The Spiral Express 03-24

Step onboard our lovingly restored heritage coaches, hauled by diesel locomotive DBR1254. Settle into your seats to enjoy this special trip down the Main Trunk Line from Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Otorohanga or Te Kuiti to Ohakune and return.

Jump on board with the Glenbrook Vintage Railway for another easy day out by train! 
Hauled by heritage diesel locomotive DBR1254 - our train will make its way down through the heartland of the North Island along the Main Trunk Line.
We last offered this sell-out day trip from Hamilton in 2023!
So hop on board as we step back in time – to how rail travel used to be – and experience traveling down the Main Trunk Line.

The Spiral Express | Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Otorohanga and Te Kuiti to Ohakune and Return

Mighty viaducts, tunnels, rivers and the famed Raurimu Spiral await you on this exclusive heritage train journey.

Sit back and relax as we host you on board The Spiral Express. Your journey to Ohakune and return today will encompass some of the most spectacular scenery as well as experiencing incredible engineering feats from the turn of the last century. We go from city sights into and through the King Country, then venture deep into the Central Plateau before our leisurely journey home. 

Departing Hamilton, settle into your seat while we serve you a complimentary tea/coffee/water/juice and a light snack. Journeying through the fertile farmlands of South Waikato, we will be making stops at Te Awamutu, Otorohanga and Te Kuiti for passengers. Beyond Te Kuiti, we continue our journey through the King Country. First, we cross over the Waiteti viaduct, built in 1889 and measuring 127m long and 36m high - the very first of many viaducts on the "Main Trunk Line" to be opened. We continue to climb steep grades through rugged farm lands and forests whilst weaving our way around rock faces until we reach the Poro-O-Tarao tunnel, the longest tunnel we travel through today at over 1.2km long. 

Descending out of the Poro-O-Tarao tunnel, you might catch a first glimpse of Mt Ruapehu as we descend through to Waimiha and shortly after, the Ongarue River valley. The Ongarue river will guide us through the settlements of Ongarue, Okahukura and Tangarakau and into Taumarunui. Passing through Taumarunui marks the start of our long climb to National Park, the entrance to the Central Plateau. Following the Whanganui and Whakapapa rivers, eventually we mark the final part of our ascent when we arrive at Raurimu. 

The Raurimu Spiral is a notable feat of civil engineering, masterly using the natural land contours so that no viaducts are needed, and only two short tunnels to overcome a climb of over 200 metres at a manageable 1 in 50ft grade (climb 1ft for every 50ft traveled). Looking out your windows, you should catch glimpses of Raurimu three times as we climb the spiral. Check out the tunnels, embankments, cuttings and tight curves! This engineering masterpiece is unique to New Zealand and is certainly an experience not to miss!

From National Park, we glide across the North Island Central Volcanic Plateau. Catch views Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and the glorious Mt Ruapehu as we traverse this mountainous section of track. Soon after National Park, we will cross the Makatote viaduct, spanning 262m long at a towering 79m high. This viaduct boats spectacular views on a fine day, stretching as far as Mt Taranaki on one side, and the imposing Mt Ruapehu on the other. Not far along we pass the site of the "Last Spike", the location where both rail heads met for the connection of the line between Auckland and Wellington in the year 1908. Then just south of Pokaka, we reach the highest point on the entire New Zealand rail network at 812m above sea level. Crossing rivers and passing by the famed Smash Palace at Horopito, we begin our final descent towards Ohakune, not before crossing the curved Hapuawhenua viaduct at 414m long and 51m high. 

Once at Ohakune, stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat and a coffee as our train is serviced and the locomotive turned for the return journey. Perhaps visit the local railway museum just a short 2 minute walk from the station. This museum features some great local artifacts, including a section on the 1953 Tangiwai Disaster - New Zealand's worst railway disaster. 

We depart Ohakune at 2.15pm for the leisurely journey home. Take in the changing landscapes as the sun begins to set on this scenic wonderland. Enjoy a wine or beer of your choice and share in the convivial company of friends. Be sure to make use of our open air balconies to take in the mountain air and spectacular views. 

Food and refreshments are available, and our train is licensed. Our friendly onboard staff will travel through the train with refreshments trolleys throughout the journey. 

We will arrive back into Hamilton at 6.55pm, where we will bid you farewell and hope that you will enjoy many fond memories of your experience with us today. 

A spectacular train trip to Central Plateau, crossing viaducts, through tunnels and up the famous Raurimu Spiral - suitable for the whole family!


Return Ex Hamilton (Frankton) or Te Awamutu

Adult $119 | Child (2-14) $89

Return Ex Otorohanga or Te Kuiti

Adult $99 | Child (2-14) $69



Hamilton (Frankton) dep.8.15am
Te Awamutu dep.8.55am
Otorohanga dep.9.25am
Te Kuiti dep.9.55am
Ohakune arr.1.10pm


Ohakune dep.2.15pm
Te Kuiti arr.5.30pm
Otorohanga arr.5.55pm
Te Awamutu arr.6.30pm
Hamilton (Frankton) arr.6.55pm


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Seating Information

We aim to seat passengers from the same booking together. You will be allocated at least one window seat for bookings of 2 or more (subject to availability). Where possible, seats will be turned to face the direction of travel (pairs and singles) or to face each other (groups). If you are traveling with people on a different booking or have another specific request then please email us as soon as possible at [email protected] and we will try and accommodate your request the best we can. Your allocated seat and carriage details will be on your boarding pass which will be emailed to you at least 2-3 days before your departure date.

Onboard Information

  • Smoking or the consumption of Alcohol (not served by your train crew) is prohibited anywhere onboard our trains, including on any viewing platform, this includes the use or charging of e-cigarettes.
  • Due to the heritage nature of our carriages there is limited accessibility for people traveling with Wheelchairs. Please contact us in advance to discuss your requirements.
  • Animals apart from seeing and hearing guide dogs may not travel onboard our trains.
  • Only the named passengers on your booking will be allocated seats. One child under 2 may sit on each adult's knee. Children under 2 seated in the manner do not require a ticket.
  • There are toilets onboard our train which can be used throughout the journey.
  • Cold food or drink may be brought and consumed onboard the train provided that this does not disturb our passengers and that you take all rubbish and food scraps with you.

Refund Information

  • Refunds of fares paid, net of any payments made by GVR from those fares, requested and received by GVR up to and including fourteen clear days before the commencement of the trip or tour will be made without deduction other than a $30 administration charge per person booked. However no administration charge will apply where refunds arise as a consequence of the trip or tour being fully booked, cancelled prior to commencing, or postponed to a later date and the refund application is received within four days of the original trip or tour date.
  • No refunds will be given in the event of breakdown en route or unavailability of the advertised means of conveyance.
  • No refunds will be made if after departure, for whatever reason, passengers do not utilise the included trip or tour arrangements. Travel insurance may provide some degree of relief in limited cases.
  • No refunds of fares paid or any other form on recompense will be given as a result of any person missing any aircraft, train, bus or ferry in connection with this trip or tour for whatever reason.
  • No refunds will be given for cancellations unless the request is notified in writing to the GVR at least fourteen clear days before commencement of the trip or tour. Each such cancellation will be subject to the $30 administration charge per person booked.

Check out Full Terms and Conditions.

Book now for The Spiral Express - Saturday 9th of March 2024

Your ticket includes return train travel to Ohakune and light refreshments served on the train.

Optional Lunch Pack

Pre-order a hearty lunch pack full of sweet and savoury snacks, fruit, and juice drink.
$35 per pack - order with your booking