Official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

1997 Scenic Trains

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From the days when rail opened up the rural hinterland until 1997 when eight long-distance passenger trains covered the country, scenic trains have been an important part of New Zealand's history.

Issue information

New Zealand experienced a renaissance in train travel with many New Zealanders rediscovering its pleasures. For some the social aspect of train travel was the main appeal. The chance to move around, meet fellow travellers, or enjoy some quality time with friends and family was a welcome break from our increasingly busy lifestyles. For others, a rail journey evoked happy and nostalgic images. The feeling of getting off the beaten track is part of the Kiwi psyche - peering into hidden valleys, over fences into typical backyards, or down sheer gorges to silver rivers.

Passenger trains became tourist trains, with New Zealanders and international visitors alike travelling to enjoy the train experience and the spectacular scenery. Each of the eight unique train journeys operated by Tranz Rails's long-distance group was scenic, from the rugged coastline seen from The Coastal Pacific, to the spectacular mountain scenery of The TranzAlpine and the Volcanic Plateau, rolling farmland and heartland settlements through which The Overlander passed.

The Tranz Rails network was a major engineering feat, having been carved through magnificient mountain ranges and towering forests, across vast rivers and lush farmland, along precipitous mountain and coastal ledges and over steep ravines and gorges. What's more, construction of the railway took place over a century ago, with the first main trunk line being completed between Christchurch and Invercargill in 1879. In 1997 the Tranz Scenic trains ran to most major cities and tourist destinations, with The Interislander and The Lynx providing a ferry link across Cook Strait. Each journey provided a variety of scenery and took between three and a half and ten hours.

New Zealand Post asked Tranz Rail to select six images which conjured up the magic of scenic train travel in New Zealand and New Zealand Post acknowledged the support of Tranz Rail in supplying images for the 1997 Scenic Trains stamp issue.

Product Listing for 1997 Scenic Trains

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Paremata, Wellington, (The Overlander)' gummed stamp.

The Overlander train travelled the main trunk line through the heart of the North Island to link New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, and the capital city, Wellington. On the journey, The Overlander cut through the centre of the North Island, exposing a remarkably diverse landscape. Glimpses of New Zealand's railway heritage were still evident along the way, particularly in the towns of Taumarunui and Taihape, which were once thriving railway settlements on the main trunk line.

After departing bustling Auckland, The Overlander journeyed alongside the Waikato River and into the hill farms of the King Country. From there, it climbed through the bush up the Raurimu Spiral to the Volcanic Plateau beore heading into the Rangitikei with its cliffs, rivers and breathtaking viaducts. Then it's into the Manawatū, through the seaside settlements of the Kāpiti Coast to Wellington. During the 681 kilometre journey, the train crosses 352 bridges and travels through 14 tunnels. For many passengers, the highlight of the journey was the sweeping views of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe as The Overlander traversed Tongariro National Park.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Southern Alps, (The TranzAlpine)' gummed stamps.

The most popular and well known train of the Tranz Scenic fleet is The TranzAlpine, which does a daily return journey between Christchurch and Greymouth. It has been rated as one of the world's top six scenic train journeys by Colin Taylor, an international rail author and traveller. The TranzAlpine is regarded as a great coast-to-coast rail adventure.

During the 231 kilometre journey, The TranzAlpine crosses the Canterbury Plains, winds up through the Waimakariri Gorge and spans many spectacular viaducts and bridges as it traverses the Southern Alps. Once through the 8.5 kilometre long Ōtira Tunnel the train travels through lush West Coast beech forests before reaching Greymouth, on the Tasman Sea. Originally a domestic route, the award winninig TranzAlpine train now carries both international and New Zealand tourists keen to be a part of this scenic experience.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Canterbury, (The Southerner)' gummed stamps.

The Southerner train links the main southern cities of Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. The 589 kilometre journey is steeped in history as the route has the longest heritage of any passenger train. Crossing the great southern plains of Canterbury and Southland or hugging the coastline along the Pacific Ocean, The Southerner offers plenty of scenic variety.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Kaikōura Coast (The Coastal Pacific)' gummed stamps.

The 341 kilometre journey from Picton to Christchurch on The Coastal Pacific is an adventure between mountain and sea. The Coastal Pacific earns its name by tracking along a thin ledge of land pinned between the Pacific Ocean and rugged Kaikoura ranges. Winding through seaside tunnels and across snow fed rivers, this part of the journey is spectacular.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Central Hawkes Bay (The Bay Express)' gummed stamps.

Overcoming the rugged Ruahine and Tararua ranges between the Manawatu and Hawke's Bay was the key to establishing the Wellington - Napier railway, now served by The Bay Express. The 318 kilometre trip from Wellington to Napier is a journey through the rural heartland of New Zealand.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Tauranga Harbour, (The Kaimai Express)' gummed stamps.

The Kaimai Express links Auckland and the booming coastal city of Tauranga, gateway to the beaches and many attractions of the the Bay of Plenty. On its 231 kilometre journey, the train passes the Whangamarino wetlands, home to some of New Zealand's rare birds and plant life. This protected conservation area is classified by the World Heritage Trust because of its special significance. The Kaimai Express then crosses the Waikato River and travels through New Zealand's longest tunnel (8.9 kms) under the forest-clad Kaimai ranges.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $7.20
Set of Maximum Cards Set of six pre-paid postcards featuring a stamp on the front and artwork from the stamp issue. $7.95
Presentation Pack Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information on the theme of the stamps. $8.50
Limited Edition Limited edition collectable containing exclusive stamp products not available anywhere else. $135.00

Technical information

Date of Issue: 6 August 1997
Number of stamps: Six
Denominations and designs: 40c Paremata, Wellington, (The Overlander); 80c Southern Alps, (The TranzApline); $1.00 Canterbury, (The Southerner); $1.20 Kaikōura Coast (The Coastal Pacific); $1.50 Central Hawkes Bay (The Bay Express); $1.80 Tauranga Harbour (The Kaimai Express)
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Ross Jones of Watermark, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand by lithography
Number of colours: 40c, 80c, $1.00, $1.20, $1.50: four process colours; $1.80: Five process colours
Stamp size and format: 44mm x 28mm (horizontal)
Limited edition miniature sheet size 150mm x 120mm
Paper type: 103gsm gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 100
Perforation gauge: 14
Cost of unadressed first day cover with six stamps: $7.20
Special blocks: Plate/imprint, positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps.
Colour blocks: Also known as 'traffic lights', these blocks were included in plate blocks.
Barcode blocks: Barcode Blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 6 August 1998.