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Any Experience with New Zealand and KiwiRail?


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#1 jis

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 06:37 PM

Looks like an opportunity will present itself later this year for me to spend 10 days to two weeks in New Zealand. Naturally, I would like to ride every possible train in New Zealand. Anyone with any New Zealand experience here?

 

I understand the Coastal Pacific between Picton and Christchurch is not running and is unlikely to run this year due to earthquake damage. The TranzAlipne is running from Christchurch, and the Northern Explorer is running between Auckland and Wellington. To the extent possible I would like to avoid renting a car, so I will also be looking for various bus routes and tours too, specially out of Auckland and Queenstown.

 

I am kind of jazzed about this one, if it all falls into place.



#2 Maglev

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 09:37 PM

I'm sorry, I can't help you with rail information--I spent three weeks in New Zealand in 1987, but traveled mostly by RV and an airlines pass.  We did take a train from Napier to Wellington, but that line no longer has service.  The coaches on that train were ancient!

 

The people down there are absolutely wonderful, and the scenery of both islands is fantastic.  You will have a wonderful trip! 


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#3 Metra Electric Rider

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 01:19 PM

Never been myself, but the scenery on the Northern Explorer looks very nice. Both Wellington and Auckland have regional rail to ride (apparently Auckland's is improving rapidly). Dress warm though, their heating, at least used to be, rather anemic, if you go during their colder season.

 

I heard that the people are friendly, the food good, but the ferry between islands can be nauseating.


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#4 jis

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 02:08 PM

Never been myself, but the scenery on the Northern Explorer looks very nice. Both Wellington and Auckland have regional rail to ride (apparently Auckland's is improving rapidly). Dress warm though, their heating, at least used to be, rather anemic, if you go during their colder season.

 

I heard that the people are friendly, the food good, but the ferry between islands can be nauseating.

I am going in what is their late fall/early summer. My friend who lives in Wellington, who is my primary reason to travel to NZ says it should be quite pleasant. Something like 63-67F max, 50-55F min in December. He also said that there will be no snow up at Arthur's Pass.

 

His recommendation is to do the TrazAlpine definitely, and the Northern Explorer if I want, but not critical. I will probably spend a lot of time on the Southern Island (Queenstown, Christchurch, and travel around a lot by bus in addition to the TranzAlpine. I will try to avoid renting a car if I can. Spend a weekend in Wellington and then spend several days in Auckland and the North Island before heading home from Auckland. At least that is how things are shaping up now.

 

There is a possibility that I might extend the trip by a week, skip over to Australia and ride the Indian Pacific, but I need to work out the budgetary issues about that.



#5 Bob Dylan

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 03:42 PM

Great trip jis,were envious!😎

And since you're so close to Australia, hope it works out to ride the Indian Pacific, that one is on my Bucket List for sure!
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#6 Gemuser

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 06:48 AM

I have ridden every public train in New Zealand, all three of them!

 

I rode the Northern Explorer south bound in 2009 and north bound in 2015. Be aware it now only runs 3 times a week in each direction. Its a full day and I enjoyed both trips a lot. Unfortunately the 3 a week schedule cuts out the long stop [about 45 mins] at National Park which was a nice break.

 

I have only ridden the Coastal Pacific south bound, that was a great trip for coastal scenery. Combined with the InterIslander from Wellington that was a fabulous trip. The cruise up the Marlborough Sounds is excellent. If the train is not running next spring/summer when you are there I am sure there will be a bus connection from Picton to Christchurch.

 

The Tranzalpine is good but most passengers seemed to take it only one way as it is a long day trip. If I remember correctly you have taken several trains through the Swiss Alps, don't expect too much from the South Island mountain scenery.

 

As you are going to Wellington make sure you take the Wairarapa Line train. You can do it as a full day wine tour if that interests you or just do an out and back as far as Featherston and visit the Fell Locomotive Museum. There were some crazy Englishmen in Victorian times and even crazier Kiwis. The Fells were very unlikely locos.

 

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#7 Long Train Runnin'

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 10:24 AM

Looks like an opportunity will present itself later this year for me to spend 10 days to two weeks in New Zealand. Naturally, I would like to ride every possible train in New Zealand. Anyone with any New Zealand experience here?

 

I understand the Coastal Pacific between Picton and Christchurch is not running and is unlikely to run this year due to earthquake damage. The TranzAlipne is running from Christchurch, and the Northern Explorer is running between Auckland and Wellington. To the extent possible I would like to avoid renting a car, so I will also be looking for various bus routes and tours too, specially out of Auckland and Queenstown.

 

I am kind of jazzed about this one, if it all falls into place.

 

Not yet I will be down there in April. I am working on making sure I can get some rail in down there. Although it will probably be along the lines of a day trip. 


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#8 amyontherails

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 09:15 AM

Sorry I missed this thread earlier. It's been a really tough year for KiwiRail.  I rode the Coastal Pacific last year about a week before the earthquake took out the lines.  See http://badskirt.blog...h-kaikoura.html

This year, the TranzAlpine has been affected by the christchurch area fires.  I hope you got a chance to get on a ride in on your journey.

 

Amy


Edited by amyontherails, 25 February 2017 - 09:17 AM.

---

US: California Zephyr, Capital Limited, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle*, Northeast Regional*

Australia: The Ghan, The Indian Pacific, CountryLink*, XPT*

New Zealand: Coastal Pacific

 

 

 


#9 jis

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 10:14 AM

Thanks for the info Amy. Kiwi Rail tells me that they expect the TranzAlpine to be running in December and are accepting bookings. They do not expect the Coastal Explorer to run this year, unfortunately. The Northern Explorer is of course running too.

At present I am trying to juggle itineraries to accommodate the thrice a week service of the Northern Explorer and the Indian Pacific in Australia to put together one that includes those two, the TranzAlpine and a few bus trips out of Queenstown and a few days with my friend in Wellington. Turns out that flying to Auckland and flying back from Sydney from/to the US is the lesser of my problems. I have to figure out my itinerary in NZ and Australia first.

Of course the Trumpeters may not let me back into the US but we'll deal with that eventuality if it materializes. I have two other international trips before this one to test that out.

#10 Long Train Runnin'

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 07:32 AM

I just booked my ticket on the TranzAlpine for April. I will be sure to add my thoughts to this thread Jis. 


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#11 Long Train Runnin'

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 01:59 AM

Just rode the Transalpine a few days ago. An absolutely unforgettable journey to be sure. You could still see some evidence of the wildfire that closed the line. Trees burnt up across both sides of the tracks. Although it was not as extensive as some wildfire damage I have seen in the US. 

 

Christchurch is still very much in "recovery" mode. I was surprised to see how much damage was still visible. They still haven't finished demolishing all of the buildings that are not going to be repaired. Honestly I would have expected in a place like NZ a large portion of the damage would already been cleaned up. It was very very quiet downtown. I wouldn't recommend spending to much time here. Although the historic tram is back in some limited service and offers guided tours through the city. 

 

The train ride itself was great. The station is tucked away behind a strip mall. It kind of reminded me of the Niagara Falls, NY station. Its a train station no one would just stumble upon by accident, but if you are looking for it you can find it. 

 

The cars themselves were great. They were custom built in NZ by their rail shops. No rebranded Siemens or ABB rolling stock here. Cars are reasonably new and there are two outlets at each seat. Although with a bulkier universal power adapter they might not be very useable since they are low to the ground. The windows are massive they take up almost the entire side of the rail car. There are also Viewliner type upper windows along both sides. Lots of natural light flowing in. There is a cafe car although the food is a collection of pre-made sandwiches there are a few prepared hot foods that they will microwave for you. I have pictures of the menu. I will upload them when I get back to the states.

 

The highlight for me was without question the open air observation car that is available to all passengers. It is quite an experience to pass through a tunnel with a diesel locomotive working hard to get up the grades. Probably not the best for ones carbon monoxide intake. The route the train takes through the mountain seems almost inexplicable tunnels viaducts more tunnels more viaducts. I am not sure who did the surveying, but as you zig and zag and go through yet another tunnel you have to wonder if this was really the only way to get a train through those mountains. Listening to the engine as the engineer moves up a couple notches to keep you steady through the next set of grade is something I think the average lay person would miss, but certainly something you can appreciate if you know what your listening to.

 

The views are truly spectacular at times. I am confident in saying that while shorter in duration what you experience between Christchurch and Greymouth beats the pants off the wonderful hours you can spend in a SSL going between Denver and Grand Junction. All of it is enhanced by being able to stand out in the open observation car and feel the air moving past you. 

 

Greymouth is a VERY small town. I turned right around and headed back to Christchurch, but you can connect onwards with some busses to head down the West Coast there. I was only there for an hour, and was able to talk through all of "downtown" twice. I wouldn't suggest overnighting here and spending 25 hours in the town. 

 

I will probably write up more of a full trip report that also talks about my experience on the train between Sydney and Melbourne. 

 

Feel free to ask me any other questions. I tried to be through as I could be. 


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#12 Gemuser

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 07:01 AM

The views are truly spectacular at times. I am confident in saying that while shorter in duration what you experience between Christchurch and Greymouth beats the pants off the wonderful hours you can spend in a SSL going between Denver and Grand Junction. All of it is enhanced by being able to stand out in the open observation car and feel the air moving past you. 

 

 

Well everybody is entitled to their opinion but IMHO Denver to Grand Junction beat the pants off the Tranzalpine. That is not to knock the Tranzalpine, it is a great ride and well worth doing but the climb out of Denver, around Big 10, through the Tunnel district, through the Moffat Tunnel and down the canyons to Grand Junction is just incomparable compared to Arthur's Pass.



#13 jis

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 08:17 AM

 

The views are truly spectacular at times. I am confident in saying that while shorter in duration what you experience between Christchurch and Greymouth beats the pants off the wonderful hours you can spend in a SSL going between Denver and Grand Junction. All of it is enhanced by being able to stand out in the open observation car and feel the air moving past you.

Well everybody is entitled to their opinion but IMHO Denver to Grand Junction beat the pants off the Tranzalpine. That is not to knock the Tranzalpine, it is a great ride and well worth doing but the climb out of Denver, around Big 10, through the Tunnel district, through the Moffat Tunnel and down the canyons to Grand Junction is just incomparable compared to Arthur's Pass.

 

I guess you did not notice the title of the thread eh?

Actually I had asked for opinions about KiwiRail in this thread. While it is fascinating to hear one more time about Denver to Grand Junction and its glories, it does not have anything to do with KiwiRail, and there are at least a dozen other threads on the ride through the Colorado Rockies to discuss it. So the opinions on Colorado Rockies is a tad misplaced here IMHO.


Edited by jis, 28 April 2017 - 09:05 AM.


#14 Gemuser

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 10:08 PM

JIS

Now go and read my post again! I was NOT discussing DEN-GJT. I was replying to and disagreeing with Long Train Runnin's comment that:"I am confident in saying that while shorter in duration what you experience between Christchurch and Greymouth beats the pants off the wonderful hours you can spend in a SSL going between Denver and Grand Junction."

IMHO his comment is misleading, anybody taking the Tranzalpine and expecting it to top DEN-GCT is, again IMHO, going to be disappointed, I wouldn't like that to happen, as the Tranzalpine is well worth it for its own sake but to compare it to that sector does the Tranzalpine a dis service. Go and ride it, as I understand you plan to do and form your own opinion, which is what I did.



#15 jis

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 10:24 PM

Actually since I think the Moffat line is a bit overrated myself and it is possible that your assessment may not apply to me. But thanks for clarifying. Hey! Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder afterall. :)

#16 Gemuser

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Posted 05 May 2017 - 05:40 AM

Actually since I think the Moffat line is a bit overrated myself and it is possible that your assessment may not apply to me. But thanks for clarifying. Hey! Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder afterall. :)

Ab-a-bloody-lutely!






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