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New Zealand Adventures by Rail by Denis Dwyer


Like the author of this delightful book, I love train journeys, and so my hand went up quickly when the chance to review it was offered.

I was not disappointed; in fact I was charmed by Dwyer’s easy style of writing which clacks along pleasantly in a relaxed way, much the same way as a rail journey might. And, again much like a rail journey, the reader experiences a great deal more than the view from the carriage window. Of course all that is there, too, but we also get to meet some of our fellow passengers and others who have in the past added to the rich history of rail in this country.


Growing up in an era where rail journeys were being phased out in this part of the world in favour of road transport, I missed out on travelling by train as much as I would have liked to as a child. But I was an avid reader, an armchair traveller if you like, happily transported along and fully immersed in the delights of rail through authors like Agatha Christie and Paul Theroux.


Later still, I relived vicariously a contemporary tale of life aboard The Orient Express when my parents took that – the most romantic of rail journeys - from Beijing to St Petersburg. Subsequently, there was never any doubt in my mind that when I was travelling alone through Switzerland and Italy, that I would take advantage of the magnificent rail networks there.


But lest the reader think that I am a railway buff, I do not stand at cross barriers making train noises, or leaf through specialist publications. Although I do admit to a lifelong love of model railways in which I have never hand the funds to indulge.

And that is one of the great things about this book: Denis Dwyer is no old nutter regretting a life misspent in the postal service when could have been a train driver. He is a writer with an interest in the history and romance of rail, and at his most charming when he uses phrases like “repaired to the railway car.”


He weaves a fine tale, and this is a very enjoyable read for travellers of all types.


Reviewer: Peta Stevalli

New Holland $34.99

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