After the Rail Trail: Taieri Gorge Railway
We farewelled Elizabeth and boarded the train which would whisk us through the Taieri Gorge to Dunedin.
Did you spot the trick word? If you’re familiar with NZ rail journeys you’ll know that ‘whisk’ is the opposite of how quickly you get to your destination – especially on a heritage service like this.
(Hence my first visit to the UK blew my little mind – seeing the regional trains blow past and experiencing the Eurostar to Paris.)
Our relatively slow trains are OK by me though. The key word is ‘journey’; I love getting from A to B by rail for the opportunity it provides to sit back and take in the landscapes (and take 183 photos or so).
The Taieri Gorge train travels the full distance through to Middlemarch only a couple of times a week. As a round trip it’s six hours with stops, and our one-way 77km journey would see us in Dunedin in 2.5 hours.
So long, Middlemarch!
We had looked forward to this but unfortunately we were a bit disappointed. Enough time has lapsed for specifics to be lacking, but I have vague memories that clear open views were infrequent (possibly a slightly blonde comment; it is after all a gorge!) and window viewing slightly constrained (they are after all oldish carriages).
The tour commentary was useful as we chugged by points of interest and I was able to seize Kodak moments on a few occasions when valleys opened out and curved approaches permitted views of viaducts and tunnels. The train made a planned stop in the gorge and we were able to step outside for a few minutes.
Beyond the superficial outward experience though is the appreciation that this is an historic railway. NZ is very fortunate that it is still running, the Dunedin City Council and community having saved the Dunedin-Middlemarch leg after the Central Otago line was closed in 1990.
We rolled into Dunedin Railway Station – a stunning building, something I didn’t really realise until standing in front of it. The sky and light were a bit unusual as a result of the horrendous bush fires over in Australia. We couldn’t linger for more than a quick photo as a rental car was waiting for us somewhere.
I’d only ever driven though the outskirts of Dunedin before. A 24-hour stay this time would still be very fleeting, but at least a step up from that.