Day Fifty Four: Taieri Gorge Train Trip

This was it, the only other “must do” thing on my list for my time here in New Zealand: the day had arrived to take the train from the Dunedin Railway Station out through the Taieri Gorge to Middlemarch (and back again). Because I knew I’d be sitting on the train for a good part of the day I decided to leave the car at the motel and just walk down to the station. As it was, it only took me about 15 or so minutes to get there so I had time to stop in the station cafe for a proper cup of coffee before boarding.

I know you have been wondering why I haven't been posting coffee photos... (yeah, right!)

I know you have been wondering why I haven’t been posting coffee photos… (yeah, right!)

The seats are assigned on the trip, so I popped into the ticket office to see where they’d put me. Not that I cared as long as I was on the train somewhere! As it turned out, I’d been assigned the seat right by the door, with plenty of leg room. Geez, I wish Air New Zealand would give a gal this much space! (hint, hint…not that anyone from there reads my blog!)

There is NOTHING like taking a pretty trip in a vintage rail car!

There is NOTHING like taking a pretty trip in a vintage rail car!

inside the rail car

The train had multiple cars, including a baggage car, several passenger cars, a dining car, and way at the back an observation car (I assume that meant “open” like on the train we took up to Picton from Christchurch, although I did not go to that end of the train to find out). Before we left we were introduced to the staff by a friendly voice over the speakers who also turned out to be our on-board commentary and history/fact pointer-outer person.

engine and baggage car

engine and baggage car

side of baggage car

Once we’d gotten underway a very nice fellow named Joe came by to collect our tickets and confirm who was getting off where. As is the case with many of the Kiwis I’ve met, he immediately engaged everyone in the car in the conversation about where we all came from and had a joke or a story to tell about where we were from. He’d been to San Francisco at the end of an epic five week trip he took last year, and had really enjoyed his time there. Said he’d been let into Alcatraz, and they even let him off again. Because I was a solo traveler he really made sure that I was comfortable and having a good time throughout the trip.

We left Dunedin, passing past the rail yards where the vintage fleet is maintained, then traveled past some rather industrial looking areas where a huge scrap metal operation was in full swing and out through some suburbs before we got out to the country. I didn’t get very good photos because it was so bright out, so take a look on the Taieri link (above) to see better ones.

Our short leg-stretching stop on the way to Middlemarch.

Our short leg-stretching stop on the way to Middlemarch.

This particular herding dog is still alive and will sometimes come to the station to meet people and get photographed. She was still working when we stopped, so we didn't see her.

This particular herding dog is still alive and will sometimes come to the station to meet people and get photographed. She was still working when we stopped, so we didn’t see her.

Hindon dog sculpture plaque

train route

train route 2

Once we were past the gorge it was back out into flat country...and sheep.

Once we were past the gorge it was back out into flat country…and sheep.

We arrived at Middlemarch right on time, and were told to be back on the train in 55 minutes. It was a tiny town, so I had a quick walk around. Most people come here to start or end their trip on the Otago Central Rail Trail, which is the 150 kilometer long bike/walking/horse trail that starts where the train tracks end. There is also a bus link that will take you on to Queenstown if that’s your destination.

Middlemarch station

Middlemarch map

Middlemarch map

Middlemarch Bank of New Zealand

Middlemarch Fire Service

Middlemarch rail crossing

Middlemarch rail crossing

Strath Taieri Rabbit Board building

Strath Taieri Rabbit Board building

The whistle blew to warn us it was time to go and we were off again on the return journey. On board Joe was also the head salesman of souvenirs, and I picked up a video, postcards, several history / photo books, and because he just kept giving me things for free (lucky me!), several pens, fridge magnets and a key chain. There were many new riders in our car on this part of the trip, and it was fun to meet them and compare notes on what they’d seen in New Zealand. The young staff girl from the dining car was sent through the train to sell us ice cream only after it was announced that it was her birthday and we should all be sure to say happy birthday to her…which we were all happy to do! Our return trip was made all the more beautiful by the fact that I’d finally managed to get my window open and so had a clear view from the train. As luck would have it, that was when my camera batteries chose to crap out on me. I MUST remember to have spares with me! We got back to Dunedin just a few minutes late after we had a small delay while we waited on a side loop for a chartered train (cruise ship passengers) to pass us on the single track.

Anyone who is a train buff should put this on their to-do list if they’re in Dunedin! I’m sure glad I did!!

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