Taieri Gorge Railway

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Taieri Gorge Railway
Taieri Gorge train.jpg
Train travelling through the Taieri Gorge
Locale Eastern Otago, New Zealand
Dates of operation 1991 (1991)
Predecessor New Zealand Railways Corporation
Track gauge 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Headquarters Dunedin, New Zealand
Website http://www.taieri.co.nz

The Taieri Gorge Railway (TGR) is a railway line and tourist train operated by Taieri Gorge Limited based at Dunedin Railway Station in the South Island of New Zealand. The railway is a council-controlled trading organisation[1] (formerly known as a local authority trading enterprise) operated by a trust owned jointly by the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Excursion Train Trust.[2]



The Otago Excursion Train Trust was formed in 1978 to operate excursions on the Otago Central Railway line. In 1990 the line beyond Taieri was closed by the New Zealand Railways Corporation. The Trust then stepped in, in partnership with the Dunedin City Council to form the Taieri Gorge Railway Limited, purchasing the line as far as Middlemarch, along with some locomotives. The line beyond Middlemarch was lifted during 1991, and the trackbed handed over to the Department of Conservation in 1993. It is now the Otago Central Rail Trail, a major cycling tourist attraction in the area.


The railway is New Zealand's longest tourist railway and stretches along the former Otago Central Railway from the 4 km peg on KiwiRail's Taieri Branch, 18 km west of Dunedin, to Middlemarch, a distance of some 60 kilometres. Between Dunedin and the start of the line its trains operate on KiwiRail's Main South Line via a running rights agreement.

The line travels through spectacular scenery along the banks of the Taieri River, through numerous tunnels and climbing along the Taieri Gorge to the Strath Taieri. It crosses a dozen viaducts, including the southern hemisphere's largest wrought iron structure, and passes through ten tunnels.[3]

At Wingatui Railway Station, the original building and signal box from 1914 has been restored and is one of the best remaining island platform stations in New Zealand.[4] After the line passes through the 437 metres (1,434 ft) long Salisbury Tunnel, the longest on the line, it crosses Mullocky Gully over the 197 metres (646 ft) long Wingatui Viaduct, the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand since it was built in 1887.[5] The 47 m tall viaduct's riveted lattice structure rests on seven concrete and masonry piers.

Shortly after Wingatui Viaduct, the route emerges from Mullocky Gully to join Taieri Gorge, and from then on follows that gorge above Taieri River to just east of Pukerangi. On the way the line passes former stations Parera, Mount Allen, Little Mount Allen, and Christmas Creek, crossing two curved viaducts at the latter two locations. Hindon, still operating as a crossing station, is typically one of the stopping points on the trip. Just before the station, the railway tracks share a combined road-rail bridge with Hindon Road, a local backroad.

Another popular stopping point for photo opportunities is the Deep Stream viaduct. Here the line slowly starts to climb higher and out of the gorge, passing over the Flat Stream viaduct, and "The Notches", a section of short bridges and cuttings through several rocky outcrops, on its way to Pukerangi. Between Pukerangi and Middlemarch, the railway only once more comes close to the Taieri River, where it crosses Sutton Creek over another combined road-rail bridge.

The train operates daily to Pukerangi and on summer Fridays and Sundays to Middlemarch. The TGR also operates the Seasider tourist train along the coast to Palmerston, north of Dunedin, with bus connections to the TGR at Middlemarch.

DJ class locomotive in service with the Taieri Gorge Railway at Pukerangi
DE class locomotive on the railway


The railway owns eight former New Zealand Railways DJ class locomotives, six of which are currently operational and certified for mainline operation. They painted in a variant of the modified NZR 'International Orange' scheme carried by the class in the 1980s, where the low nose sides are painted blue instead of yellow and grey cab front. A seventh, DJ 3021 (ex-DJ 1202), is stored in the Middlemarch goods shed pending future restoration after it was purchased from its former home at Ranfurly station where it was statically displayed. The eighth, DJ 3044 (DJ 1204) was acquired from Mainline Steam in 2012 as a source of spare parts and has been dismantled, although most of the components remain intact. Both were painted in the modified 'International Orange' blue scheme and were in 'as withdrawn' condition.

TGR also operates one DE class locomotive, DE 504 (TMS DE 1337).[6] This locomotive was acquired from Otago Polytechnic in the early 1990s and is not mainline certified, instead being based at the TGR works depot at the 4 km peg. It previously carried a TGR-applied modified 'International Orange' scheme but was repainted in 2006 to its original livery of Carnation Red with the addition of 'wasp stripes' on the headstocks as it would have carried in the 1970s.

In 2013, TGR hired Silver Fern railcar RM 24 from KiwiRail and currently operates this on trips between Dunedin and Waitati. The railcar is currently on hire during the 2013-14 summer season from October to April and will be returned to KiwiRail in April 2014 on conclusion of the lease.

The TGR also operates shunting locomotive TR 111 at its Dunedin depot as its resident shunting locomotive. This locomotive was obtained by the Otago Excursion Train Trust in 2009 from enthusiast Reid McNaught, who had leased the locomotive to the TGR since 2006.


Key: In service In service, Mainline Certified Under overhaul/restoration Stored Static display Scrapped
Number Builder Builder's number Year built Leased/Purchased by the TGR Notes
DE 504 English Electric 1742 1952 1993 TMS: DE 1337. Entered NZR service on 7 August 1952. Withdrawn on 11 October 1986. It was sold to Otago Polytech around the same time. In 1993 it was sold to the Taieri Gorge Limited and restored in their blue livery. It is used for work trains but can sometimes be seen on excursion trains. In 2006 DE 1337 was renumbered as DE 504 and repainted in red with white stripes.
DJ 3021 Mitsubishi 1509 1967 2000 Pre-TMS: DJ 1202. Entered NZR service in January 1968. Withdrawn in April 1990 and moved to Ranfurly a year later. In 2000 it was sold to Taieri Gorge Limited and is currently stored at Middlemarch since 15 March 2000 as an unserviceable hulk.
DJ 3044 Mitsubishi 1511 1967 2011 Pre-TMS: DJ 1204. Entered NZR service in February 1968. Withdrawn in April 1990. Purchased by the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust and moved to their Parnell depot. In 2011 it was sold to the Taieri Gorge Limitedand scrapped for parts for the six serviceable DJs operated by the TGR.
DJ 1209 Mitsubishi 1511 1967 February 2008 TMS: DJ 3096. Entered NZR service on 20 February 1968. Withdrawn in July 1992 but kept as apart of the Tranz Rail Heritage Fleet. It worked at around Northland in November 1995. It was withdrawn in February 2008 and was then purchased by the Taieri Gorge Limited in the same month. Restored to working order in 2009 and repainted in its former Southerner Blue livery. On 19 August 2010 while hauling a Taieri Gorge Limited service near Flat Stream Viaduct, one of its twin turbo chargers that was allowing turbo cooling oil into its Caterpillar D398 V-12 which damaged the engine block. Further damage was made after a fire broke out by the hot turbocharger. It then spread to the DJ's fuel tank when the fuel level sight glass melted. DJ 3107 hauled the stressed locomotive to Pukerangi where the volunteer fire service put the fire out. It was moved to TGR's Dunedin maintenance depot for rebuilding. The rebuilt included a remanufactured Caterpillar D398 V-12 engine and repairs to the engine room. 1209 returned to service in early January 2012.
DJ 3107 Mitsubishi 1511 1967 March 1992 Pre-TMS: DJ 1210. Named Otago Daily Times. Entered NZR service in March 1968. Withdrawn in March 1992. Purchased by the Taieri Gorge Limited in the same month. On 29 January 1999 it caught fire in the Taieri Gorge during an excursion. Overhauled with a new D398 V-12 engine and repainted. Returned to service on 20 October 2000.
DJ 3211 Mitsubishi 1528 1967 March 1992 Pre-TMS: DJ 1221. Entered NZR service in June 1968. Withdrawn in March 1992. Purchased by the Taieri Gorge Limited in the same month.
DJ 3228 Mitsubishi 1529 1967 March 1992 Pre-TMS: DJ 1222. Entered NZR service in June 1968. Withdrawn in March 1992. Purchased by the Taieri Gorge Limited in the same month.
DJ 1227 Mitsubishi 1534 1967 July 1992 TMS: DJ 3286. Entered NZR service in October 1968. Withdrawn in July 1992. Purchased by the Taieri Gorge Limited in the same month. In 2011 it was repainted into the Southerner Blue livery and renumbered as DJ 1227 to replace DJ 1209.
DJ 1240 Mitsubishi 1547 1967 July 1992 TMS: DJ 3424. Entered NZR service in January 1969. Withdrawn in July 1992. Purchased by the Taieri Gorge Limited in the same month. In 2006 it was repainted into the NZR Midland Red livery and renumbered as DJ 1240 for the Dunedin Railway Station's 100th birthday celebrations where it hauled excursions with visiting locomotives. In 2009 it was repainted back to blue but kept its pre-TMS number.
RM 24 Nissho-Iwai n/a August 1972 October 2012 Pre-TMS: RM 2. Entered NZR service on 14 December 1972. On 21 November 1975 it was involved with a cattle truck. With repairs done it was returned to service. On 23 December 1993 it was involved with a collision at the Telephone Road level crossing between Eureka and Ruakura. In 2009 RM 24 was refurbished at the Wellington Passenger Depot. In October 2012 it was leased to the Taieri Gorge Limited from KiwiRail and is now used on excursions.
TR 111 A & G Price 208 1963 2006(Leased)/2009(purchased) TMS: TR 442. Entered NZR service in November 1963. Withdrawn and sold to Reid McNaught. In 2006 it was leased to the Taieri Gorge Limited. In October in the same year it was repainted into the NZR Midland Red livery and took part in the Dunedin Railway Station's 100th birthday celebrations. It was then sold in 2009 to the TGL and is now used for shunting duties.


Heritage carriage at Hindon

'Scarrett' heritage carriages[edit]

All trains currently include some of TGR's 11 ex-New Zealand Government Railways 'Scarrett' heritage carriages built between 1915 and 1923 in wood with open platform ends and gangways and 37 seats.[6] TGR has started retiring these carriages largely to provide bogies for the 56-foot stock which did not have their own when purchased by TGR. One, A 1327, was been sold to Mainline Steam in 2013 while two more, A 1005 and A 1467, were unsuccessfully offered for sale minus bogies on TradeMe in March 2013.

One of the carriages, A 1254, is owned by the Ocean Beach Railway and leased by the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society to TGR. This carriage will be returned to the OBR at the conclusion of its lease.


TGR has three steel-clad NZR 50-foot carriages, formerly used on Dunedin suburban trains. These have 30-37 seats, enclosed vestibules and covered gangways and were built by New Zealand Railways Department in 1930-33.[6] One of these is an AF class car-van with a small guard's compartment at one end while the other two are A class carriages. A fourth A class carriage was sold to the Weka Pass Railway in 2009.

In-house built panorama car at Dunedin Railway Station

'Jungle Gym' TGR panorama cars[edit]

TGR has three all-steel air conditioned panorama cars with open platform ends and open gangways similar to the 'Scarrett' cars, known locally as 'Jungle Gyms' due to the nature of their framework when under construction. These were designed and built by the OETT in 1987-92, with a "very distinctive shape to fit the tunnels".[6] Two of these carriages were built on Z class 'roadsider' van underframes while the third was built on the underframe of guard's van F 529.


In September 2007 the TGR announced that it had purchased 12 NZR 56-foot carriages formerly used on the Wairarapa Connection to replace its heritage wooden open platform cars[3] and its ex-Dunedin suburban NZR 50-foot carriages.[citation needed] The first of these, A2325, was prepared at a cost of $45,000 and was ready in September 2008. The company anticipated having three carriages in service by the end of 2008, and all 12 by 2013.[7] The upgrade included new seating, carpets, toilets and external paint. The railway intends to refurbish three carriages each year.[8]

Freight haulage[edit]

In the early 2000s the TGR investigated the possibility of introducing log haulage between Mount Allan and Port Chalmers at the end of the Port Chalmers Branch. However on 12 June 2007 it was announced that a cost difference of NZ$5 million existed between road and rail haulage in favour of road, and potential government subsidies were insufficient to close the gap. The announcement was met with disappointment by the Dunedin City Council, which favourably viewed the rail option as it was more environmentally friendly and would have reduced traffic congestion.[9]

It has since been worked out that with extra damage caused by the logging trucks on the Mosgiel to Port Chalmers road that it would have been cheaper to perform the operation by rail, but despite pleas by the local council, Wenita, the relevant company, said it had invested too much in the road option to change its plans.[citation needed]

The route's loading gauge restricts the maximum size of rolling stock that can operate on the railway; some freight wagons cannot use the line.[6]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Policies". Dunedin City Council Community Plan 2009/10 – 2018/19. 2, section 4. Dunedin City Council. 2009. p. 291. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  2. ^ About the Taieri Gorge Railway (from the official Taieri Gorge Railway website)
  3. ^ a b Taieri Gorge Railway - 2006-2007 Times & Destinations - Leaflet by Taieri Gorge Railway Limited, March 2006
  4. ^ "Wingatui Station". Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand. Retrieved 2014-04-09. 
  5. ^ "Along the way - Taieri Gorge Railway". Taieri Gorge Limited. Retrieved 2014-04-09. 
  6. ^ a b c d e 'technical information' on TGR website, retrieved 2009-05-10
  7. ^ Stevens, Sam (13 September 2008). "New Taieri Gorge carriage on display". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  8. ^ New Zealand Railway Observer, December 2008-January 2009
  9. ^ Simon Hartley, "Costs Rule Out Rail in the Long Run", Otago Daily Times, 12 June 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cunningham, Gerald (2011). The Taieri Gorge Railway: Guide to the Taieri Gorge and Seasider Rail Trips. Albany, Auckland: David Bateman Ltd. ISBN 978-1-86953-815-6. 
  • Dangerfield, J. A.; Emerson, G. W. (2010). Over The Garden Wall: The Story of the Otago Central Railway (4th ed.). Dunedin: The Otago Railway & Locomotive Society Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-473-17363-0.  (soft-bound); 978-0-473-17362-3 (hard-bound).
  • Hurst, Tony (2008). The Otago Central Railway: A tribute (5th expanded ed.). Wellington: transpress. ISBN 978-1-877418-05-1. 

External links[edit]