KiwiRail says the 150th anniversary of rail in New Zealand is a chance to honour those who helped build the country's rail network.
The first passenger train journey, between central Christchurch and Ferrymead, took place on 1 December 1863.
A memorial sculpture commissioned by KiwiRail was being unveiled at midday on Sunday at Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch.
The 5.5 tonne concrete gateway adorned with ceramic figurines of early railway workers celebrates the contribution made by workers in creating the rail network.
It was designed and built by Christchurch sculptor Chris Reddington who says when visitors walk through the gateway a sensor triggers a sound composition featuring voices of railway workers telling their stories.
Mr Reddington says the sculpture will eventually become the entrance to the National Railway Museum when that attraction is built.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said constructing the railways was a vital part of building New Zealand economically and culturally.
Working in the railways has been passed down from one generation to the next, he said, and villages of railway homes were created as part of that culture.