Journey Insider: Introducing the TranzAlpine Railway

Published 19 December 2016

Round the World Experts blogger Helen Winter

Helen Winter

Ascending over 700 metres, New Zealand’s scenic TranzAlpine Railway is not your usual train ride. Since its inaugural journey in 1914, the Tranzalpine has taken eager locals and visitors through some of New Zealand's most scenic landscapes whilst also getting them from A to B. We didn’t add it to our New Zealand Journeys for nothing!

We spoke to Robin from KiwiRail to find out more about this thrilling train ride.

The TranzAlpine train route…

Winds from coast-to-coast across the centre of New Zealand’s South Island, from Christchurch to Greymouth. Although only 139 miles in length, the journey takes 4 ½ hours, as the railway has to navigate the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps.

The railway itself is a feat of industrial engineering…

It required the building of five mighty viaducts and 19 tunnels in order to breach the mountains that stand in its path. The tallest of these structures is the Staircase Viaduct, which towers at an incredible 73 metres above stream bed below. The longest tunnel is the Otira Tunnel which stretches 8,566 metres and was the longest tunnel in the world when it was completed in 1923.

People love the TranzAlpine because…

The beauty of the winding mountain route makes it truly unforgettable but really the TranzAlpine has been made famous by word of mouth, which is definitely more endearing.  Each year, over 100,000 passengers return home and tell their friends and family that the TranzAlpine is a must-do experience - and I completely agree!

On the route from Greymouth to Christchurch, our Journey’s travellers can expect to see…

So many things! The majestic Waimakariri River that winds alongside the track, vast open plains, cavernous valleys and stunning snow-capped mountains. I get a thrill when the train crosses the Staircase Viaduct, high above a narrow gorge.

Every seat on the train is the best seat…

The windows extend across part of the ceiling, so you can see the mountains above you out of both sides of the carriage. If you really want to get close though, passengers can go to the outdoor viewing carriage; it has no walls and is fantastic for enjoying the great outdoors – it has no seats so can’t be counted!

We all know and love Christchurch but travellers should get excited for Greymouth because…

It’s a great town to wander around. You can explore the beach and the river, but I recommend heading down to the Monteith’s brewery and either enjoy a quick tour or just sample the excellent beers.

My favourite thing about the TranzApline is…

How it’s enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds and nationality – and everyone loves it. It is rare that you find backpackers, tour groups, locals, families, independent travellers and older travellers, all in one place, huddled together and all oohing and aahing in harmony!  

Want to experience the TranzAlpine railway? Check out our Southern Spectacular, Best of Both Islands, New Zealand Splendour, and Landscapes of New Zealand Journeys.

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