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Videos: TranzAlpine engineering

<- Homepage: TranzAlpine: A STEM-learning journey with a view

Trains in Aotearoa

Trains have played a big part in shaping the Aotearoa we know today. They continue to be an efficient way of moving goods and people across Aotearoa. To move such big loads, a train needs a big engine. Check out this 3300 horsepower DX locomotive!

  • How much horsepower is the DX locomotive?
  • How many tonnes can the DX locomotive pull?
  • What are some of the advantages of using trains rather than trucks to move freight?

Stop that train


Find out the basics of how locomotive brakes work, and the different things that a locomotive engineer needs to think about when slowing down a train.

  • What are the factors a locomotive engineer needs to think about when applying the brakes?
  • What is the approximate stopping distance of a 2,000-tonne train travelling at 80 kilometres per hour?
  • What is the sand box used for?

Driving trains


Climb aboard a DX locomotive and get a view of the cab from the perspective of a locomotive engineer.

  • What are some of the tasks a locomotive engineer needs to do in the cab before moving off?
  • What are some key differences between driving a train and driving a car?

Level crossing safety


Signs, bells, lights, barrier arms. There are a lot of warnings given to motorists and pedestrians that a train will be passing through a level crossing. It is important to follow these warnings! This video uses a simple demonstration to highlight the impact a train would have on a car if it got in its way.

  • How many metres away from the level crossing will a train be when the bells, lights, and barrier arms start working to signal that a train is approaching?
  • In the video, Ian talks about “kinetic energy”. When something is in motion (e.g. a moving train) it has kinetic energy. You could find out more about kinetic energy. There are also some online calculators you could use to calculate the kinetic energy of an 800-tonne train travelling at a speed of 80 kph.

Experience the TranzAlpine


The TranzAlpine is regarded as one of the greatest train journeys in the world! It traverses te Tiritiri-o-te-Moana the Southern Alps as it takes passengers from Ōtautahi Christchurch to Māwhera Greymouth.

  • Why does the train stop at Arthur’s Pass?
  • Which parts of this train journey would you be most interested in? Why?

The Ōtira Tunnel


The Ōtira tunnel is the longest tunnel the TranzAlpine passes through on its way to Māwhera Greymouth. In fact, the 8.5-kilometre tunnel is the third longest rail tunnel in Aotearoa. It starts at Arthur’s Pass and finishes near the small village of Ōtira. It literally passes under the Southern Alps! It was completed in 1923 and is considered one of New Zealand’s great engineering feats.

  • Why are extra locomotives connected to the back of the train before entering the Ōtira tunnel?
  • How is hot air (and fumes) removed from the Ōtira tunnel as a train travels through it?
  • How would the construction of a tunnel back in 1923 compare with modern-day methods?

A challenging country for trains


The TranzAlpine travels across some serious geological features. The engineering of bridges, viaducts, and tunnels in such a challenging landscape has made the journey possible.

  • How many years did it take to build the TranzAlpine railway?
  • How many tunnels, viaducts, and bridges have been built along the TranzAlpine?
  • What challenges would engineers have faced when constructing the TranzAlpine?

Safety around trains


Many ākonga from Paroa School in Māwhera Greymouth cross the railway every day on their way to and from school, and they have some important rail safety messages to share.

  • If you had to list these safety messages in order from most to least important, what would that list look like?
  • What reasons would you give for your decisions?
  • What is one of the biggest causes of rail accidents?