Enjoying the Scenic Railways of New Zealand

Trans Alpine Railway, New Zealand.
Tranz-Alpine Railway between Christchurch and Greymouth on an excursion.

Enjoying the Scenic Railways of New Zealand

By Norman A Rubin
New Zealand is a country of scenic and diverse natural beauty. The country is divided into two main islands, North and South.

North Island has unique scenery ranging from fine sandy beaches, through productive farmland and verdant forest to quite active volcanic mountains with bubbling mud pools.

The South Island has spectacular scenery ranging from inviting sandy beaches, tall mountains, fiords, and large glaciers. There are other, rather more wild, islands of New Zealand, ranging from the nearby and accessible Stewart Island to the remote windswept Sub-Antarctic Islands and the distant uninhabited Kermadec Islands.

The islands are inhabited by many species of unique fauna and flora, including the elusive kiwi, which has become the national symbol.

New Zealand has a wealth of national parks, rural areas and other out-of-the-way places that are worth a visit and what better to enjoy the land than through a tour on a scenic railway.

Ferrymead Railway

The Ferrymead Railway is a living museum based at Ferrymead Heritage Park; the Canterbury Railway Society restores and operates New Zealand’s finest collection of steam, diesel and electric locomotives.

Ferrymead Heritage Park features a Heritage Township complete with a Picture Theatre, School House, Church, Tearooms, Jail and Railway Station as well as a fascinating array of museum and heritage collections. The Ferrymead Railway currently operates the first Sunday of the month and on special events and holidays.

Driving Creek Railway and Potteries

Map of New Zealand's scenic railways.

Driving Creek Railway and Potteries‘ – This is a narrow gauge mountain railway with a working pottery shop and a wildlife sanctuary’ in Coromandel, New Zealand.

The one-hour return trip on their innovatively designed trains takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes two spirals, three short tunnels, five reversing points and several large viaducts as it climbs up to the mountain-top terminus that offers great panoramic views out over the island-studded Hauraki Gulf with the forested valley and mountains behind.

You can visit the pottery complex which blends in the natural surrounding, and afterwards you can visit the ‘Craft Shop’ and view the finished works.

Goldfields Railway

In 1980 the Goldfields Steam Train Society, as it was originally named, was formed by a group of enthusiasts, to acquire the Waihi Station complex and the section of track between Waihi & Waikino.

The society runs railway trips using heritage railways from Waihi and Waikino that passes by impressive vistas, busy farmland, and through cuttings hewn from solid rock, and crosses two flowing rivers to the former Waihi Gold mining Company’s goldfields.

Cabbridge - Bay of Islands, Kakawa
Cabbridge – Bay of Islands, Kakawa

Tairei Gorge Railway

Tairei Gorge Railway’ a tourist oriented railway based in Dunedin, New Zealand. It runs diesel powered train excursions through the rugged and spectacular Taieri River Gorge to Pukerangi or Middlemarch; Dunedin, New Zealand through tunnels and across iron viaducts carved by hand more than 100 years ago.

You can take a trip to the Otago Peninsula are colonies of the world’s shyest penguin, the Yellow-eyed Penguin, sharing secluded beaches with New Zealand Fur Seals. You are welcome aboard the ‘Seasider, run by the Taieri Gorge Railway, which is the city of Dunedin’s scenic coastal tourist train.

And, off course a visit to the city of Dunedin, a city rich in cultural heritage in a region full of natural splendor and adventure, fine shops and cafes.

Wobadge - Rain Forest Express
Wobadge – Rain Forest Express

Tranz Scenic

The Tranz Scenic is a New Zealand passenger rail company providing numerous train journeys including the Overlander, Northerner, TranzCoastal, TranzAlpine, and others.

‘Tranz Alpine’ that climbs into the heights of the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth.

The Overlander

The Overlander is a journey through the heart of the North Island, traveling between Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and home of the Sky Tower, to Wellington – New Zealand’s arts and culture capital.

You will see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges – all from panoramic windows or open-air viewing decks allowing you the best possible views.’

Excursion train climbing Oppapa incline
Excursion train climbing Oppapa incline. Photo Christianson.

The Tranz Coastal Service from the Picton to the city of Christchurch traveling through some of New Zealand’s finest horticultural and farmland areas, and where through an open carriage see amazing wildlife such as dolphins, seals and penguins from the comfort of the train carriage. Or you can break your journey to take in whale watching or dare to get closer and swim with the dolphins.

There is more. You can contact the Federation of Rail Organization New Zealand which represents the Heritage & Tourist Rail Industry in New Zealand. The heritage and tourist rail industry in New Zealand comprises over 70 organizations covering a diverse range of activities from museum type organizations, collecting and conserving historic rail equipment, artifacts and archives, to rail operations primarily targeted at the tourist or leisure market.
For further information see the New Zealand Rolling Stock Register.

Norman Rubin.

Norman A. Rubin is a former correspondent for the Continental News Service (USA), now retired. He keeps busy writing short stories and articles for Net sites and magazines around the world.He lives in Afula, Israel.

Read Norman A. Rubin’s story: Alderley Edge, England: Witches and Wizards and Mystical Goings-On

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