Prices Creek, Otago Central Branch

Prices Creek was a steam locomotive watering place at 59.5 miles on the Otago Central branch. Opened in 1924, it operated until 1963 when the branch line was deviated to replace the bridge over the creek. The deviated route is part of the Otago Central Rail Trail and those traveling on the trail at this location, just north of the No.11 Tunnel, may choose to make a small side trip to investigate the old route.

Map of Prices Creek area. It was between the public stations at Hyde (91 km) and Tiroiti (98 km).
Prices Creek as seen in 1966. Although the original route had been abandoned for three years by that stage much of the track and bridge still remained.
Prices Creek area as seen in a current aerial, with the rail trail replacing the railway line that is visible in the earlier photo.
A zoomed in view of the 1966 aerial, showing more detail of the old bridge, and the foundation supports for the water tank to the right. A photo from the George Emerson collection shows a round tank, which would have fitted with the pattern of beams visible for the base. Various photos of the bridge confirmed with the above aerial view shows by the time it closed there were eight spans although it is possible an earlier version of the bridge only had six spans. The above aerial and photos also show that the end spans were made of wooden beams, whilst the four central spans had steel beams. When the bridge was abandoned the steel beams were salvaged whilst the wood was simply abandoned. The DOC research publications on the bridges say the bridge was sold for a pittance because the farmer owning the land would not grant access.
George Emerson took this 1959 photo of the original Prices Creek bridge with a northward-heading excursion train hauled by a pair of Ab class steam locomotives. The train has stopped at the water tank in order to refill the tenders of the steam locomotives. When the deviation was built, there is no record of any new water tank being located nearby. By 1963, steam locomotion was being phased out on the Otago Central line and replaced by Dh class diesel electrics, with passenger services operated by diesel powered Vulcan railcars, reducing the need to maintain facilities such as this for steam engines, although it was not until 1968 that sufficient diesel engines (in the form of the Dj class) were available to enable steam traction to be completely phased out on the line. This photo has been scanned from “Over The Garden Wall”, a historical book about the Otago Central Line; the third edition was published by the Otago Railway and Locomotive Society in 1995.

The remains of the original Prices Creek bridge were still evident until the line closed, but since that time with the increased public access via the rail trail, the site is now virtually clear. Another historical feature seen on the line were three old sheep wagons dumped at the bottom of the railway embankment to the south of the present Prices Creek bridge (thought to be in the 1970s). These were retrieved in February 2022 by rail heritage organisations and one of them is now on display at Middlemarch Railway Station.