Kingston Flyer for sale; service suspended until January

Kingston Flyer service suspended. Photo supplied.
Kingston Flyer service suspended. Photo supplied.
The Kingston Flyer's owner yesterday put the business up for sale, on the same day he suspended operations because of safety concerns over the historic steam locomotive's boiler.

The decision meant the Kingston Flyer Ltd's 11 staff would be laid off.

David Bryce said the safety of staff, passengers and the public was of ''paramount importance'' to the company, meaning it had no choice but to suspend the service. It was hoped it would be back up and running next month.

The suspension meant those who had made bookings up until mid-January would need to contact the company to either rebook or seek a refund, Mr Bryce said.

He also announced that, 18 months after buying the Kingston Flyer from receivers, he was putting the business on the market due to concerns that running it was having a detrimental effect on his health.

''I now feel that I need to step back from the operation for a potential new operator to run the business,'' he said.

The decision to suspend operations was not caused by a specific incident, but because leaks in the boiler of its Ab 778 locomotive had the potential to grow into cracks and in a worst-case scenario cause the boiler to explode.

The Flyer would remain out of service until ''extensive repairs'' on the company's other locomotive (Ab 795) were finished - which was expected by the middle of next month at the latest. Rather than fixing the leaky Ab 778, the company had decided to focus its efforts on Ab 795, which had been undergoing repairs since last June.

This meant Ab 778 would be retired from service until funding became available for an extensive overhaul.

When it came to the decision to put the business on the market, he said the stresses of operating it had been detrimental to his health after he suffered a stroke close to the time he bought it from receivers a year and a-half ago.

He said he and his staff had put their ''heart and soul'' into running the Kingston Flyer, but that the time was right to move on.

''I need to look after myself first of all."

He said the suspension of the Kingston Flyer would not affect its long-term future, because once it was up and running again it would be with a ''good as new'' boiler, he said.

The Kingston Flyer, which was originally a passenger train service between Kingston and Gore founded in the 1890s, now operates on a 14km stretch of track between Kingston and Fairlight at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.


Good points

Trev: It is indeed due to the cost that Taieri Gorge don't do steam and there has been no steamer based here. But one kept privately and operated by TGR on a regular basis would work.
So true the disinterest here, we need go no further than the scrapping of the historic SS Te Whaka as an example. But preservation of transport of any kind in this city is well and truly a poor relation to anywhere else in the country, there are individuals keen to do so but get little help to do so.
We don't even have a museum like Ferrymead or MOTAT, for transport and technology.
It could house everything, from buses through computers to aircraft, and offer multiple benefits to the city, and the idea has been put forward but, no.


Steam in Dunedin (or the lack of it)

Max_Power makes a valid comment - "The opportunties for steam in Dunedin are endless------" Despite a long, rich heritage of making steam locomotives, Dunedin does not foster that history. Ja1274 is locked up in a glass prison at the Station with no public access (unlike most other railway museums around the world). There has been no effort to re-boiler the Fairlie  (Josephine) and make it a live locomotive. Ocean Beach Railway is going nowhere. Efforts by another group to rebuild an 1883 P class loco have died through lack of funding. The gasworks have virtually nil steam driven plant. Taieri Gorge Rail does not use a steam loco on cruise ship trains, perhaps because of cost, but they are not steam supporters anyway. Tiny little Tokomaru near Palmerston North has more live steam exhibits then all of Otago - why is this ? Why is Dunedin disinterested?    

Steam heritage and Dunedin.

Interesting thoughts Max. A Ja won't fit up the gorge, but it could haul more cars than an Ab, so runs down south or north would be do-able. But there are options for another loco that will fit through the gorge tunnels.
That said though, a steam loco does cost a lot more run than a diesel. As many said, you could do a once a month trip, perhaps more in the summer season. The only thing is it must be converted to burn oil, otherwise there is a risk of trackside fires in the dry season. Servicing infrastructure would also need re-instated.
With the Flyer though, it's as much an icon of Kingston as the Earnslaw is of Queenstown, and it simply couldn't be called that any more. [Abridged]


Just a minute there Max!

I don't think Dunedin people would like that! It may attract tourists, or maybe even some sort of economic return. Act fast shut down the Taieri Gorge, close the Albatross centre, demo the railway station, fill in the port!

Down with progress! Down with progress! backwards is best!

Absoloutely negatively Dunedin!

Taieri Gorge must buy the Kingston Flyer

The opportunties for using a steam loco in Dunedin are endless...

Imagine getting off a cruise ship onto a genuine steam powered locomotive. During the winter you could take a magical journey in the snow to Middlemarch. Steam trips from Christchurch to Dunedin for concerts and rugby matches. Endless possibilities.

A steam locomotive paired with our beautiful Railway Station would make Dunedin a destination for trainf buffs from all around the world.

This would pay for itself within no time and would have the opportunity for the Taieri George to become one of the great train journeys of the world!