The "engineering masterpiece" that made the Main Trunk Line possible is a joy for train buffs and novice rail travellers alike. The Raurimu Spiral is a genius piece of innovation, rolling through a horseshoe curve to overcome a 1-to-24 gradient up a 139m incline, and acknowledged by the Institute of Professional Engineers as a significant engineering heritage site.
A rail line so fine, it shares a name with a great beer. New Zealand's longest tourist railway runs 60km along the former Otago Central Railway from Taieri> (18km out of Dunedin) to Middlemarch.
Best bits? Spectacular views along the banks of the Taieri River, the many tunnels (10 of them), viaducts (12 in all, including one which is the Southern Hemisphere's largest wrought iron structure) and inclines along the Taieri Gorge.
And the beer? Emmerson's Taieri George, an excellent spiced ale cooked up with honey from Central Otago.
A train that goes straight through the Southern Alps is always going to be a winner. The TranzAlpine runs 4.5 hours each way between Christchurch and Greymouth and is one of the world's most beautiful journeys.
It's also got a heap for trainspotters. Between Rolleston and Greymouth the line goes over five major bridges, across five viaducts and through 17 tunnels, of which the Otira Tunnel is the whopper. When it opened in 1923 (after 16 years of digging), the Otira Tunnel was one of the longest in the world, clocking in at an impressive 8.5km.
Glenbrook Vintage Railway
Glenbrook runs three cracking steam locomotives along a section of the old Waiuku Branch Line. It's only a short ride (7.5km), making it a perfect day trip to dip your toe and see if train tourism is for you. Their season runs from October to June and the train is often met by a handy market in Waiuku.