Friday, January 30, 2009

Overland & Overlander

Here I am wearing my railway geek hat I got at the Railway Museum, Port Adelaide. That's where they let you operate the steam whistle. Sigh. Heaven for train nuts. That's Australia in the background, and I was on the Overland train heading to Melbourne, a city I am in love with. I want to live there. But I haven't yet learned the trick of how to make that happen.

I wouldn't want to choose between the Oz Overland journey between Melbourne and Adelaide - which I've only done twice - and the NZ Overlander between Auckland and Wellington, a journey I've made more times than I can count, most recently four days ago.

What a journey, down the main trunk line, past the Waikato River, through the central volcanic plateau, around the Raurimu spiral, past snowy mountains, over the Rangitikei viaducts, along the Kapiti Coast. It takes about 12 hours. Once upon a time, many years ago, I met the future father of my children on that same long journey!

These days there are more tourists than Kiwis on the trains. We should make a big effort to get NZers back on trains, and of course that was happening not so long ago, especially with the formation of Kiwirail. Alas I fear the new Tory government is anti-train (and it's probably fair to say based on their attitudes to things like energy saving light bulbs, anti-planet in general).

Thousands of people signed the petition in 2006 to save the Overlander train service, when it was in danger of being axed. Now all the rail services are under threat again from an unfriendly government looking to sell off the family silver yet again. So I did my bit these holidays to support the Tranzscenic network, by catching a few trains. It was no great sacrifice on my part. Hehe.

There's a spacious viewing lounge in the very last carriage with a view out the back as well as the sides.

The viaducts are awesome. Difficult taking photos from within the observation car because the windows are so reflective and the passengers crowd in when the viewing is good. Makes for interesting photographic effects though - images of all the fellow travellers become embossed on the spectacular landscapes.

Out on the open air viewing platform. A train is still a great place to meet random strangers. These two were having a wonderful time, and it was good to see that the romance of train travel is not dead.

The train stopped at National Park for long enough to have lunch at an excellent cafe (great coffee and food!) The outside windows of the train were even more highly reflective, and picked up a great image of towering Mt Ruapehu.

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