Dunedin was linked to Christchurch in the north by rail in 1878, with a link south to Invercargill completed the following year. Designed by George Troup and opened in 1906, the station pictured above is the fourth building to have served as Dunedin’s railway station, and replaced a simple weatherboard “temporary” structure that was built next to the present site in 1884. At that time the city of Dunedin was an important commercial and industrial centre close to still-active gold and coalfields, and was surrounded by a hinterland that was dependent on both livestock and forestry for its economy. For a time this was New Zealand’s busiest railway station, handling up to 100 trains per day.
Improved road transport lead to a decline in the use of rail and the only regular train service that uses the station today is the Otago Excursion Train Trust’s Taieri Gorge Railway tourist train that runs to Middlemarch in Central Otago. The station is now owned by Dunedin City Council and houses a restaurant, the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the Otago Art Society.
The Dunedin Railway station is a must-see place to visit to gain a glimpse of a time when rail was king and an essential part of the economic infrastructure of the country. The attention to detail that was a feature of government and civil architecture at the time provides quite a contrast to modern architectural styles.