The Southern Steam Train Charitable Trust members consists of like-minded people from the Southland community that have the commitment to appraise the possibility of purchasing the Kingston Flyer, relocating it to Invercargill, and restoring it to mainline operating standard for semi regular operation
The fundamental objective of the Southern Steam trust is to preserve in perpetuity, the Kingston Flyer, as a community owned asset.
The Kingston Flyer is a hugely important piece of both Southland and New Zealand railway heritage and it needs to remain as a complete entity within Southland in accordance with the principals of New Zealand Charter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. This charter provides guidelines for cultural heritage conservation within New Zealand.
Significantly the project will include provision of a suitable building(s) which will provide permanent undercover housing, a base for restoration of the locomotives and carriages as well as providing a base for the future display and operation of the Kingston Flyer.
Permanent undercover housing is key to the enduring preservation of these assets, some of which are now over 100 years old. The locomotives and carriages have not been operated nor maintained since April 2013, are in poor condition and are stored at Kingston exposed to the elements and are continuing to deteriorate at a disturbing rate.
Invercargill has the population base, engineering resources and potential pool of both paid & volunteer labour to preserve, restore and operate the Kingston Flyer.
The Operating Strategy
The operating strategy which will commence when at least one locomotive and several carriages are restored to mainline standard, is to run the Kingston Flyer semi regularly on an annual calendar of excursions dovetailing with existing iconic Southland events such the Edendale Crank Up Weekend, Bluff Oyster Festival, Gold Guitar Awards, Burt Munro Challenge and the like.
In additional to the regular excursions other ad hoc local excursions or one off charters on Southland lines to Bluff, Nightcaps and Gore may be run several times a year. Other ad hoc events beyond Southland could include options such as international rugby matches in Dunedin, possibly heading several trains a year on Dunedin Railways (aka Taieri Gorge Railway) and working with other kindred rail heritage organisations such as Steam Incorporated of Paekakariki who run South Island steam tours every two or three years. The intended operating strategy albeit on a smaller scale is intended to be modelled on the Steam Incorporated operation which is arguably the most successful steam charter operator in New Zealand, who are likewise a registered charity
It is recognised and accepted by the Trust that the concept of a daily service in Southland is unlikely to be an economically viable proposition in the foreseeable future.
The reality is, as history attests, that the current but now defunct Kingston Flyer operation which commenced initially in 1971 running each summer season between Lumsden and Kingston and then from 1982 as a truncated service between Kingston to Fairlight has struggled to be run and maintained as an economic business operation. This is even despite being adjacent to the jewel in the New Zealand’s tourism crown, Queenstown. The Flyer has as a result suffered several disastrous cessation of operations during its chequered 45 year history and the current owner has publicly stated that the Flyer cannot be run and maintained as a profitable business based in Kingston.
Significantly it is worth noting as clarification that Queenstown Lake District Council are removing the still current heritage classification from the locomotives and carriages in their proposed district plan which will become operative late 2016 or early 2017. The locomotives and carriages must in the interim remain in Kingston under this heritage classification until the proposed QLDC district plan is enacted.
The Trust recognises the Kingston Flyer is an iconic New Zealand brand which is internationally recognised. Therefore it is a fundamental strategy of the Trust to maintain and preserve the Kingston Flyer brand which is so well established and now an entrenched part of Southland and New Zealand history.
The preservation of the Kingston Flyer will be an added tourist and local attraction that would worthy sit alongside the established private philanthropic E Hayes Motorworks Collection and Bill Richardson Transport World.
The Trust is confident this project will strengthen Invercargill and Southland through drawing in additional visitors and binding the community together and establishing Invercargill as a city of ‘Heritage Wheels’.
The Feasibility Study
In order for this proposal to progress, further detailed and comprehensive research is required. The Southern Steam Train Charitable Trust is as the first stage of this preservation process, undertaking a full feasibility study which will be completed in the latter half of 2016 coinciding with the removal of the QLDC heritage order.