| The Trust
The Otago Excursion Train Trust is the founder of the Taieri Gorge
Railway and is now the joint owner of the company with the Dunedin
City Council. The Trust is an active participant in the operation
of the Taieri Gorge Railway with its volunteer members staffing
many trains as well assisting with maintenance of the railway.
The Trust was formed in 1978 but its genesis goes back to
the 1950's when the Otago Branch of the New Zealand Railway & Locomotive
Society (NZRLS) began running excursion trains both into
Central Otago and on other New Zealand Railway (NZR) lines
out of Dunedin. The decision of NZR in 1976 to cease operating
excursion trains led to the formation of the National Federation
of Rail Societies and an agreement with NZR to allow operation of
privately owned carriages on their tracks.
The Branch (nowdays the Otago Railway & Locomotive Society, operators
of the Ocean Beach Railway) accepted the challenge, purchased a number of veteran
carriages in conditions ranging from fair to derelict and commenced the long
task of restoration. To encourage community support for the project, the Branch
promoted the formation of the Otago Excursion Train Trust to take over the
carriage rebuilding and eventually administer the operation of the train.
The Trust was inaugurated at a public meeting in Dunedin in April 1978 and
operated its first excursion from Dunedin to Cromwell in October 1979. Over
the next decade the Trust carried many thousands of passengers into Central
Otago and through out New Zealand. Highlights have included:
Regular Taieri Gorge excursions, mostly running to Pukerangi.
excursions to the Alexandra "Blossom Festival" in
Excursions for members and public from Dunedin to Hawkes Bay (in the
North Island) and the West Coast of the South Island.
Dunedin to Hastings charter train carrying scouts to their national
Bluff to Okaihau charter train (from the furthest south to the furthest
north on NZR lines) to carry members of the Young Farmers to their
Trains from ship side in Port Chalmers to carry cruise ship passengers
into the Taieri Gorge.
Last passenger train to Cromwell in 1980 before the Clyde - Cromwell
section of the Otago Central Railway was closed to allow construction
of the Clyde hydro-electric dam.
Last passenger trains to Clyde before the Middlemarch - Clyde section
of the railway closed in April 1990.
By the mid-1980's the Trust
realised that the Taieri Gorge had considerable potential for tourism.
To cater for this market it was decided to operate a daily train during the
summer months offering a high standard of service. This new service required
the construction of a new style of carriage with wide panorama
windows, air conditioning and modern catering facilities.
The first of these was completed in time for the launching
of the Taieri Gorge Limited service in February 1987. (The
name followed the tradition of using the term Limited to
denote a prestige train having a limited number of carriages and making
limited stops.) This service also saw the employment of paid
train staff instead of volunteers, although volunteers still
play a major role in the operation of the charter and excursion
By December 1989 when the NZR announced the closure of the Otago Central Railway,
the "Limited" had become sufficiently established as one of Dunedin's
major tourist attractions that the Dunedin City Council decided to purchase
the line as far as Middlemarch to allow the Trust to continue operations.
The Taieri Gorge Railway
With the Dunedin City Council taking an option to buy the line to Middlemarch
the Trust was faced with the need to raise $1,000,000 to finance the operation
and development of the railway. A successful community appeal raised $1.2
million in cash, pledges and gifts-in-kind to allow the purchase to be
completed and the Taieri Gorge Railway was born.
The Trust leased the track and rail corridor from the City Council and, under
an agreement with NZR, operated its trains between Dunedin and the Taieri Gorge
Railway. A board of directors was appointed to oversee the operation of the
railway and additional staff were employed for maintenance and for the Trust's
growing travel agency business operating from the Dunedin Railway Station.
By 1996 the Trust was faced with a need for more capital to finance
expansion which was difficult to raise under the structure of a community
trust. Once again the Dunedin City Council was approached and an agreement
was made to form the Taieri Gorge Railway Limited as a Local Authority Trading
Enterprise (essentially a company owned by a local government authority).
The Council and the Trust sold their railway assets to the new company
in exchange for shares and both appoint directors to the company's board.