Technical Train Details
- The line is part of the now-closed Otago Central Railway which ran from Wingatui to Cromwell.
- Access to the Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin is over Kiwi Rail tracks with which TGR has a "running rights" agreement.
- Kiwi Rail owns the first 4 kilometres of the line from Wingatui and the Taieri Gorge Railway owns the following 60 kms of line to Middlemarch.
- The track is a single line with passing loops at North Taieri, Parera, Hindon, Pukerangi and Middlemarch. There are also service sidings at Mt Allan, Hindon, Pukerangi and Middlemarch.
- Track gauge - 1067 mm [3 ft 6 in] (New Zealand standard gauge).
- Track construction - predominantly 35 kg/m [70 lb/yd] flat bottom rail on wooden sleepers (ties) over 40 mm ballast with bolted joints (no welded rail).
- Maximum curvature - 140 m [7 chain] radius.
- Maximum gradient - 1-in-50 [2%]
- Maximum height above sea level - 254 m [833 ft]
- Minimum height above sea level - 28 m [92 ft]
- Maximum speed - 50 km/h [30 mph] (due to the small radius curves)
Number - 10
Longest - No 2 at Salisbury, 437 m [1435 ft] long
Shortest - No 7, Machine Creek, 55 m [180 ft] long
Interiors - some brick lined throughout, others lined at the portals only, depending on ground conditions.
Number - 35 between Wingatui and Middlemarch.
Largest - the Wingatui Viaduct, spanning 197.5 m [659 ft] across Mullock Gully, 47 m [154 ft] above the stream bed.
Construction - Viaducts are wrought iron, riveted lattice work construction on masonry piers.
This remains the same as the original (1880's) profile, restricting the size of vehicles using the railway. For example, Tranz Rail carriages and some freight wagons cannot use the line. Taieri Gorge Railway’s modern carriages were built specifically to fit the tunnels.
The telephone system operates via pole-mounted overhead lines between Wingatui and Middlemarch, with a link to the Dunedin Railway Station.
Buildings Stations and points of interest
The original station buildings still stand at Sutton and Middlemarch, which also has a goods shed intact. Several "gangers" shelter huts of various ages can be seen along the line.
The Taieri Gorge Railway passes by numerous points of interest along the way.
Wingatui (34m above sea level)
Construction of the railway began at Wingatui in June 1879. From Wingatui Junction the Otago Central Railway heads north-west across the Taieri Plains. There are panoramic views of the plain as the line climbs to Salisbury.
North Taieri (4.4km from Wingatui, 59m)
Originally known as "North Taieri Tanks" this was an early site for watering steam locomotives. In 1998 a crossing loop was built to allow trains to pass each other.
Salisbury (10.4km from Wingatui, 148m)
Salisbury Tunnel (437m) is the longest on the line. There are soda springs near the tunnel mouth. The Salisbury Estate was originally owned by Donald Reid, whose name remains in the mercantile firm of Reid Farmers. The line now follows Mullock Gully to the Taieri River.
Wingatui Viaduct (12.7km from Wingatui)
This viaduct, 197m long and 47m above Mullock Stream, is the largest structure on the line. It is still the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand.
Parera (16.3km from Wingatui, 54m)
This was formerly a crossing station which closed in 1967 but the crossing loop was reinstated in 1991. The railway house is now a holiday home. Parera is the Maori name for the grey duck. The railway continues to follow the Taieri River for the next 27 km.
Mount Allan (21.1km from Wingatui, 59m)
This station formerly served a sheep run which had no road access until 1970. After the homestead was ruined by the 1980 flood, the run was sold to Tasman Forestry and planted in pine trees.
Little Mount Allan (23.5km from Wingatui, 64m)
Steam trains stopped at the Wingatui end of the curved viaduct to take water from the big tanks there.
Christmas Creek (25.3km from Wingatui, 67m)
This station served two large sheep runs, Lamb Hill and Silver Peaks. A miner discovered gold in the creek on Christmas Day, 1863.
Hindon (26.8km from Wingatui, 71m)
This is still a crossing station. There were refreshment rooms here until 1949 until they burnt down. The first section of the Otago Central Railway was officially opened as far as Hindon in October 1889, 10 years after construction began at Wingatui.
Deep Stream (30.9km from Wingatui, 95m)
In earlier times passengers got off the train here to enjoy a day picnicking by the river or climbing in the hills. It is still a popular stop for passengers wishing to walk the viaduct. From here the line begins to climb higher above the river, eventually emerging from the Gorge near Pukerangi.
Flat Stream (36.7km from Wingatui, 191m)
On the slopes above are a number of stone chimneys and wild gooseberries, marking the site of a construction workers' camp. This is worth a visit. Ahead are the Notches, where the line is carried across four deep gulches.
The Reefs (42.1km from Wingatui, 248m)
A passenger drop-off and pick-up was established here in 1906 to serve the Barewood Gold Mines, 2km to the south.
Pukerangi (45km from Wingatui, 250m)
The name means "Hills of Heaven". The line turns away from the Taieri River here but meets it again near the Sutton Creek road and rail bridge 7km north. Ahead is the Strath Taieri Plain, bounded to the west by the Rock and Pillar range. The shorter version of the Taieri Gorge Railway trip returns to Dunedin from here. There are 'long drop' toilets and a small station 'hut'. If a cruise ship is in town locals often come to Pukerangi to sell their handy crafts on a few tables but don't expect a town or shops, it really is the middle of nowhere.
Middlemarch (63.8km from Wingatui, 201m)
"March" is an old word meaning boundary, frontier or border and this town is the largest settlement on the Strath Taieri Plain. The line was opened to here in 1891 and what was a busy through-station for a century became the new terminus of the railway when the line beyond was closed in 1990. With its station and goods shed intact it is a popular summer destination for Friday and Sunday Taieri Gorge trains as well as special train journeys for barbecue and barn dances trips.
Sutton (57.1 km from Wingatui, 190m)
Lying at the edge of the Strath Taieri Plain the station building here is a much photographed landmark.
The Taieri Gorge Railway owns 6 diesel-electric locomotives, all formerly owned by NZ Railways.
“Amazing that the workers managed to build the railway in such challenging conditions. Wonderful commentary...”
“The line is a wonderful and unique piece of NZ history and a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.”
“Have wanted to do this for years and finally got the chance. This was absolutely the most fun afternoon.”