It was just phenomenal to see how those men had dug into the side of the gorge and built the railway in the late 19-th century.
"It's such rugged countryside, they [the railway workers] must have just about killed themselves - and many did die. They did it all by hand; there was none of the machinery that would be used today.
"The railway was built to get goods down the mountain from the farms to the port; it's so steep, there was really no other way.
"The Taieri train is a beautiful old train, which we boarded at Dunedin Railway Station.
"Inside, there were old-style carriages, with little tables with one or two seats on either side.
"We had gone on the New Zealand cruise specifically to do the train trip as we missed it on a previous cruise and realised afterwards that it was something we should have done.
"The scenery was incredible and we had a very good commentary on the train, so we learnt all about the history and some of the personal tales of the railway line.
"We stopped at Pukerangi, where some passengers got off, but we stayed on to do the full journey to Middlemarch, where there was a barbecue available, or you could go over the road to the pub for lunch.
"The trip took a whole day; the return train journey is about six hours and we had to get a bus to and from the railway station, although that was very easy.
"I loved the whole experience: the scenery, the social atmosphere on the train and the stories.
"I found it so interesting, I brought a DVD back to watch and show all my friends."
Value for money
Royal Caribbean offers a six-hour Taieri Gorge railway excursion from $189 an adult, including lunch.
Noelene and Ted opted to make their own arrangements and booked the train trip online before leaving Australia, which saved them some money but meant they had to make their own way to the railway station and back to the ship in time.
Noelene warns that the train was full and some passengers from the ship were unable to get a ticket, so booking is essential.
"Whichever way you do it, it's something you've got to do," she says. "It is really worth seeing."
WHO Noelene Davy, of Canberra, on her second cruise.
WHAT A day trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway in Dunedin, New Zealand. The historic train journey takes passengers through a spectacular river gorge (taieri.co.nz).
WHERE Dunedin is on the south-eastern coastline of the South Island.
THE SHIP Noelene travelled with a friend, Ted, on a 14-night cruise to both islands of New Zealand, starting and finishing in Sydney, on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas (royalcaribbean.com).
As told to Jane E. Fraser
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