My main goal in Dunedin was to ride the Taieri Gorge Railroad. The narrow gauge line was built from Dunedin to the gold fields at Cromwell. It carried supplies to the gold fields an on the back haul brought agricultural products, especially lovestock, back to Dunedin. In 1980 the government started the Clyde power scheme in which a hydro dam was designed that would flood the track cutting off the run to Cromwell. For its last decade the train did very well hauling supplies to build the dam and power lines. At that time there was a lot of clear cutting near the right of way so the train had a lot of business.
Otago Excursion Train Trust had been running excursion trains since 1979. In 1987 it started running excursion trains through the Taieri Gorge. In 1989 the New Zealand railways announced it would close the Taieri line in 1990. To keep the excursion trains running the city bought the line and the trust started raised $1.2 million to help run the line. The trust worked with cruise ship lines on marketing the line to give it customers. In 1994 the government sold the Dunedin railway station to the city and the excursions started operating out of the station. In 1995 the trust reincorporated into the Taieri Gorge Railway Company. In 2002 the New Zealand railroad stopped passenger service along the coast so the Taieri Gorge Railway company started running the Seasider train 126km up the coast. They rebranded the company as Dundein Railways. The trains carry that livery today.
The trains use New Zealand class diesel electric engines built by Mitsubishi in the late 1960s and bought from New Zealand railways. The rail line has several different types of rail cars. The panorama cars have big windows and class on the roof for a panoramic view. We were not on such a car, although there were panoramas on our train. Luck of the draw. We were on a wooden carriage designed in 1907 and built in 1922. It has smaller windows than the panorama, is noisier so you can only hear every 5th word of narration, mostly articles and conjunctives, it does not have an outdoor platform and it does not have a toilet. On the positive side the windows open, it was the last car on the train so you could look backward through the glass and you get to ride on a 96 year old rail car. How cool is that! Our car also had a volunteer “guide” named Yvonne. She answered questions and keep a seemingly unlimited supply of two New Zealand whites, one New Zealand, and both dark and light beer and Pepsi coming. We also had little gingerbread locomotives and chocolates to eat with our morning tea. For lunch; sandwiches, quiche, potato salad, cake and grapes. We were well cared for and the scenery was pretty nice.
We boarded the train in Port Chalmers and rode the 12 km along Otago Bay to Dunedin and then up to Pukweangi, the high point on the run. We met another train already there from the other cruise ship. It left when our train got onto a siding and out of the way. Then it was out turn to go back to Dunedin where we got off at the historic train station. Our train went back up the mountain with a new complement of passengers. The train takes hikers to mountain trails and takes bicycles up the mountain so folks can ride down.