The original line was built by the potter Barry Brickell on his 22-hectare property, which he had acquired in 1961, aiming to start a pottery collective. He started construction of the 15-inch gauge rail line in 1975, originally mainly using it to transport clay and pine wood fuel to his kiln.
In 1975, Brickell purchased a larger 60ha block of land, and began working on what would become the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries. The new line would be of 15in (381mm) gauge instead of 10½in (266mm) gauge, and would serve the same purpose as the original, to bring clay and firewood down from the slopes above the potteries. It would also be used to help re-plant the hillsides on Brickell's property with kauri and other native plants.
The Driving Creek Railway (DCR) was slowly expanded over the next 25 years to become one of the very few completely new railway lines in New Zealand in recent years. The project required significant civil engineering works due to the steep and complex terrain that the line traverses. Among these are the famous Double-Deck viaduct, three tunnels, ten bridges (including the Double-Deck Viaduct) and inclines as steep as 1 in 14. There is also a short branchline from the potteries to a firewood drying shed, including a short bridge, bridge N 1A, just behind the workshops at Driving Creek; this line is not used by passenger trains, although passengers will see the drying shed climbing up from N 1 bridge towards the Lower Spiral. The trip takes approximately 1 hour return.
The line terminates at the Eyefull Tower, completed in 2004 as the final terminus of the railway. The design of the building was based on the Bean Rock Lighthouse in Auckland, and includes a large viewing deck which was added in 2005 at Brickell's suggestion. The view from the Tower has been compared to the Kereta Hill layover just north of Coromandel, although Brickell maintains that the view from the Eyefull Tower is better than that from the Kereta layover.
The attraction now brings over 30,000 people to the railway per year, with much of the proceeds funding nature conservation works.