New Zealand’s Trans Alpine Train

What’s in a name? The TranzAlpine Train or Trans Alpine Train?

Established and marketed as a tourist orientated scenic journey since 1987, New Zealand’s premier rail journey crossing the breadth of the New Zealand’s South Island enjoys fame across the world.

Trans Alpine Train

Kiwi’s archetypal adoption of the letter Z into a noun replacing an S, however, often confuses the uninitiated. A review of Google shows that those living beyond New Zealand’s shores and not used to the local vernacular regularly search for ‘Trans Alpine train’ or sometimes ‘TransAlpine train’.

TranzAlpine Train or Trans Alpine Train, what do you prefer? In it’s truest sense, the latter variation is a more accurate description of a trans-Alpine train whether it operates in New Zealand or for example, Switzerland which also features iconic trans Alpine rail journeys. But, does it really matter?

What’s more important is the scenic wonder and sense of adventure that the name conjures up. So let’s move on from the debate and reflect on some of the highlights of New Zealand’s famous trans-alpine train, THE TranzAlpine. Here are some highlights featured in the LOCO Journeys Instagram feed.

Trans Alpine Train Highlights – Arthur’s Pass.

Trans Alpine Train Arthur's Pass National Park

Pause for a moment when you hear the name Arthur’s Pass and your mind may be taken to the legend of King Arthur, the mythological British figure who was the head of the kingdom Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that the English pioneers who established Canterbury in the 1850s brought with them the idea to bequeath significant locations with familiar names relevant to their heritage.

Arthur’s Pass is in fact named after Londoner Arthur Dobson, a surveyor who discovered the mountain pass in 1864. Certainly the village’s original name of Camping Flat or Bealey Flats may never have conjured such a connection to folklore that the natural grandeur of the mountainous setting delivers.

In many respects, a stop here in Arthur’s Pass is the stuff of legends. The grandeur of the beauty of this mountain environment carries a gravitas in the context of New Zealand’s glorious Southern Alps mountain range.

A relatively small parcel of flat land adjacent to the Bealey River, set at over 700 metres above sea level, Arthur’s Pass township offers a staging post for the railway station, tea rooms, general stores and accommodation. Nestled in the heart of Arthur’s Pass National Park, it is primarily used as a starting point for onward adventures into the surrounding mountains.

The photos captured by @my_world_in_hdr illustrate this terrific destination the best.

Trans Alpine Train Highlights – Moana

Trans Alpine Train Moana

As the Tranzalpine arrives following the shores of Lake Brunner, you will see the beauty that the Moana station holds. Enhanced by a fine red goods shed and matching footbridge, you can quickly feel and see the majestic qualities Moana has to offer. As you look across the beautiful black glacier lake you will see three mountains standing strong in the background. Mt Te Kinga, Mt Alexandra and Mt French. Just behind the footbridge you can see where the local boats are moored and kept secure in a little nook and where you can walk onto a beautiful little wharf to take a further glimpse into the glacier fed waters that are tinted brown from the tannins of native West Coast forests.

If you choose to do a day return Tranzalpine rail trip from Christchurch, the train offers a three hour stop here. This gives you enough time to explore what wonders this village has to offer. Walking over the swing bridge and around the Rakaitane loop walk, stopping in at one of the cafes or restaurants, or relaxing on the shores with your fishing rod are all possible. You can smell the fresh, pure air here and hear the birdsong of a place that feels like it has been barely touched. As you go for a walk it is not just one or two fantails that will come and say hello, but more often a group that can be seen dancing through the skies.

If you have time, Lake Brunner is an amazing overnight stop. With a chance of seeing the sunset, exploring the wild for glowworms, seeing the Carew Falls and kayaking along Lake Brunner, you will not be disappointed with what this quaint lakeside village has to offer. When the Stillwater to Otira section of the Midland Railway opened in 1894, Moana quickly became a popular destination for picnic trains and you can clearly see why.

Trans Alpine Train Highlights – The Kea

Trans Alpine Train Kea

This beautiful bird is the world’s only alpine parrot and a native species to New Zealand’s South Island and a journey by TranzAlpine train into New Zealand’s Southern Alps will give you the chance to see this mountain bird up close in its natural environment.

It is mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange under its wings and has a large, narrow, curved, grey-brown upper beak. It’s screeching call is easily recognisable and it has a notorious reputation for enjoying all things rubber, happily stripping cars of anything that can be removed. If you are spending time in Arthur’s Pass, travelling by train easily avoids this particular complication!

For more great TranzAlpine photos, do head to our Instagram page, there’s some amazing and inspirational photos of this beautiful train journey.


Back to: LOCO Journeys Blog Tags: , ,