Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | February 22, 2009

Barry’s Train

How far can you go to merge your interest, profession and social cause? Barry Brickell seems to have gone very far and successfully.

Driving Creek Carriage

Driving Creek Carriage

During our Christmas trip to Coromandel, we visited Barry’s pottery village and took a ride on his Driving Creek Railway. We enjoyed it thoroughly.

Barry is a potter, conservationist and railway enthusiast. Long back sometimes in late 60’s and 70’s when Barry found out that most of the raw materials for the making of terracotta pottery garden wares, tiles and sculpture come from the volcanic hills above, he thought of creating the train.

It took Barry 15 years and lot of money to construct this mountain railway. Finally in 1990 the Government licensed the railway to carry fare-paying public and to day it is New Zealand’s one of the beautiful attractions.

Double-Decker Bridge

Double-Decker Bridge

Unless and until you take a trip on this train you cannot realize the fun being on it. The carriages are open on both sides and as it starts slowly to move up the hills you are inside deep dense forests with ferns and famous native kauris. The train passes through two spirals, 3 short tunnels and five reversing points. It also passes some viaducts as it climbs up to the mountaintop terminus. The train also travels on a double-decker bridge where two trains pass simultaneously – one above another. I never thought such a thing could exist.

While you ride the train on either side you see exhibits of Barry’s pottery work while you travel. Barry and his team have very intelligently used waste wine bottles to bind the soil.

Our Destination on top

Our Destination on top

These days the Barry’s Driving Creek Railway also plays a huge part in forest conservation. In order to restore the land and its uniquely magnificent indigenous kauri forests, proceeds from the railway are used for forest conservation.

Riding the train we reached Eyefull Tower to have spectacular views of Hauraki Gulf with valleys and mountains.

In this one-hour return trip we were touched by Barry’s endeavor. It is unbelievable that he has done everything on his own initiative and is still continuing to do that. There are many who wait for variety of support to get going.

I suggest anyone who seriously want to pursue their dreams go through Barry’s website. Conservationists worldwide face similar problems with bureaucracy and government actions. Barry’s note in this regard may throw some light too.

His interesting journey may not fill pages of history books but undoubtedly he is an achiever.


PS: Some interesting (but unrelated) aspects on names:

Coromandel Peninsula lies in North Island of NZ and is very near to Auckland. In India, we have Coromandel Coast situated in South-East India. Interesting bit is why these places have similar names. I guess it is a coincidence.

Wikipedia records the following about naming of Coromandel coast, ‘according to The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea By Wilfred Harvey Schoff, the Chola coast was derived from the native Tamil name Chola-mandalam, from which the Portuguese derived our modern word Coromandel.’

As regards to Coromandel Peninsula the internet says, ‘the township of Coromandel is situated on an inlet called McGregor Bay and was named after the British Navy ship “H.M.S. Coromandel“ which anchored first off Colville on 13 June 1820. The ship stayed in the Hauraki Gulf for 12 months then went back to England with a load of timber.’



  1. Strange to hear of Coromandel in New Zealand!

    Oh, Barry is an achiever indeed. I envy his kind, and wish them good luck in all their endeavours.

    His train reminded me of the one I took from a little town called Williams in the US to travel to the Grand Canyon. It was an old train, pulled by a steam locomotive, which a businessman-enthusiast just like Barry had bought, renovated, and turned into a moneyspinner by giving trips to hordes of happy tourists. They photographed our Rotary Club team posing in front of the train, and printed it in the town newspaper…

  2. Such individual feat is amazing ! We have the toy trains to Darjeeling and Shimla, they are marvels but because of alternative and speedier options, they are hardly used and are being maintained as heritage items.
    Your research on Coromandel was quite enlightening !

  3. Right from my childhood days till today I have always been fascinated by the railways and the airways. And I cannot withstand the sight of buses. Don’t know why. But that’s the way it is.

    After following your blog, I am almost determined to do my best to get a nice job in Auckland if my fate permits so in the future. And I will go with you again to have a ride on this fascinating railway. What a man Barry was! Wow! And what a wonderful picture Tanmoyda at the top of your blog. Do keep it. It is really magnificent. I want to see it for a few days. So keep it there. Please.

  4. The name Coromandel is derived from the word Cholamondal meaning the land of Chola’s. The name is neither English nor Maori.It is Sanskrit.Strange that we found the peninsula named as such.Nice that you wrote about Barry Brickwell and his achievement.

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