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Wellington to Auckland by train

Wellington to Auckland by train

Old Jul 15, 08, 2:08 am
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Wellington to Auckland by train

Index to my trip reports

If you like this report, you may be interested in some of my other trip reports.
  1. AKL-YYZ with NZ/AC in F & C - my first trip report
  2. Europe to Iceland & return on Icelandair (FI) - somewhere different
  3. Some FTers DO the Inaugural Worlds Longest Flight SIN-EWR vv 28 June 2004 - 2 long flights back to back
  4. 7 Crazy Days - includes an almost inaugural flight
  5. Champagne and figure eights on ice - Antarctica flightseeing
  6. a Lit.tle sPRinG.Ly JoUrney (BUDding KiwiS Can zig-ZAG around Europe) - mostly central and eastern Europe
  7. Big DO DOs - or a Kiwi Flyer's Month of Madness - lots of flights
  8. Another Manic Month for Kiwi - again lots of flights
  9. Mini Tour of NZ - over 100 domestic flights in New Zealand covering all domestic routes (ongoing)
  10. Across the Globe in 5 Continents - criss-crossing the globe
  11. Auckland to National Park by Train - train in New Zealand's North Island
  12. Across the Globe in 5 Continents Again - criss-crossing the globe, but this time mainly on One World
  13. A Warm Embrace of the Tropics - short trips to the tropical South Pacific
  14. Singapore (SQ) new first and business class, plus a medley of 12 F & C SQ flights - name says it all really
  15. Across the Globe in 4 Continents - around the world on star alliance, including some unusual flights
  16. Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Sampler - a sampling of Qantas flights, domestic and international, in economy and business (ongoing)
  17. Around the World in Under 60 Hours - around the world in a weekend
  18. The Heat is On - another longhaul economy trip in under 60 hours - what a contrast, Asia and Qantas' new first class lounges
  19. Fast on the ground and in the air - it must be Shanghai – a flying visit to Shanghai + Maglev
  20. It's a Fine Line Between Pleasure & Pain: 4 wacky weeks 2 RTW C, inaugural longhaul Y – mostly One World
  21. Back and forth across the Pacific on a variety of airlines in a selection of classes - 16 crossings of the Pacific plus some other related flights
  22. It isn't every day that you witness a hijacking attempt + NZ's forgotten 4th island - a visit to Chatham Islands coincides with New Zealand's first hijacking attempt
  23. There and back - first day Air NZ flies to Coolangatta (Gold Coast)
  24. A Run Around (part of) The Axis of Evil: A Perfect *A RTW in C? - Axis of Evil 0 US Immigration 1
  25. Wellington to Auckland by train - self-explanatory title
  26. A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights - a double longhaul inaugural, domestic international shuttle and domestic leg of an international flight
  27. Regional C *A RTW & (hopefully) finishing flying every route (100+) for an airline - featuring new QF First on A380 special flight, "you have to get off now", and 105th different current route with NZ
  28. One World Revolutions - Around Mostly the Southern Hemisphere - mostly Southern Hemisphere and mostly on One World on a mix of products
  29. Cris-cros the Med & the Globe on Emirates, Qantas & Star Alliance in mix of F/C/Y+/Y – starting with EK First on A380 and ending with Qantas economy, with a lot of travel mostly on *A in between
  30. An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?) - combining an FT Do with an aerial tour of northern Queensland
  31. The Ultimate Qantas Flight - short report on the ultimate flight
  32. Premium Flying Across the Ditch (Between New Zealand and Australia) - experiencing the forward cabins on Trans-Tasman flights (ongoing)
  33. 5 Boeings Straight to the Airbus Do - FTer feasts in first, business & economy - my journey to & from the *A / Airbus Mega Do
  34. NZ route oddities & One World turns by night (redeye special) - an odd collection of flight routes & schedules around the world
  35. From my first low cost redeye to a first class trifecta - an insane fortnight - some firsts of all types
  36. G'day, kia orana - it's another inaugural flight in Air New Zealand business class - a day & night tripping around the South Pacific on Air NZ
  37. A Feast of First Class Flying on British Airways, Qantas and Emirates - long distance in style
  38. A Weekend of Old and New - Lufthansa first & business, Air New Zealand business - a quick longhaul trip featuring some old and new products
  39. Star Alliance tres primo, and tres biz - a trio of first and business on Star Alliance
  40. A few flights to end 2011 - a quick trip around the world + more
  41. Five Continents in 3 Days and Some Other Mad Trips in 2012 - a selection of my 2012 travels
  42. Sky Team madness - 14 weeks, 200k miles, 5 continents, CI brand new business – mostly Sky Team
  43. Off to Star megado on Oneworld - mostly business incl brand new AA 787
  44. A Glutton for Punishment: red eye, new world's longest flight & more, in comfort?

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 1, 16 at 3:53 pm Reason: Updated index of my TRs
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Old Jul 15, 08, 2:26 am
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As I reported on previously, there are parts of the North Island main trunk line that I had not ridden in daylight and wanted to see. I was also interested in whether the experience has changed much since the threat of imminent shut-down had been removed from the passenger train service.

Since the last time, almost 2 years ago, there has been a number of changes. First the outcry over the threatened closure ensured that the service was retained. Then more recently the Government announced it had purchased back the trains (passenger and freight) thus completing the full circle since privatisation a couple of decades ago that began with the buy-back of the tracks a few years ago.

I had a short period where I had to remain in NZ while some visas where added to my passport. Restless as ever, I decided to ride the rails once more.

I assumed the on-time performance was still poor and thus I knew I could not take the train and fly to complete the full round trip in a day. I saw that I could fly to Palmerston North and take the train back to Auckland in a day - but that relies on no fog or significant delay to the first flight down, and in any case airfares on the flight are not that cheap as it is popular due to connecting well with several longhaul flights. Alternatively, I could take the train to Palmerston North and then fly back to Auckland in a day. However, that was even riskier as it relied on the train not being too late into Palmerston North.

So, I opted to have an overnight in Wellington and train the full way. I noticed a sale on for the train, which coincided with a sale airfare and cheap off-peak accommodation (another sale) - the total cost was only a little more than a round trip airfare ^ The fare availability and schedules worked best for me to take the train northbound - Wellington to Auckland it is. This is my fifth transport provider on the route this year, for I have flown Air New Zealand, Qantas and Pacific Blue between Auckland and Wellington as well as been driven.
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Old Jul 16, 08, 1:32 am
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It was early when I walked over to the station. I was too bleary-eyed to appreciate the imposing architecture. At this hour of the day there was a steady flow of people heading into the building for the Overlander train, a bus to Auckland and the first of the commuter train services. However, there was no crush of passengers exitting the building - it being far too early. Inside, there was a modest queue at the closed check in counter. The counter opened at 7am, right about the time we had been advised to be at the station.

We were processed fairly efficiently, although in my case the agent got my surname mixed up and thus had trouble finding it on the sheets of pages with our seat allocations - despite me pointing it out a few times "there it is". There is no pre-selection of seats, you get what you are given. If the load is light enough you can move around. The agent confirmed what I had looked up the day before by trying a dummy booking - the train was full today.

As I only had a small bag I could carry this onboard. Others placed their bags on the luggage cart. I had been assigned a seat in the rear carriage. This has pluses and minuses. The pluses are the "lounge" area at the rear with large viewing windows, and that mostly couples and singles were seated in this carriage (a big benefit given it was school holidays!). The minuses were the cramped seating (no large tables for us just a mini one that plugs into the armrest and less legroom as a result), and the steady flow of passengers up and down the aisle to the lounge, plus the noise from there. On balance I think it was okay although I've heard horror stories about the lounge being taken over by boisterous groups.

The onboard storage for carry-ons was very limited - under the seat in front, which fits a small backpack only, and a tiny shelf above your head which fits a scarf or small handbag. My seatmate had a rollaboard which didn't fit underneath but I found a space behind the rear row for it, and a medium-large handbag which did not fit on the shelf but just fitted under the seat in front.
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Old Jul 17, 08, 4:28 am
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Well, that explains the AKL-WLG sector with no return! I flew back to WLG from AKL on that very windy Fri night on QF, delayed by 45 min, so a 2250 arrival.

I had considered flying Sat am, and if I'd noticed yr travel perhaps booked the same flight down - oh well. How was the weather....?

Cheers, TK
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Old Jul 18, 08, 12:34 am
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It was a bit windy but not too bad ... for Wellington.
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Old Jul 18, 08, 12:49 am
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We left on time and just a few minutes before a bus that was also heading to Auckland from the other side of the platform. I bet the bus arrives in Auckland first.

It was a grey day but the storm of the previous few days appeared to have finished. It only took a few moments for the first long PA announcement of many was made.

The first bit is uninteresting. A couple of tunnels and then through the outer reaches of the city. The terrain forces the track to twist and writhe over small saddles and views of the sea come and go. Several more short tunnels and we then leave the sea, not to return seaside until near the very end of the trip.

We passed the first commuter train of the day heading in the opposite direction. Then there was a stop outside Paraparaumu as our driver swapped with the driver of a freight train bound for Wellington. This was to be the first of many stops in the middle of nowhere.

The weather deteriorated as we headed north over the Manawatu plains. The misty drizzle obscuring the ranges we knew to be close by and giving an ethereal feel to the landscape - not the dense white-gray of a fog but nonetheless difficult to see much.

When we crossed the Manawatu River on the outskirts of Palmerston North I noticed it was swollen and even browner than normal, if that is possible. The paddocks on either side for miles were at least partially underwater, not from a break in the riverbank but rather the heavy downpours of the previous couple of days were simply unable to run-off anywhere on the flat and waterlogged terrain. The cows and sheep looked miserable, and clustered in the grassy islands surrounded by water as if allergic to the wet.

We had a few minutes stopped at Palmerston North. This is one of a few breaks where smokers can indulge so of course there was a stampede. My seatmate was looking for a newspaper - the onboard cafe did not sell any and there was nowhere at/near the station to get one. A couple of newspapers that passengers had brought on from Wellington ended up being shared around the whole train.

Unlike a longhaul flight there is no IFE so everyone either settled down to a book, slept off excesses from the previous night or, mostly, wandered around the train and chatted. This, I don't think you'd get on the bus.

The PA commentary got a bit tired - pointing out things we'd normally be able to see if only it weren't for the drizzle. However, as we traversed the lower hill country past Marton (our 6th stop) the weather slowly improved. By now the open expanses were gone and we had tunnel vision - hills rising steeply on either side as we ascended the valleys.

Over a low saddle and we were starting the fun bit of the trip. The Rangitikei valley is broad but also gorge-like with terraces high above the cliffs the river had cut into the land. We passed over several big viaducts both on ravines to the side of the main river as well as twice more across the Rangitikei. At the small town of Mangaweka I made sure not to miss the DC3 made into a cafe. A blink and you'd miss it.

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Jul 18, 08 at 1:03 am
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Old Jul 18, 08, 6:57 am
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Thanks KF. always like a good train ride, too bad the weather wasn't a bit better.
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Old Jul 19, 08, 3:44 pm
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A slow ride on the lower reaches of the volcanic plateau past Waiouru into Ohakune. Not only is the track winding in places but it seemed we were arriving too early and so they eased off the speed on the straights as well. The heavy snow of the previous week had been washed away but still left evidence in the form of flattened tussock. While the weather was better than it had been further south, most of Mount Ruapehu was obscured by broken cloud offering glimpses of the slopes and peak.

At Ohakune we stopped. First we were told we'd push on to National Park for lunch instead of the scheduled lunch break of Ohakune. The southbound train was running late and in this part of the line there are only a couple of places to pass. Then we were told we'd have a short 15 minute lunch stop (instead of the usual 35 minutes). The onboard cafe closed before we arrived at Ohakune and wouldn't reopen until 15 minutes after we complete the descent of the Raurimu Spiral.

So thinking our time here was short most of the passengers raced across a couple of blocks to the nearest cafe, ordered food/drink to go and raced back to the station. We were all asked to board at the designated time (15 minutes stop). We waited as the train remained at the station. After a while an announced was made that the southbound train was getting further behind schedule and that they wanted to cross over at the Makatote siding. Some 90 minutes after we arrived at Ohakune we pulled out - a far cry from the 15 minutes we were originally told. By now some of the passengers who had not had lunch were regretting their decision to not go to the cafe. At Makatote we had a further 30 minute wait for the southbound train to arrive and switch over the crews. A brief stop at National Park shortly afterwards to pick up some daytrippers and the train was again filled to overflowing. There were even some passengers who'd been "assigned" seating in the small lounge seats at the rear.

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Jul 19, 08 at 8:15 pm
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Old Jul 19, 08, 8:33 pm
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After the steep descent of the Raurimu Spiral we steadily dropped through the rugged river valleys of King Country onto the lush plains of Waikato. We had some more stops in the middle of nowhere for "operational reasons". So of course we were not making up any lost time.

The last reasonable length stop was at Hamilton - just enough time to dash for the toilets on the station, go and rush back onto the train in the darkness. For by now the toilets on the last 2 carriages had been out of order for some time

As we stop-started our way through the endless suburbs of Auckland we finally saw another train heading the other direction. So there were only a few today and the 2 freight trains in no way contributed to our slow passage north. This was just a normal day on the North Island main trunk line - the on time performance has not improved since my previous trip, and my decision to travel northward was justified in hindsight.

We pulled into a deserted Britomart station in downtown Auckland a couple of hours late. When I think back to earlier trips in the 1990s, these took 9 or 10 hours and today's trip was 14 hours. What progress?
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Old Jul 20, 08, 5:06 am
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Hmmm... sounds an experience to avoid? Shame, as I always wanted to take the train between Auckland and Wellington.
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Old Jul 20, 08, 7:37 am
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I've done this trip in reverse, and while it was beautiful and grand for the first 2/3ds, it was dark and dank for the last bit.

These trains definitely don't arrive on time, BTW, from what I was told...

Still, I wouldn't discourage anyone from doing it. Train travel is fun and communal, after all, and you get to meet people while enjoying beautiful scenery.

Thanks for the report KW ^ :-:
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Old Jul 20, 08, 1:42 pm
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Originally Posted by Thai-Kiwi View Post
Well, that explains the AKL-WLG sector with no return! I flew back to WLG from AKL on that very windy Fri night on QF, delayed by 45 min, so a 2250 arrival.

I had considered flying Sat am, and if I'd noticed yr travel perhaps booked the same flight down - oh well. How was the weather....?

Cheers, TK
Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
It was a bit windy but not too bad ... for Wellington.
Originally Posted by sobore View Post
Thanks KF. always like a good train ride, too bad the weather wasn't a bit better.
It was very unfortunate with the weather.
As Kiwi Flyer stated the day he flew down the weather in WLG was pretty ordinary but on the day he took the trip it was sunny and wonderful, for a July day, that I thought he would be lucky and have awesome views on his trip.
Sorry to hear that it did not turn out that way.
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Old Jul 20, 08, 11:12 pm
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What was the on board Cafe like ?

Re random stops you get enough of them on local trains in auckland.
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Old Jul 22, 08, 12:39 pm
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Onboard cafe is same as the ferry - limited selection (half the stuff on the menu was not stocked) and overpriced. At least the quality was okay. Wishbone sandwiches and meals. They must have swapped over the food at Makatote because things that were unavailable suddenly became available. From about Te Kuiti onwards some items were half price as they tried to get rid of unsold stock. The cafe closed for the last time before Pukekohe. There is no seats at the cafe, as you eat at your seat.
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