The Tranz Alpine

Last year we spent a couple of weeks on the South Island of New Zealand.

As a train enthusiast one part of the holiday which was a must was a trip on the Tranz Alpine train.

Kiwi Rail runs a daily return trip across the top of the island from Christchurch on the East Coast, to Greymouth on the West Coast; taking five hours each way.

The train is very comfortable with huge windows, a buffet area, and an open air viewing carriage.

The scenery really lived up to the publicity as one of the worlds great railway journeys; as you can see from the photographs.

Although many people do the return journey in a day we decided to break the trip with an overnight stay in Greymouth as an 11 hour day seemed a bit too long.

Greymouth itself was a little disappointing as it is a port town, well past its heyday.

If you like a beer the Monteith’s Brewhouse in the town is well worth a visit to sample the beers and have a tasty meal.

Travel Hack

My recommendation would be to use the train for one way travel only, and drive back to Christchurch over the mountains, or do some touring on the West Coast.

Nation of Trainspotters

As the son of a railwayman I have always been interested in trains.

In Japan the enthusiasm for trains is at a whole new level.

There are conventional trainspotters taking photographs and recording numbers called Tori-tetsu (tori means to take, and tetsu means train)

Sharyo-tetsu are fans of train design, who love this one of a kind train in the photo above. (It is modified to be a tribute to Neon Genesis Evangelion, an Anime TV series)

Nori-tetsu are people who enjoy travelling on trains. . . . . I’m a supporter of that club!

If you like reading timetables and planning imaginary rail journeys you are a Yomi-tetsu.

Oto-tetsu, are those who record the sound of trains.

People who study aspects of stations are called Eki-tetsu. . . . for instance I have heard of one man who can identify hundreds of stations just by hearing a recording of the announcement chime.

If you like bento boxes you could be a Ekiben-tetsu, who try out the bento lunch boxes of local delicacies sold at stations.

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Japan Rail – More Than The Shinkansen

Like most of the people we have talked to we got a Japan Rail Pass for our first visit to Japan.

Of course we did a lot of our rail travelling on the Shinkansen which is a great service.

I did find that a problem with the bullet trains is a lot of the journey is either in tunnels, or behind noise reduction walls

This means you may not see much of the countryside.

The Alternative

The shinkansens are only a small part of the Japanese overall network.

There are a wide range of other trains from slow country trains to expresses, many with far better views than the Shinkansen.

One of the best train journeys we took was the Shimano Limited Express from Nagano to Nagoya .

This runs through the Hida Mountains (sometimes called the Northern Alps)

Book early and you might find yourself enjoying this kind of view through a full width window behind the driver.

A great trip for me and my daughter, who are both train geeks!

On some of the cross country trains the driver sits above the passengers.

That means you can get an unobstructed view of the scenery.

Have you had any memorable rail trips in Japan?