One of New Zealand’s most beloved tourism experiences, the TranzAlpine train journey is celebrating 30 years of operation this month. Lauded as one of the most scenic train rides in the world, the TranzAlpine is one of New Zealand’s three great rail journeys operated by KiwiRail. The route from Christchurch to Greymouth travels east-west across the South Island from coast-to-coast taking in some of the most spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer. “The TranzAlpine had grown from humble beginnings to become one of the country’s most popular attractions with local and overseas tourists. The idea for the TranzAlpine was born more than 30 years ago, after it became clear how much passengers on our Christchurch-to-Greymouth service enjoyed the scenery on their journey,” KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said.
The TranzAlpine Express took its maiden voyage in November 1987 and it wasn’t long before carriages were refurbished, a buffet service and alcove-style seating were introduced, and the viewing experience was enhanced with panoramic windows. Today’s train has evolved to feature an open-air viewing carriage, a self-service buffet car and commentary for those looking for a more educational experience.
Starting in Christchurch, the train travels across the Canterbury Plains alongside braided rivers, and through river valleys and gorges. As the train heads for higher ground, the route passes through high country sheep stations, past beech forests, lakes and the Southern Alps. Covering 223 km one-way, the trip takes just under five hours passing through 16 tunnels (the longest at 8.5 km) and across four viaducts.