Driving Creek Railway
380 Driving Creek Road, Coromandel
PO Box 87, Coromandel, 3543
Ph/Fax: 07 8668-703
Three trains at the No. 5 Reversing Point
The 1 hour return trip on our innovatively designed trains takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts as it climbs up to the mountain-top terminus.
Called the Eyefull Tower, this handsome new building (shown below) offers great panoramic views out over the island-studded Hauraki Gulf with the forested valley and mountains behind.
The railway and pottery complex blends into the natural bush setting.
The train ride is one of the most popular in New Zealand. To avoid disappointment, please book at least a day in advance to reserve your seats.
You can either request a booking online or use phone or fax when booking ahead.
Laying track at Chipmans Reversing Point
Track laying began in 1975 by Barry Brickell shortly after he established the pottery workshop on a corner of the 22Ha block of land he purchased in 1973. As a railway enthusiast he saw the practical and environmental advantages of having a narrow-gauge railway system through his rugged scrub-covered land to give all weather access to clay and pine wood kiln fuel. Yellow plastic clay derived from the weathering of the old volcanic rocks. The scattered pine trees are self-sown from original pines planted by the early Californian gold diggers of last century. New Zealand‘s first official gold discovery was made in this district in 1852. Most of the raw materials for the making of terracotta pottery garden wares, tiles and sculpture thus comes from the hills above.
Brickell worked for 15 years and poured a considerable amount of money into railway construction before it was licensed to carry fare-paying public in 1990. This huge gamble has now paid off, while returns from the pottery have been steadily diminishing. A recent move into the tile and brickmaking industry is an exciting new development.Work train with “Elephant” locomotion
Today, the railway carries more passengers than raw materials because it has become a major and unique tourist attraction. Unlike most other tourist railways, the DCR is newly built rather than being an old, line that has been restored. It is New Zealand‘s only narrow-gauge mountain railway. All earlier railways built to convey minerals and timber have been abandoned, some now made into heritage trails.
Early surveying of the tortuous route was done using a home-made instrument and miles of survey tracks had to be cut through the steep scrubby land. A maximum workable adhesion gradient of 1 in 15 was decided upon but the average gradient of the line is about 1 in 26. Despite the narrow gauge of 15 inches (381mm) which allowed for sharper curves, there are plenty of heavy earthworks along the line which necessitated the use of a bulldozer contractor and the digging of some very deep cuttings.
There are several major civil engineering features on the railway. Some of the big viaducts were built under difficult conditions, reminding us of the early colonial engineering feats. The three short tunnels were made by the cut and cover process. Ceramic art works complimenting the engineering can be seen from the train.
The specially designed passenger trains were built at the DCR’s own engineering workshop located beside the potteries. The “Possum” is a 14-seater twin-bogie diesel railcar built in 1994. The “Snake”, a double-articulated 3-bodied train-set, a truly ambitious project was built in 1992. Like a snake it can twist and turn around the sharp curves abounding up the line.
A new train called the Linx is of more sophisticated design, completed in 2004, is similar in seating to the Snake. These units have special features possibly unique in New Zealand railway engineering such as the use of hydraulic transmission and special designs for safe operation on the sharp curves and steep grades. The trains are also fitted with modern air-type braking, air operated track sanding and centre-mounted diesel engines. The “Snake” and “Linx” can accommodate up to 36 people each, which is a modern tour bus load.
There are two older diesel locomotives and various wagons used for conveying clay, wood, native plants for the extensive forest replanting project up the line, and others for construction purposes.Dieselmouse – the very first passenger train
There are five major viaducts and five reversing points up the main line as well as two horseshoe spirals, on the route to the present summit. The double deck viaduct is unique. In a return trip on the railway, trains pass over it four times in different directions on both levels. The two levels are connected by a spiral all in very rugged, forested terrain. The main span is 14 m long and total length of the upper level is 46 m. Its construction took two years.
The Terminal building, the “EyefullTower” at 165 m above sea level offers wide panoramic views over the island-studded Hauraki Gulf and valleys covered in native forest.
Train Timetable 2014
- 10:15am & 2pm daily throughout the year
- over the summer period, additional trains run at 11:30am, 12:45pm, 3:15pm and 4:30pm.
- extra trains may be available at 11:30am, 12:45pm, and 3:15pm throughout the rest of the year for groups of more than 5 adults.
Train Fares 2014
- Adults: $28
- Children: $12 (up to 15 years)
- Family: $68 (2 adults and 2 children)
- Special Excursion Rates: $27 for seniors and $25 students (with ID)
Children under 4 years old can go free if they do not require a seat
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS AVAILABLE: PLEASE ADVISE WHEN BOOKING.
As well as touring the pottery complex you may also spend some time in the craft shop viewing the finished works. You can also find well-researched material on local history and ecology in our bookshop, as well as a variety of souvenirs.
2 3/4 hour drive from Auckland
Take the southern motorway to the bottom of the Bombay Hills, 30 minutes. Take highway 2 to Thames, 1 hour. From Thames take highway 25 to Coromandel. Driving Creek Railway is on Driving Creek Road 3km past the township.