The first railway in New Zealand opened in 1863 between Christchurch
and Ferrymead Wharf, a distance of 5½ miles (9km). The gauge chosen was
5ft 3in (1600mm) to suit stock purchased secondhand from a railway
in Australia. By 1867 a 3 miles (4.8km) extension was constructed to the
new port of Lyttelton, including a 2860 yards (2615m) tunnel. With the
opening of the new port the last ½ mile (0.8km) of the line serving
Ferrymead declined in importance. It closed a few years later, but a
new tourist railway constructed on the formation opened in 1977
as part of the Ferrymead Heritage Park.
By 1873, a network of over 75 miles (120km) of broad gauge line had
grown up around Christchurch, while in the meantime a 17½ miles (28km)
standard (1435mm) gauge had been constructed from Invercargill to Bluff.
However, in 1870 a governmental decision was made in the light of the
difficult terrain to be encountered in much of the country that all
new railway construction would be to 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge. The
first railway built to this gauge opened in 1873 between Dunedin and
Port Chalmers. Later the same year, the first railway in the North Island
was opened, between Auckland and Onehunga. The original broad and
standard gauge railways were later converted to 3ft 6in (1067mm).
The rail network today extends over 4000km, more than half of which
retains regular passenger services.
the national operator, including:
- Transdev Wellington commuter passenger services in
the Wellington area
- Bay of Islands Vintage Railway tourist railway
from Kawakawa to Taumarere, about 9km. Proposed extension to Opua,
a further 2km. 1067mm gauge, steam or diesel hauled. Operates Fridays
to Sundays throughout the year, every day during school and public
- Blenheim Riverside Railway 2ft (610mm) gauge railway,
with separate services from Brayshaw Park to Beaver (central Blenheim)
or Brayshaw Park to Omaka (Aviation Heritage centre). Diesel hauled.
Operates a few days each month.
- Driving Creek Railway 15in (381mm) gauge railway
near Coromandel Town, originally constructed to convey clay and timber
to a pottery. Trains carry passengers to a height of 172m up a wooded
hillside in spectacular fashion on a line with numerous loops,
switchbacks and viaducts. Diesel hauled. Operates daily except
Scenic Railway Miniature railway in Palmerston North. 2150m,
10½in (266mm) gauge, diesel hauled. Operates weekends throughout the
year, daily during school holidays, and by private charter.
- Gisborne City
Vintage Railway tourist railway from Gisborne to Muriwai, about
16km. 1067mm gauge, steam hauled. Operates several weekends each month
throughout the year.
Vintage Railway tourist railway from Glenbrook to Waiuku, 7.5km.
1067mm gauge, steam hauled. Operates Sundays and a few other days,
late October to early June. Also operates occasional excursions on
KiwiRail tracks out of Hamilton.
Railway tourist railway from Waihi to Waikino, about 7km. 1067mm
gauge, diesel hauled. Operates weekends and certain other days
throughout the year.
- Ocean Beach Railway preserved harbour / industrial
style railway in St Kilda, Dunedin. Narrow gauge, steam and diesel
hauled. Operates most weekends but not to a regular timetable,
refer to the Facebook page for latest information.
Railcar Society museum at Pahiatua with preserved diesel railcars,
offering occasional main line excursions
Vintage Railway museum near Ashburton with a 2km operating railway.
1067mm gauge, steam or diesel hauled or diesel railcar. Operates
typically one or two days each month from October to May, and by private
- Pleasant Point Museum & Railway museum in
Pleasant Point with a 1.8km operating railway. 1067mm gauge, steam
hauled or diesel railcar. Steam train operates at least one day each
month, more frequently in summer. Railcar operates on same days, also
most days in peak season, and by private charter.
Railway self drive powered trolleys on a 10km line between Mamaku
Heritage Park open air museum near Greymouth recreating a typical
gold mining village, featuring steam hauled passenger trains on a 1.5km
route. Operates daily except Christmas Day.
- Silver Stream Railway museum at Silverstream,
Upper Hutt, with a 1.5km operating railway. 1067mm gauge, steam
hauled. Operates most Sundays and public holidays throughout the
year, and by private charter.
- Taieri Gorge
Railway tourist railway from Dundedin to Middlemarch, 77km.
1067mm gauge, diesel hauled. Operates most days throughout the year.
- Waitara Railway tourist railway from Waitara to
a point near Lepperton, 5.7km. Extension proposed to Lepperton, a
further 1.5km. 1067mm gauge, diesel hauled. Operates most Sundays from
September to May, and by prior arrangement.
Pass Railway tourist railway from Glenmark station (Waipara) to
Waikari, 13km. Standard gauge, diesel hauled. Operates at least two
Sundays and public holidays each month from October to July.
- Whangaparaoa Narrow Gauge Railway 15in (381mm)
gauge railway in a wooded park in Stanmore Bay, north of Auckland.
Steam and diesel hauled, mainly using former industrial equipment.
Operates Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from September to
- Whangarei Steam & Model Railway Club passenger
trains at Kiwi North Heritage Park, Whangerai.
1067mm gauge, usually steam hauled. Operates typically one Sunday each
month, also on Heritage Park special event days and by special
arrangement. There is also a miniature railway operated by the Whangarei Model Engineering Club.
Heritage Park near Christchurch has an electric street tramway and a
steam hauled railway. These operate typically one Sunday each month
throughout the year, more frequently in summer.
Auckland commuter rail services
- MOTAT heritage street tramway connecting the two
MOTAT sites in Western Springs, about 1.7km. Operates every day except
- Transdev Wellington commuter rail service
- Cable Car historic funicular railway connecting
central Wellington to the Botanic Gardens and Kelburn area
- Tramway Museum heritage trams in Queen Elizabeth
Park, Kapiti Coast. Operates weekends and public holidays throughout
the year, daily during school summer holidays.