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Otago Central Railway
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Otago Central Railway

|} The Otago Central Railway or Otago Central Branch Railway (OCB), now often referred to as the Taieri Gorge Railway, was a secondary railway line in Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand.



Construction of the OCB began in 1877 and the 27-km section to Hindon was opened in 1889. The line was completed to Middlemarch two years later. The line reached Cromwell, 236 km, in 1921. The Clyde - Cromwell section (20 km) was closed in 1980 due to construction of the Clyde Dam, a hydro-electric power station in the Cromwell Gorge on the Clutha River.


The branch begins at Wingatui on the Main South Line south of Dunedin. After the branch line closed, the first four kilometres were retained in the national railway network as a service line to local industries. The Taieri Gorge Railway officially begins at the 4 km peg and shortly thereafter passes around a spectacular horseshoe curve at the foot of the Salisbury bank and begins a climb at 1 in 50 to the summit at 145 m, the entrance to the Taieri Gorge. The railway remains in the gorge for 35 km, crossing 16 major bridges with a total length of 1020 m and passing through 10 tunnels with a total length of 1491 m. In the second half of the gorge section the line climbs steadily to exit the gorge at Pukerangi (45 km, 254 m altitude) and then descends into the Strath Taieri plateau before reaching Middlemarch at 64 km. Features of interest are the many high viaducts, the highest (47 m) at 13 km also being the longest (198 m).

Motive power

Steam era

Initially the line was worked by Public Works Department F class tank engines. The Railways Department used R class locomotives until 1895 when 2-8-0 T class tender engines were introduced. They were still in service in 1905. O and P class locomotives were regularly used as were 2-6-2 V class engines. The O class engines were transferred to the North Island between 1898 and 1902. The P class engines were still working the line as late as 1915. The ten Ub class locomotives were all allocated to Dunedin and were the mainstay of the line from the 1900s to the 1930s and B and Ba class engines were used occasionally. Q class engines worked the line in the 1940s. Ab class locomotives were introduced in 1936.

Diesel era

The OCB was one of the first sections of the NZR system to be fully dieselised. The last regular steam-hauled train left Cromwell on 23 February 1968. Two steam excursion trains later conveyed photographers along parts of the line: Ab 777 to Ranfurly on 27 October 1968 and Ab 693 to Middlemarch on 5 April 1969.

Dh class diesel-electric locomotives were introduced on the line in February 1957 running as far as Clyde. They were reclassed as Dg in 1968 and were withdrawn by 1983. The Dh/Dg engines were too heavy to run on the lighter rails of the Cromwell Gorge but the much lighter Dj class diesel locomotives (with 10.3 tonne axle loading) were allowed to run through to Cromwell. With the introduction of these locomotives on 26 February 1968 the remaining Ab class steam engines were withdrawn. Di class diesels worked the line from 1978 to 1984 but being fewer in number were seen less often than the Djs, which were the mainstay of the line until its closure in 1990.

Passenger services and railcars

Passenger services were introduced in 1900 and replaced with mixed trains in 1917, with passenger trains only running during holiday periods. Passenger trains were reinstated in 1936. One of these trains was involved in the Hyde rail accident in 1943. The passenger trains were again replaced with mixed trains in 1951, in turn replaced with Vulcan Railcars in 1956. The railcar run was cut back to Alexandra in May 1958 and railcars ceased running on 25 April 1976.


The line remained open for some time longer than most other branch lines in the South Island, and was used to move construction materials for the dam project. With the completion of the dam in 1990, there was little other traffic for the line and the line was closed by the New Zealand Railways Corporation on 30 April 1990. Part of the section closest to Dunedin became a tourist railway, the Taieri Gorge Railway. The remainder of the line was lifted and the trackbed developed into the Otago Central Rail Trail.


Wedderburn]], photographed in 2004 after the line's conversion to a rail trail.

  • Wingatui (0 km)
  • Salisbury (10.5 km)
  • Taioma (12 km)
  • Parera (16 km)
  • Mount Allan (21 km)
  • Christmas Creek (25 km)
  • Hindon (27 km)
  • Deep Stream (31 km)
  • Flat Stream (36 km)
  • The Reefs (42 km)
  • Pukerangi (45 km)
  • Matarae (52 km)
  • Matarae Siding (54 km)
  • Sutton (57 km)
  • Middlemarch (64 km)
  • Ngapuna (70 km)
  • Rock and Pillar (77 km)
  • Hyde (90 km)
  • Hyde Township (91.5 km)
  • Tiroiti (98 km)
  • Kokonga (106 km)
  • Waipiata (116 km)
  • Ranfurly (123.5 km)
  • Wedderburn (137 km)
  • Oturehua (149 km)
  • Ida Valley (157 km)
  • Auripo (161 km)
  • Lauder (172 km)
  • Omakau (178.5 km)
  • Chatto Creek (190 km)
  • Galloway (200 km)
  • Alexandra (207 km)
  • Clyde (new)(214 km)
  • Clyde (old)(216 km)
  • Doigs (224 km)
  • Waenga (231 km)
  • Cromwell (236 km)

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