Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Gary Cody

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.

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