Even if you’re not a train buff – if you plan on heading to the Coromandel as part of your New Zealand holiday, you should take the time to stop in at the unique Driving Creek Railway, New Zealand’s only narrow-gauge mountain railway.
Conservationist Barry Brickell purchased the land in 1973 in order to set up a pottery workshop. As a train enthusiast he recognised the practical and environmental advantages of building a railway system over the streams of his scrub-covered land to access clay and other raw materials necessary in crafting his terracotta creations, and he began laying the track in 1975.
Fast forward a few decades, and there are now two diesel locomotives and various wagons used for transporting clay, wood and native flora for replanting as part of Driving Creek’s forest regeneration project, created to aid the reintroduction of indigenous wildlife into the predator-free reserve. The specially-designed passenger trains we travelled on are built at the DCR’s own engineering workshop located beside the potteries.
There are five major viaducts and five reversing points up the main line as well as two horseshoe spirals; we loved discovering sculptures and other artworks peeking out of the undergrowth.
What our travellers enjoyed about riding Driving Creek Railway…
- Learning about Barry’s extraordinary conservation efforts that have resulted in Driving Creek Wildlife Sanctuary Trust, chosen by the Department of Conservation to relocate and monitor the Coromandel Striped Gecko, of which only six have ever been found.
- Spotting pottery and murals hidden amongst the flora surrounding the tracks
- Taking in the spectacular panorama from The “Eyefull Tower” Terminal Building, located at 165m above sea level, with views out to the island-studded Hauraki Gulf and surrounding valleys.
- Riding a truly unique railway, built with hard work and strong spirit