Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great Railway Journeys, an occasional series

Ok, it is not perhaps one of the great railway journeys, but it is one of many I would like to take. The train travels from the main city of Christchurch on New Zealand's south island to the northern town of Picton, where you can then travel by ferry across to Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.

Like most western countries, New Zealand had an extensive network of trains, but many have closed. Sadly you cannot travel by train further south than Christchurch as of 2002 I think. Some might suggest why would you want to travel further south than Christchurch, but Dunedin is a very nice town well south.

The train is called the Tranz Coastal and goes through heaps of tunnels and over bridges, one of which is shared with cars and trucks. I know who would be giving way to whom. But what really appeals to me about the trip is that it travels along the coast with lots of views of the Pacific Ocean.

If you are more an inland person, what about the Tranz Alpine from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass. The train travels through an eight kilometre tunnel up a very steep gradient. Maybe I would like that too, although the Eurostar tunnel under the Channel is pretty boring.

Here are a couple of photos found on NZ tourist promoter sites.


  1. I'd like to go to NZ one day. Have you been there? My friend lived there for a year or so. He didn't like it. But I think it's because he's very active, and he was in a small quiet town.

  2. Time flies by when you're the driver of a train,
    And you ride on the footplate, there and back again.
    Under bridges, over bridges,
    In and out of stations.
    Hear the wheels go clicketty clack,
    As they roll along the track.
    Time goes by when you're...ahem, sorry about that. Just a childhood song from Chigley (which you almost certainly won't have heard of) that was going through my head. I'll get my coat...

  3. Was drawn straight to your post when I saw the title on someone else's blog, being a bit of train fanatic! Can't believe I've been in Oz all these years and still not done the Gahn or Indian Pacific yet! There's something extraordinary about rail travel (I know some people don't get it) - the stations, the people, the journey, the smell of diesel not to mention some seriously sexy trains.

    And 'Chigley' - what an absolute blast from the past and something I grew up with. Made me grin from ear to ear when I saw the name!


  4. If you mosey on over to The New Zealand Journal you'll find plenty of fab old photos of the old train lines, one of which has reinstated a previously deleted station stop.

  5. Both of those train trips are quite spectacular ones. I love the way the coastal train follows the sea for quite a way. And the scenery through the Alps is very dramatic, even though you do miss some of it through the tunnel. When it descends out onto the West Coast, you are near Scettrini country ;-)

  6. Well I was thinking of the Indian Pacific but this looks great and the flying time to NZ isn't too long.

  7. I reckon the TranzAlpine looks like a great trip - would have liked to have spent another couple of days in NZ when I went there, to fit it in.

    Speaking of train journeys, I went on a very short, fast one the other day - the Shanghai Maglev. Quite cool I thought!

  8. I have Dina. It is the next best thing to England in the green stakes. It was in the early eighties when you were 'jus a pretty young girl child'

    Delightful Brian. I can get the basic rhythm, but like to hear it verbally. Send me a Youtube link please.

    Hi Time Boy and welcome. So this ditty is a UK thing. I just adore trains. So when last year we travelled up the the east coast of England, would we have been on a train as you mention in your blog? While it was nothing compared to Eurostar, it was fast compared to Aussie trains.

    Looks good Jayne.

    Kiwi Nomad, those west coast Scetrines. Not sure about them. I guess you have done the Tranz Alpine trip?

    Jahteh, when your boat comes in. Try a Metcard trip to Hurstbridge for coffee and cake. Some very nice trips in Melbourne. It is a long time since I have been in NZ, but it was very nice.

  9. New York Ian in Shanghai? What is that about. Top US chef shanghied to Shanghai? I always like to leave places with a bit of missing something and so wanting to go back.

  10. I have done the TranzAlpine trip a few times. Did it as a child even. Had an aunty and uncle with a farm in the middle of nowhere somewhere on the West Coast. The train used to stop at Rotomanu, and my aunty and uncle used to appear and take us via these remote roads to their farm. Loved it there. Bush with bellbirds singing. A creek with shingle that I built roads on with my cousin who had lots of wee vehicles.
    500+ descendants began on the West Coast with my Giuseppe Scettrini!!!

  11. Hmmm KN. 500+ seems a lot but there are a few generations I suppose.

  12. He had about 12 children some of whom had about 12 children..... it doesn't take long if you do that ;-)

  13. eg when his daughter Johanna, my grt-grandmother, died in November 1957, she was aged 93, and had 42 grandchildren and 73 great grandchildren according to the obituary. As I was a baby, three months old, at the time, I figure I was somewhere near being #73!

  14. Cheers Andrew, thanks for the welcome. Yep Chigley was a classic children's 'stop motion animation' program when I was growing up. Now has serious cult standing and is related to the very similar 'Camberwick Green' and 'Trumpton' - any Brit my age will know them very well indeed!

    Am train mad too (ever play MSTS or Railworks on your computer?). The East Coast Mainline is probably what you're referring too and yep Intercity 125's (class 43) have been thundering up an down between Edinburgh and London for 30 years now. They are outnumbered on that route by the more common Intercity 225 (class 91) electric version, also a very cool train. Both are limited to around 200kph so slower than Eurostar but still very fast! If you were on a longish journey on that line, it would have been one of those two high speed trains, glad you liked.

  15. Great Time Boy. I had the impression we were on a diesel electric but it may not have been. Yes, it was the East Coast Mainland. Very comfortable except for the old dear who talked non stop about family to her friend for almost the whole trip.

  16. KN, exponential growth by the sound of it.

  17. I am very pleased The Coastal Pacific train route is up and running again, post-earthquake. From Picton, people can hop and off in Blenheim, Kaikoura, Waipara, Rangiora and then into Christchurch. Gorgeous!

    thanks for the link
    Art and Architecture, mainly

  18. Hels, on my list of train trips to take too.


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