Thursday, March 9, 2023

New Zealand trains offer spectacular scenery, nostalgia, history

All aboard! Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers took a pair of spectacular train trips on
a recent Celebrity cruise around New Zealand. Trains allow prime viewing of the country's spectacular scenery. Cruise tours are the best way to see the most in a short time in port. Celebrity's are tops.



Passengers have time to admire scenery and take photos.

My great-grandfather was a telegrapher on the Northern Pacific Railroad and his daughter, my gran Olive, grew up on trains. She passed that affection down the generations and I felt her presence as we hopped on the Marlborough Flyer for a step back in time to the days of World War I and steam locomotives. It was the first of two memorable train rides.
We were in Picton aboard Celebrity's lovely New Zealand cruise on the line's Eclipse. A fun scenic tour is offered on this lovely heritage steam train from a majestic bygone era.
The Flyer's carriages boast meticulous interiors.
Our journey took us from Picton and Blenheim in Marlborough, New Zealand, to the picturesque village of
Seddon, where we were greeted by a Johnny Cash impersonator, homemade pastries, wine tastings, friendly people and a gaggle of sheep.
AS WE chugged along in the Flyer, we heard fascinating commentary about the historic WWI “Passchendaele.” It is named after a great battle and pays tribute to soldiers who worked for the railway and fell in that "Great War."
Built in 1915 in Christchurch, a major "redo" of the locomotive was engineered by Steam Incorporated in 2014. The locomotive's noble history  complements its reputation as one of the country's most successful of "AB Pacifics." Royals have boarded her and our group spanned the globe.
New Zealand's trains offer close-up views of the track with
  winding curves, tunnels and time to admire the engineering.
My train-loving partner and ever curious photographer, Bruce Keller, loves trains of all kinds and is particularly fond of steam trains. He enjoys "the sound -- the hiss of the steam, the feeling of nostalgia, the fun of being part of something that no longer exists in much of the world."
THEN, IF YOU'RE planning a Dunedin stop, don't miss a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway, one of the world's great train trips and Dunedin's top attraction. It departs  from downtown Dunedin's stately train station, to travel deep into the Taieri Gorge for eye-popping scenery: brilliant golden fields, grand old trees and gorgeous foliage cloaking the mountainsides.
Cookie is front and center on a viewing station between
carriages on a colorful New Zealand train trip.
BOTH JOURNEYS offer stunning
landscape -- gorges, lush vegetation, tunnels, twisting roads, valleys and meadows. The quaint town of Picton is heritage-listed and has a welcoming charm while Dunedin's train station is a dazzling architectural wonder. Built in 1906, a magnificent Flemish Renaissance-style edifice features white Oamaru limestone facings on black basalt. Its dramatic "Gingerbread House" look is worth a visit, even if you're not boarding the train. We've taken the train journey three times and never tire of it.
WHILE THE Marlborough train ride has a leisurely classic look, a ride on the Taieri Gorge train has a sleeker, more contemporary feel. We walked out of the carriage into a small, open-air balcony, to admire passing scenery and take photos -- without the intrusion of windows.
Dunedin's stately train station is an attraction in
itself, but do book a Taieri train trip while there. 
Perfect weather (end of summer now in New Zealand) showcased dramatic scenery: Otago's hills, sweeping viaducts and verdant landscape. We appreciated two distinctive, different trains, each with class and character.
Scenery of New Zealand's South Island is remarkably varied. 
BECAUSE IT is vintage and lovingly restored to its century-old look, the Flyer takes pride in its classic, older rail car appeal. 
Comfy seats are a rich burgundy leather and the wood is nicely cared for. One hears the soothing clickety-clack, but it's not bumpy. 
The vintage car continues its "step back in time" with several photo stops. At the longer pause in Seddon, passengers stretch, shop and nibble. Seddon, named after a New Zealand prime minister, is 25 kilometers south of larger Blenheim, known for fine wine. The journey follows the banks of two rivers, the Awatere and Blind, home to choice grape growing regions. Their sauvignon blanc put New Zealand wines on the map. Many of our fellow passengers returned with bottles.  
THE TAIERI trip offers another kind of spectacle -- equally engaging. The scenery is more rugged, and its history unfolds before the eyes. Wrought iron viaducts and hand-carved tunnels conjure images of hardship during this impressive endeavor 100 years ago.
Train lovers should make a double-header of these two colorful, narrated trips offering history, waterfalls, streams, flora, livestock and more. They reveal how people live, work and build:;;;
And in the UK:

A lovely new play, "High Table," at San Diego's
Diversionary Theatre features a gay marriage
and unfolding complexities when a Nigerian
family faces their confusion. It's an imaginative,
 thought-provoking production, beautifully acted and.
directed. Stay tuned for another inventive work:
"Monsters of the American Cinema" by an exciting
San Diego playwright. 619 220-0097

BEST BET: San Diego theater is booming, with memorable March productions in a month dedicated to the lively arts. San Diego's Diversionary Theater's new play, "High Table," is a beautifully rendered love story told by a talented ensemble, directed with  skill, perception and emotion. The complex story unfolds with an evocative accompaniment of classical African chants and drumming. The cast's deft portrayals of departed ancestors parallels "real time" family, with accomplished actors playing multiple roles. The story unfolds with imagination and restraint. It's a touching, intricate work, exploring the myriad cliches facing the gay world, as well as complications of a gay relationship. What emerges is an enchanting, enduring love story.   

Bruce Keller feeds a grateful kangaroo, communing with
the graceful Australian figures, a national treasure. Up next

UP NEXT: Wonders abound at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a magical place located near Brisbane. You'll walk and talk with famous Australian animals in an 18-hectare koala sanctuary in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket in Queensland, Australia, the largest such sanctuary in the world. We're thrilled to have mingled with and fed the kangaroos and cuddled a sleepy koala. Come with us, remembering to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more: Please share the link.



  1. We look for trains wherever we travel and we've taken the beautiful Taieri Gorge trip. Now we will plan the Picton journey. Steam train looks lovely.

  2. Seattle Day TrippersMarch 12, 2023 at 9:49 PM

    Fun piece on a beautiful country.

  3. Dakota Day TrippersMarch 13, 2023 at 11:51 AM

    New Zealand tops our bucket list. Have printed this to book next fall.

  4. Newport Train BuffsMarch 15, 2023 at 4:37 PM

    We love trains, too, and these both look delightful.