Rain Forest Express is about 3.2 miles long and located near Woodlands Park, New Zealand. The train ride is memorable and takes 2-3... more » hours.
Just a half-hour outside of Auckland - but 100 years back in time - the Rain Forest Express narrow gauge railway gives visitors a chance to experience pristine and scarce New Zealand rainforest as the original European settlers must have seen it. Not well known (even to many Aucklanders!) the $25 two-hour train ride into the Waitakere watershed is well worth the modest price of admission.
Part of Watercare's Auckland drinking water system, the narrow gauge miniature railway was used in the construction of the Upper Nihotupu Dam and and is still used to maintain the pipes that transport the water to New Zealand's largest city.
When not being used for mundane work such as pipe repair, it takes visitors on a memorable trip that includes wide vistas, nine bridges, and 10 pipeline tunnels which provide up-close-and-personal looks at New Zealand's famous glow worms and the lesser known, but ever-so-creepy, cave wetas (imagine a big cricket with huge back legs).
Getting to Jacobson's Depot near Titirangi Village (280 Scenic Drive if you have a GPS), requires a short drive down a dirt road to the departure point. The coaches can seat up to four adults (if they are Hobbits and very good friends), but two is a more reasonable number. They are covered by a clear plastic canopy and give excellent views but are open on one side. Therefore warm clothing is required if going during a colder season. They are well-sheltered from rain, however, as the open side faces into the mountain walls.
Individual speakers in each coach (along with passenger controlled lights) ensure easy listening to the running commentary and plenty of illumination (if desired) when going through the long tunnels. Halfway through the 1 hour trip the train stops atop Quinn's Viaduct bridge for some dramatic photos before finally stopping for good at the bottom of the Upper Nihotupu dam.
Those so inclined can leave the train and take the 300 or so heart-stopping steps up the vertical face to the top, where they can take photos and then hike an easy 10 minutes or so to a picnic area where the train will meet them. There is plenty of time to have a picnic lunch under covered tables (restrooms are also there) before boarding the train for the non-stop return trip which includes a lifetime of memories at no extra charge.