Flyer's owner mulls forming trust

Kingston Community Association chairwoman Annette Dalziel says the township would welcome and support a new owner-operator of the dormant Kingston Flyer heritage steam train operation. Photo by James Beech.
Kingston Community Association chairwoman Annette Dalziel says the township would welcome and support a new owner-operator of the dormant Kingston Flyer heritage steam train operation. Photo by James Beech.
The owner of the Kingston Flyer says he is open to a community trust taking ownership of the mothballed vintage steam train operation and a tourism operator leasing the locomotives and rolling stock to get the attraction back on track.

Blenheim vineyard owner David Bryce told the Otago Daily Times his health stopped him from actively seeking potential trustees in the South.

However, he was considering establishing a trust to own and restore the train, which would lease those assets to an operating company. He welcomed expressions of interest.

Interest from potential buyers had evaporated in the months since the operation closed for the season on April 30 and no offers had been received, Mr Bryce said.

Maintenance and modern compliance costs were major deterrents, despite the books proving the debt-free business was popular and made a profit.

''Trustees would not necessarily be train people. It's more people who want to see New Zealand's heritage remain alive in the community,'' Mr Bryce said.

He did not think dropping the asking price of $2.5 million, or further promotion of the sale, would stimulate interest.

''I'm going to leave it on the market for another 12 months and consider my options then.''

Mr Bryce said the deteriorating state of the rolling stock was not a concern because he had no interest in running the operation again.

''If no-one picks it up, it'll end up just rusting away. Leave it parked in the yard and lift the line and sell the land to adjoining landowners, if they wish. Once it's up, that's the end of it.

''It's a shame, really, because it's part of New Zealand's heritage and some organisation, or the Government, should step up and save it, anyway. It doesn't have to be operated.''

Time has stood still for the two black steam locomotives and the green carriages in the seven months since the last whistle and the release of staff at the end of the 2013 summer season.

The Flyer may be on the buffers, but Kingston itself is far from being sidelined by its absence.

Kingston Community Association chairwoman Annette Dalziel said the atmosphere, excitement and communication the train brought to the village as it steamed past households was missed more than anything.

''It's sad to see tourists come, looking forward to seeing the Kingston Flyer, and then they see it asleep in its compound.''

Asked if the loss of the Flyer had affected Kingston's economy, she said tourists had always either passed through or decided to stay overnight, regardless of the train.

The village's scenic beauty by the lake, walking tracks, camping grounds, fishing, boating, golf and bed and breakfast providers were still drawcards for tourists.

''We really look forward to somebody bringing it back to life, purely for the happiness between tourist and locals when they wave,'' Mrs Dalziel said.

A steady stream of visitors drove into view from the highway while Mrs Dalziel spoke to the ODT.

They parked beside the closed railway station and stepped out, looked around, puzzled, then climbed back in their cars and campervans and continued their journey.

German rail enthusiast Tobias Schulze, driving a south-bound campervan with his wife and toddler, was one of those visitors who made the stop for the Flyer, despite their short holiday time in the country.

''It's nice to see such old things working,'' Mr Schulze said.

''I saw it in a guide book of New Zealand and hoped to see the train, but I didn't know it wasn't running until we got here.''