888 (extracts below):

In 1893, the gold passes were replaced by leather passes. Not a welcome decision, though, as we learn from “Hon. W.M. Bolt’s indignant protest against being asked to put a leather medal in front part of his distinguished anatomy”. The background to this decision is explained in Tuapeka Times, 26 July 1893 (extracts below):

Source: National Library of New Zealand.

You can read more about this medallion on the site of the Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa. Image licence: Creative Commons BY-NC-ND.

A lot has changed since. Today, it’s not an issue to put objects of whatever material “in front part of our distinguished anatomy”, and as for the railway, senior citizens and veterans in New Zealand can use public transport for free (off peak hours), with a SuperGold pass. It’s made of plastic, but it’s the idea that counts, isn’t it?



About Storytime

Inspired by online jewellery collections, I occasionally introduce an image together with a few words. I call it Storytime, because I believe that jewellery carry so many stories. You are more than welcome to add your own poem, words or thoughts in a comment – be my guest!

6 thoughts on “Storytime | Free pass

  1. I love this. First, the pass itself, what an elegant artwork for such a mundane task! But if it were me I’d love to see it every day as I started off on my commute, not question. And I also Iike the newspaper articles from the time – sounds familiar, could be today, couldn’t it – personal prestige vs. social good and so on.

    I do so love learning about details of life like this, small things – reminds me again and again how rich in detail our world is and how many things there are going on of interest, all the time, everywhere, if we just look. A gold pass like this is admittedly not ordinary, but you know what I mean. Thanks for posting this.

    • Me too, Claudia, I wouldn’t mind wearing this piece, it has so much character! I have to admit I was doubting whether this story would be interesting for anyone to read, so I’m really glad to hear that it speaks to you! I have the same fascination for details from other places and other times, and in this case especially as it involves something jewellery-like. Yes, it somehow goes to say that we are in constant change, taking steps both forwards and backwards in our attempts (or failures) to shape the world we live in. It feels like a good thing, though, knowing that we are just that, part of an ongoing change, and that it’s always worthwhile to care and to argue for what we beleive in. Again, I’m glad you liked this post, Claudia!

  2. Interesting — a railway pass made of gold. I suppose credit cards replaced such and other passes over time. This sure shows us the thinking of the past in that part of the world, not only an ornate pass, but also made of gold, perhaps to show something about class. Money. Influence. Thanks for sharing this bit of history.

    • Oh yes, that would be the people of the very highest position in society who would be granted this. I like it that also inside those circles, not everyone appreciated the luxury, but strived for a cheaper option, considering the more urgent needs of other groups. Thanks for taking your time to read and to share your thoughts, Silvia!

    • This was new for me too, I had never heard of this kind of train tickets! And I learned this via a jewellery collection, which I find special too, it just re-confirms (imho) that jewellery is “everywhere”! 😉
      Thanks for your encouraging comment!

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