The Kingston Flyer starts up for its first trip of the year
after the boiler of locomotive Ab 795 was fixed during
December. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
More than 60 passengers climbed aboard the Kingston Flyer
on a quiet, wind-chilled Kingston morning yesterday.
About 15 onlookers gathered around the tracks, waved off the
shiny carriages and were bid farewell by the shrieking
whistle, as the Flyer headed for Fairlight on a 90-minute
This was its second 14km journey since its New Year's Eve
party to Fairlight. Safety inspectors stopped operations at
the beginning of December because the boiler of locomotive Ab
795 needed work.
Owner David Bryce at the time said he had no choice but to
put the service on hold for what would be its most busy time
of the year and leave the Kingston business community in
His decision was criticised at the time and although Mr Bryce
had returned the train to operation from its two-year
dormancy, he was left feeling ownership of the train could be
a thankless job and contemplated selling it again: ''It's not
on the market, but I need to consider my health,'' he said.
He had not decided when he might sell the train, but promised
it would be fully operational when he did.
''It's certainly special to a lot of people and I have been
given the opportunity to make it operational for those people
to enjoy. I appreciate the support we've had from the public
The train's operation was derailed in 2009 when former owner
Kingston Acquisitions was placed in receivership, owing at
least $4.7 million. There had been repeated interest for
several years from freight and rail entertainment company
Railmark, of Mississippi.
Mr Bryce, who grew up and farmed at Longridge near Lumsden,
left the Marlborough vineyard he still owns in 2011 and
bought the train.
''Somebody had to do it. It had been operational for 41 years
prior,'' he said.
The train is said to have carried about 50 passengers a day
during its 2008-09 season and more in the 1990s. Before
December, Mr Bryce and his Flyer crew were expecting 20,000
people to ride the train between September and April 30, its
seasonal closing date.
Its reopening in 2011 brought between 1500 and 2000 people to
town - many more than yesterday's modest 200.
Mr Bryce yesterday said there were still some who wished the
cobwebs were never wiped off: ''Some people still complain
about the smoke, the pollution and the noise.''
He refused to say how much money he had spent on the train
over the past 15 months but said the Flyer had not had a lot
of money invested in it for the past four decades.
His original contract included the two steam locomotives, the
vintage carriages, the Kingston Tavern, storage sheds, a 14km
section of track to Fairlight, six residential lots and
development land in the village, totalling about 80ha.
Since his purchase, tavern improvements have been noticed,
the Flyer's website has gone live and the train has taken
between 20,000 and 30,000 passengers since October 2011.