The Dunedin Railway Station ranks as one of the most beautiful pieces of Architecture on the planet. In an eclectic, revived Flemish renaissance style this masterpiece was
built in 1903 and sports the longest railway platform in the country.
The platform is over half a kilometre in length. There were over 100 trains a day using the station when rail was New Zealand’s number one travel option.
But wait there is more ! Not only is the station spectacular but a special treat still runs from this iconic building. The Taieri Gorge Railway. The trip from Dunedin to Middlemarch is full of amazing scenery and wonderful history as the on board commentery explains as you wander your way into the heart of Central otago along the lines that are lucky to be here. That a railway line between Dunedin and Central Otago was ever built is a miracle. It was beset by problems from the outset – political and regional infighting, lack of funding and technical hitches, among them.
But built it eventually was, and trains merrily tootled up and down the Central Otago railway line from 1879 for 111 years. From the 1950s, passenger tours along the line, run by the Otago Excursion Trust on the Taieri Gorge Limited train, were highly popular with the citizenry of Dunedin.
When the Government announced the line would be closed in 1990, the Dunedin City Council
decided to buy the section through to Middlemarch, with funding from the community.
It was a successful move and five years later, the Council and the Trust established a Local Authority Trading Enterprise jointly owned by both organisations. This entity, the Taieri Gorge Railway Limited, operates the Taieri Gorge Railway from its base at the Dunedin Railway Station.
With the Dunedin City Council taking an option to buy the line to Middlemarch the Trust was faced with the need to raise $1,000,000 to finance the operation and development of the railway. A successful community appeal raised $1.2 million in cash, pledges and gifts-in-kind to allow the purchase to be completed and the Taieri Gorge Railway was born.
The Trust leased the track and rail corridor from the City Council and, under an agreement with NZR, operated its trains between Dunedin and the Taieri Gorge Railway. A board of directors was appointed to oversee the operation of the railway and additional staff were employed for maintenance and for the Trust’s growing travel agency business operating from the Dunedin Railway Station.
This has developed one of the best rail journeys in New Zealand which I really enjoyed . A day out winding up the gorges and speeding along the flats from Dunedin until the train turns
off at Wingatui Junction and heads inland.
From here the train sneaks across the Taieri Plains and climbs into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep gorge carved out over aeons by the ancient Taieri River. The train negotiates the gorge with ease as it travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts. The natural wonders combined with the challenge of man made engineering will leave you amazed, but somehow the railway blends into the natural environment perfectly. It is a wonderful example of the sheer determination of early railway pioneers.
The train stops and slows down at various scenic points along the way for photos where you can disembark and stretch your legs and enjoy the best of beauty, peace and quiet that nature has to offer. Standing on the open air platforms while the train moves or enjoy a quiet drink and food from our on board cafe while our train manager tells the story of the nature and history of the area in an entertaining and informative live commentary.
Twice a week in Summer (October to April) and once a week in Winter (May to September) the train extends it’s journey to the very end of the railway line to Middlemarch, a lovely example of a country railway town and the beginning of the Otago Central Rail Trail.
The day I travelled many cyclists had their bikes on board and alighted at Middlemarch to continue on by bike further into the heartland of Cental otago.
It was a great trip back as I was on the other side of the carriage and got to see many of the sights I missed on the way in.
Families and couples all enjoyed this day out on one of New Zealand’s best attractions.
Arriving back in Dunedin in time for a visit to the Chinese garden which is just alongside the Railway station.