The Otago Central Railway branched from the South Island Main Trunk at Wingatui, 12 kilometres south of Dunedin, and ran through Middlemarch, Ranfurly, Omakau and Alexandra to Cromwell in the heart of Central Otago, 235 kilometres from the Junction.

The route was chosen from seven proposed in 1877 because it opened up the greatest area of Crown Lands, presented the fewest engineering difficulties and was the most direct route to Dunedin.

By the end of the mid-1870s the gold rushes in Otago were well past and attention was being focused on the agriculture and pastoral potentials of Dunedin's hinterland. Roads were notoriously bad and railways were seen to offer the best means of improving transport and communications.


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