Historic railway carriage added to Lumsden precinct

The historic A199 railway carriage at Lumsden, which was built by New Zealand Railways at Addington, Christchurch, in 1883, and was recovered from Wairio in Western Southland last September by the Lumsden Heritage Trust.

A HISTORIC railway carriage has been added to the collection of locomotives, wagons and carriages on display at the Lumsden Railway Precinct.

Built by New Zealand Railways at Addington, Christchurch, in 1883, the A199 was recovered from Wairio in Western Southland last September by the Lumsden Heritage Trust and transported to Lumsden.

Settled in 1862, and formerly known as The Elbow, due to it being near where the Oreti River turned sharply at a right angle, the railway was important to Lumsden as it was the crossroads to Invercargill in the south, Queenstown (north), Gore (southeast) and Manapouri, Te Anau and Milford Sound to the northwest.

Formed in 2013, the trust recovered and restored locomotions and carriages, and focused on the preservation of items related to the railways and telling its story, trust chair John Titter said.

“Lumsden is a pivotal place in the history of the railways,” he said.

“The entire project has involved a lot of work by a dedicated team of contractors, businesses and supporters, and without them, the trust would not have been able to achieve this latest milestone.”

Mr Titter said the carriage had been languishing in a farmer’s paddock for 58 years.

“It was behind a shed and a row of trees.”

Although other interested groups had asked to retrieve the carriage, they had said it would need to be cut up, so their offers had been declined, he said.

However, the trust had other plans.

Instead they removed the shed and cut back the trees to recover the carriage intact.

Hundreds of hours had been spent restoring the carriage to its former glory with Lumsden carpenter Gordon Lawrence working on all the joinery and timber work, and an “enthusiastic group of volunteers” stripping, preparing and repainting the interior, Mr Titter said.

“The carriage has been taken back to as close to original condition as we could.”

Last week, the A199 was uplifted again and transported about 300m to its “permanent” site in the Lumsden Railway Precinct alongside the former railway platform which would be extended to protect and conserve the refurbished carriage.

“It’s a pretty exciting day for us.”

The carriage was lowered on to restored 1885 bogies (wheel set chassis) which the trust had purchased and retrieved from the Ocean Beach railway where they had been under an old freight wagon.

The A199 would become part of an information centre explaining the history of the railways.

Once it had its finishing touches including installing the windows and some interior finishings, together with interpretation panels, photographs and displays, it would be used to tell the stories of the rolling stock at the precinct in the centre of Lumsden, including the TR diesel locomotive and carriage A525 on lease from the Southland District Council, and two V-class locomotives (V126 and 127) salvaged from the Oreti riverbanks at the Mararoa Junction near Lumsden last year.

As the A199 had been built during the 1800s, the first class compartment would detail the history of the railways of the 1800s to the 1900s.

The only woman to be hanged in New Zealand (Invercargill), the infamous Minnie Dean only travelled in first class, Mr Titter said.

The second class compartment would feature history from 1900 onwards, including the establishment of the trust and other displays.

The trust had located another carriage which had been built in 1877, which they were interested in adding to the collection, he said.

All three carriages, the 1877 carriage, the last of the imported carriages; the 1883 A199, built in New Zealand and the 1896 A525, in a row on rails at the Lumsden Railway Precinct would be a great piece of heritage railway history, he said.