||It has been suggested that Kingston Flyer (train) be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since December 2010.|
|The Kingston Flyer approaching the terminus at Fairlight|
|Built by||Southland Provincial Council (to 1870)
Otago Provincial Council (1870–1876)
Department of Public Works (1877–1878)
|Original gauge||3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)|
|Owned by||Kingston Acquisitions|
|Operated by||Kingston Flyer Steamtrain|
|Length||13.69 kilometres (8.51 mi)|
|Preserved gauge||3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)|
|1886||Kingston Flyer name first used for train between Gore and Kingston after nationalisation of the Waimea Plains Railway.|
|4 October 1937||End of regular passenger services.|
|1957 or 1958||End of holiday season passenger services.|
|21 December 1971||Re-opened to summer season vintage trains.|
|Closed to passengers||17 April 1979|
|Closed||25 November 1979|
|18 December 1982||Kingston – Fairlight re-opened to summer season vintage trains.|
|1 December 1992||Operation sold to NZ Rail.|
|2011||Operation sold to private owner, David Bryce. Services restarted after a two-year lay up.|
The Kingston Flyer is a vintage steam train operating in the South Island of New Zealand at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. It uses 14 kilometres of preserved trackage that once formed a part of the Kingston Branch. It suspended operation in December 2012 due to locomotive problems. Services resumed later that month following the return of the railway's second steam locomotive.
The name "Kingston Flyer" was originally applied to the express passenger trains that ran between Kingston and Gore, Invercargill, and less frequently, Dunedin. The services commenced in the 1890s, not long after the government acquired the Waimea Plains Railway and incorporated it into the national network. In October 1937, passenger services on the Kingston Branch ceased, resulting in the abbreviation of the Waimea Plains passenger services to a Lumsden-Gore service until it too ended, in September 1945. However, excursion trains from Gore and sometimes Dunedin through to Kingston continued to operate at peak holiday seasons until Easter 1957. For many years, these expresses and excursions operated in conjunction with steamers on Lake Wakatipu to provide the primary access to Queenstown.
In 1971, the New Zealand Railways Department announced that they were going to recommence operating a service named the Kingston Flyer as a heritage service. The last use of steam on a regularly scheduled revenue service in New Zealand was on 26 October 1971, and the new Kingston Flyer began operating two months later on 21 December. It utilised the section of the Kingston Branch between Lumsden and Kingston and proved wildly popular. From 1971 until 1979 it operated every summer through to the Easter holiday period, and carried over 30,000 people annually. However, flooding damage to the line between Lumsden and Garston meant that the last Kingston to Invercargill flyer ran on 17 April 1979 and the damaged section of track in question was formally closed in November of that year. For the next three years, the Kingston Flyer operated from Invercargill to Bluff and Wairio, albeit less successfully.
In 1982, the Kingston Flyer was returned by NZR to Kingston before the remaining line, now part of the Mossburn Branch, was closed and removed. The initial intention was to utilise the remaining 20 kilometres of track between Garston and Kingston, but the decision was made to end the line in Fairlight and the additional six kilometres to Garston were closed. Although the original Flyers had typically been operated by locomotives of the Rogers K and V classes, two AB class 4-6-2 locomotives, AB 778 and AB 795 were restored specifically for the Kingston Flyer.
The Kingston Flyer normally operates seven months of the year, from 1 October to 30 April. Two trains run daily, excluding Christmas Day. It is arguably New Zealand's most famous preserved train.
Locomotives and rolling stock
The Kingston Flyer has been operated since 1971 by two AB class steam locomotives:
- AB 778 (entered service in 1925)
- AB 795 (entered service in 1927 and once pulled the New Zealand Royal Train)
From 2000 until 2003, K 92, a preserved member of the Rogers K class that headed the original Flyers, was based in Kingston and operated services both by itself and together with the AB engines. The locomotive was owned by the Waimea Plains Railway Trust and returned briefly during 2008-09 until the bankruptcy when it was recovered by the WPRT and moved to their base at Mandeville on the old Waimea Plains Railway in November that year.
The Flyer also has a resident shunting locomotive, TR 350, a 15-tonne 0-4-0 diesel-hydraulic shunting locomotive built by A & G Price of Thames. This duty had been filled since the 1990s by 0-6-0DM DSA 551, which was recalled by Tranz Rail in 1999 and replaced by the smaller TR. The TR is used to shunt at Kingston and provide motive power for work trains during the winter shutdown.
Initially the Flyer started out with seven wooden-bodied passenger carriages:
|Number||TMS Number||Builder||Year built||Carriage type|
|A 595||A 50702||NZR Addington||1900||47' 6" 'Birdcage' gallery coach|
|A 1255||A 50729||NZR Addington||1913||47' 6" passenger coach|
|A 1518||A 50737||NZR Addington||1923||47' 6" passenger coach|
|A 1521||A 50745||NZR Addington||1923||47' 6" passenger coach|
|AA 1132||A 50710||NZR Petone||1919||47' 6" passenger/refreshments coach|
|AF 950||AF 35||NZR Hillside||1906||47' 6" car-van|
|AF 1172||AF 41||NZR Addington||1911||47' 6" car-van|
An eighth carriage was added by Tranz Rail in 1999. 56' steel-panelled passenger carriage A 1958 (TMS A 56595), a former mainline passenger carriage, was transferred from the Tranz Scenic carriage pool to the Kingston Flyer to bolster capacity. This was the only new rolling stock to be added to the fleet since 1971 when the Flyer began running, and is the most modern carriage in the fleet although it is out of place with the other carriages.
The Flyer also has a small collection of goods wagons including three ballast wagons and an EP class plough van. The majority of the goods stock is used for Way and Works purposes, although there are three flat wagons used around the Kingston locomotive depot for maintenance purposes, primarily to hold locomotive parts.
In November 2008 the operation was offered for sale at $3 million as a going concern. In late August 2009 it was announced that the train would not operate again in the foreseeable future as mounting debt had forced the operation to close. Kingston Acquisitions tried to sell the train in November 2008 to repay about $4.7 million to Christchurch-based finance company Prudential.
Prudential blocked an initial offer by United States-based company Railmark to buy the operation for $2.25m, the insurers refusing to accept anything less than the whole debt being cleared. Invercargill-based enthusiast Karl Barkley attempted to form a Kingston Flyer Steam Train Trust to preserve the Flyer under the auspices of a charitable trust but was unable to raise the necessary funds to purchase the Flyer from Prudential.
In November 2009, the Flyer's owners were put into receivership and the train itself put up for sale. The operation was purchased in August 2011 by New Zealand businessman David Bryce who put it back in operation on 29 October 2011.
In December 2012 the Kingston Flyer was again taken offline, due to the discovery of leaks in AB 778's boiler and owner David Bryce's ongoing health problems. The train resumed operation once the extensive overhaul of AB 795 was finished, and it was claimed the business was once again going to be put up for sale.
Since 2012, the train has been listed on the internet auction site TradeMe for sale with a going price of NZD$2.5 million. This includes the Flyer, all land associated with the railway including the Kingston and Fairlight stations as well as parts of the Kingston wharf and several other development sites in Kingston which are not related to the railway. The train is still currently in operation during the summer season while Bryce seeks a new owner for the railway.
- "Kingston Flyer off the tracks". 3 News NZ. December 10, 2012.
- "Kingston Flyer sale 'not to fund Dunedin Hilton'". Otago Daily Times. 17 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- "Kingston Flyer up for sale". 3 News. 18 November 2009.
- Morton, Sam (11 August 2011). "New owner for Kingston Flyer". The Marlborough Express (Blenheim: Fairfax New Zealand). Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- Kingston Flyer set to fly again RNZ News
- "Kingston Flyer off the tracks". 3 News NZ. December 10, 2012.
- Churchman, Geoffrey B., and Hurst, Tony; The Railways Of New Zealand: A Journey Through History, HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand), 1991 reprint
- Leitch, David, and Scott, Brian; Exploring New Zealand's Ghost Railways, Grantham House, 1998 revised edition