December 2004, Volume 15, Number 11
Diverse Rail Experiences
Visitors seeking a real New Zealand experience may be interested in the Great New Zealand Rail Heritage Trail...
“It is about linking and promoting a range of rail heritage experiences across New Zealand into one nationwide trail,” says trail establishment group chairperson Henry Brittain.
“It is about encouraging people to travel more extensively to see, partake and enjoy more of the diversity of our rail heritage and rail tourism opportunities across the country.
“It is also about encouraging the providers of rail experiences to network and promote each other’s opportunities so that there are more gains overall.”
The Great New Zealand Rail Heritage Trail, which has received support and advice from the Community Employment Group since its outset, will be developed and marketed in association with the New Zealand National Heritage Trails Network. It taps into the worldwide market of people interested in rail experiences and related sites of interest.
Already the rail heritage industry brings $7 million to the country and contributes to job creation.
“It’s all part of the worldwide trend of the expansion of cultural and heritage tourism.
“People want real experiences about a country’s present and past, as well as an opportunity to meet real people. The trail can offer all this and more.”
New Zealand’s rail heritage began to be preserved by small groups of railway enthusiasts in the 1950s.
This was boosted in the 1990s when many community groups became involved in preservation and developing rail travel opportunities, such as the Taieri Gorge Railway, Glenbrook Vintage Railway in South Auckland and the Christchurch Tramway.
“Through the voluntary efforts of individuals and organisations over the last 50 years, New Zealand now has many high quality sites and experiences.
“These include trains, trams, locomotives, rolling stock, tracks, buildings, signals, archives, tunnels, bridges and equipment -- all of a high heritage and interest value.
“They can also include rail tourism experiences that incorporate heritage elements but for which the predominant focus is providing a travel experience for visitors.”
National brochures, a website and a poster are being developed to promote the trail. Long term a high quality visitor guidebook is envisioned.
CEG fieldworker David Wilson says this is a complex national networking exercise involving more than 100 partners, and securing endorsement has provided many challenges for all involved.
“The long term benefits will however be very fruitful for the communities along the trail.”
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