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John Marks, an inveterate traveller, spoke to us this morning about his love of train travel. In his youth he often went to Dunedin on a steam train, and through the hill to Lyttelton on an electric train. He’s travelled on many trains, in Aotearoa and overseas, and has enjoyed the steam train at Weka Pass.

Weka Pass steam engine approaching Glenmark Station

John’s favourite steam train trip is the Mainline steam four day expedition from Christchurch to Westport and return.

Today he talked about the trips he’s taken on The Ghan, a trip Stephen and I did in early 2019. This is the longest north to south train journey in the world, and is named for the Afghan cameleers who helped the British access the interior of Australia in the 19th century. It was in 2004 that the train made its first trip from Adelaide to Darwin on a standard gauge line. As John said, it’s like taking a cruise, but on a train. His anecdotes were for me a nostalgic reminder of the luxury of this way of travel. His first trip was in 2015, and he started in Darwin, whereas we had gone the other way from Adelaide. John showed many photos of the Nitmiluk Gorge at Katherine, which was also a highlight of our trip. His second time on the Ghan was early this year, when he stopped at Alice Springs to take a week’s detour to see Uluru. My main memory of Alice Springs is the excitement of a camel ride.

Ruth riding a camel at Alice Springs

John told us he and his wife have booked to take the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney next year. I felt envious! Perhaps we’ll manage to ride the Coastal Pacific before long.

I dearly love to go by train
see local sights in new terrain

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Tuesday was a perfect clear sunny day for travelling on the TranzAlpine.  It was ten years since we’d last been on this scenic train.  While we waited to board I noticed a sign that made me do a double take.

KiwiFail

The mountains looked absolutely beautiful:

Snowy mountain near Craigieburn Station

There was snow beside the track in many places:

Snow beside the railway track

I put on headphones to listen to the commentary, which was clear and slow – a good model for my Avon Loop walk.  Usually I go four to five hours between breakfast and lunch, but travel stimulates the appetite, and I was feeling hungry by 9.30am despite having had porridge at 6am.  The cafe car had reasonably priced food plus I’d taken a flask of tea.  Healthy eating regimes are not easy to keep up on holiday.  The open air viewing carriage was shut for the first while because of black ice, but we were happy to stay in our warm carriage and enjoy the view through the wide windows.  We passed Cass Station, immortalised by Rita Angus, and learned that Cass now has a population of just one.

Bealey Hotel at centre

Arthur’s Pass

After a five minute stop at Arthur’s Pass we went through the Otira Tunnel which is eight and a half kilometres long.  Once we were through the scene was breathtaking, with snow on the trees, and we were soon amongst cloud.  There were pukeko, and some sheep, but they weren’t very woolly.  Perhaps they were the sweeter mountain sheep?  We saw no lambs on the westward journey, but when we returned two days later there were lambs gambolling in the fields, a delight to see.

This trip has a wonderful array of scenery, snowy mountains, rivers, viaducts, tunnels, and clouds.

Ruth & Stephen at Greymouth Railway Station

If you haven’t been on the TranzAlpine recently I would thoroughly recommend it.

This trip is truly stupendous
with scenery that’s tremendous.

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I was kidnapped by Victorian Railways in Australia.  I was visitng my brother in Melbourne and he knew I loved train travel.  We were on an inner city circuit and he asked if I would like to go around again.  “Yes, please!”  Unbeknownst to us this particular train changed routes at 3pm and headed off into the hinterland.  Luckily we were able to get off, cross the tracks, and catch a train back to the city in time to retrieve our car, and get to the airport for my flight home to New Zealand.

“The train ran off a different way.
It’s lucky I got home that day.”

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Fancy Freight

People with spray cans have been decorating the railway’s goods vans.

decorated-train-smallSome look better than others.  I like the silvery one on the left.  What do you think?

“Art or graffiti, who can tell?
Some people draw, and some can spell.”

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Riding on a steam train at the Weka Pass Railway is a real treat.  Yesterday afternoon a group of us took advantage of a clear day to enjoy an excursion across the Canterbury countryside.

Weka Pass Steam Train

Weka Pass Steam Train

The journey from Waipara to Waikari  (11km) takes about half an hour, with a stop part way for a photo opportunity.  The scenery is beautiful and includes spectacular limestone formations.

Canterbury countryside

Canterbury countryside

When you reach Waikari, the engine is manually turned ready for the return journey.

Turning the engine

Turning the engine

This railway is run entirely by volunteers, who are dedicated to preserving New Zealand’s railway heritage.  It’s like a colonial cousin of the Orient Express.

I did the same ride in 2012, and there are more photographs on my blog about this.

“It’s fun to take a ride by train
and I was pleased to go again.”

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