IF plans to relocate the Kingston Flyer to the city are realised, it will contribute to making Invercargill the “heritage wheels” hub of New Zealand, Southern Steam Train Charitable Trust (SSTCT) trustees say.
SSTCT launched its plans to purchase, restore and relocate the historic steam train to Invercargill at a meeting on Sunday.
“The key is to secure [the Kingston Flyer] for perpetuity as a community-owned asset,” trust chairman Lindsay Buckingham said.
Initially the idea was to run a daily service between Invercargill and Bluff, but further investigation determined the operating and maintenance costs were prohibitive, he said.
Instead, SSTCT proposed to model its operation on the successful rail heritage organisation Steam Incorporated in Paekakariki.
“For us it is a really good compromise.”
SSTCT was undertaking a feasibility study, which was expected to be completed by early next year.
The six-year project involved restoring the locomotives and carriages to mainline standard and running a semi-regular operation to coincide with events in the region, such as the Edendale Crank Up Weekend, Bluff Oyster and Food Festival and the Burt Munro Challenge, as well as making the train available for private hire and one-off excursions or charters, Mr Buckingham said.
He declined to say how much the project was expected to cost.
The Kingston Flyer’s two locomotives and seven carriages were on the market for $2 million, but they were in a “derelict” condition and would need “significant expenditure” to bring them up to operating standards, he said.
Dunedin Railways had expressed an interest in utilising the Kingston Flyer and Steam Incorporated had offered its locomotives to SSTCT at certain times of the year, he said.
“The synergies and opportunities are there.”
SSTCT member Roger Beattie said the group planned to develop a static display at the Invercargill railway station in Leven St while the train’s restoration was under way to generate interest and help enliven the area, which was a “pivotal place” in the inner city.
The Invercargill railway station building is owned by the YMCA and the station platform is owned by KiwiRail.
Invercargill Mayor and SSTCT trustee Tim Shadbolt said the project fitted in well with the Southland Regional Development Strategy’s goals.
The Kingston Flyer would contribute to the region’s celebration of transportation alongside the Bill Richardson Transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca, he said.
The group was now seeking feedback from the wider community to gauge interest in the project.