26 November 2019
We arrived in Port Chalmers for Dunedin on schedule but had to wait an allocated 45 minutes between cruise ships to dock, as the Celebrity Solstice had docked ahead of us. After breakfast we made our way to the Michelangelo Dining Room which was our muster point for departure. There were four groups taking the train trip and some were taking other tours after the train returned. Once underway we simply walked down the gangway and were allocated our train carriage for the journey. The train track comes right to Port Chalmers which is about half an hour outside of Dunedin and makes this a very easy excursion to take.
It wasn’t long and we were served tea or coffee and a gingerbread biscuit and as we rolled out of Dunedin we could make use of the viewing car for photos and listen to the commentary. The train is fully staffed by volunteers and they do a wonderful job. Two gentlemen took care of our carriage all through the journey and were very helpful.
Not only is the journey very scenic but we also learned of the engineering feats of New Zealand’s early pioneers, set among the stunning landscape of the gorge. Negotiating the winding gorge, the train travels through ten tunnels and across numerous bridges including the famous Wingatui Viaduct – the second largest wrought iron structure in operation in the world.
After Wingatui we passed some farming country with sheep and some horse studs before commencing the climb along the top of the Taiere River, firstly on our left side and then changing to the right. We passed areas of forestry where some trees have been harvested and then replanted and whilst we all thought the yellow flowering plants were delightful to look at they are apparently weed and almost uncontrollable. The river views and the green countryside made for a very scenic trip.
We were provided with a choice of NZ wine, beer or softdrinks and some pretzels before reaching our turning point at Pukerangi where we could hop off the train to stretch our legs for about 20 minutes while they changed the engines to the other end of the train for the return journey. There were also local markets if you wished to make a purchase.
Once we were back on board we were served our picnic box lunch and we were surprised to find a cheese and salad roll, vegetable pasta, friand, brie and crackers as well as fruit. The drinks were topped up and we descended to Dunedin station where we could leave the train if we wished or be taken back to Port Chalmers. We chose to spend some time in the city centre. It took some doing to take this full shot of Dunedin Railway Station which is said to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.