- Picton-Seddon (return);
- 4.5 hours to 5.0 hours (1 hour in Seddon);
- Snack box included onboard the train.
The Marlborough Flyer is a majestic heritage train from a bygone era, hauled south from Picton by the historic Ab 608 “Passchendaele” (built in 1915), one of the most important and interesting steam locomotives in New Zealand. Fit for Kings!
Ab 608 was used to power a number of special trains – including Royal Tours of the South Island, such as The Prince of Wales in 1920 and The Duke and Duchess of York in 1927 (The Prince of Wales and Duke of York would both one day become Kings).
During the steam era the Ab-class was the largest type of locomotive operating on the Picton – Blenheim route. Ab 608 was also the lead locomotive on the official train from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass for the opening of the 8.5km long Otira Tunnel in August 1923 – a feat of engineering which was the longest tunnel in the British Empire at the time.
“Passchendaele” is a wartime memorial, named after the worst battle in NZ military history, and in honour of the fallen NZ Rail workers. Built in the late 1800’s the Picton to Blenheim line heads south from Picton across the Waitohi viaduct building up to maximum power under a full head of steam to tackle the strenuous climb up the Picton Elevation. One of the steepest gradients in the country at 1-in-37 this incline provides the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the steam locomotive’s enormous power and dramatic sound effects.
Upon reaching the plateau, the journey then takes on a more sedate nature and the train engages in a graceful gallop meandering alongside the Para Wetlands, home to an abundance of birds, game fish and unique wetland vegetation.
The long river crossing across the wide Wairau River is another tour highlight, providing entry to the magnificent Wairau Valley with the distant southern mountains in the backdrop.
A sea of vineyards on both sides, greets the train on the stretch to Blenheim town – clear evidence that Marlborough is indeed home to 80% of New Zealand’s wine production, most famously the sauvignon blanc variety. South of Blenheim, The Marlborough Flyer then traverses the rolling southern hills of Marlborough, snaking through the Dashwood Pass, bursting into the beautiful Awatere Valley, and the magnificent sea of vineyards with the snow-capped peak of the majestic sentinel, Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku in the background.
The final stretch crosses the Awatere River on the historic Awatere Road Rail Bridge built in the same era as the train.
The Marlborough Flyer has the advantage of balconies at both ends of each carriage which enables passengers a convenient viewing position.
Enjoy some time to stretch the legs in Seddon with a photo opportunity and refreshments, before the return journey to Picton and your ship.
TOUR DURATION: Approximately 4.5hrs – 5hrs return