Goodbye trips on Silver Fern

Dunedin's Silver Fern rail car crosses the causeway at Blanket Bay, with Otago Peninsula's...
Dunedin's Silver Fern rail car crosses the causeway at Blanket Bay, with Otago Peninsula's Harbour Cone in the background, during a short run to Sawyers Bay on Saturday. PHOTO: GEOFFREY WHITE
Fans of Dunedin Railways' popular Silver Fern railcar had a chance to say goodbye over the weekend.

The train has been a regular sight plying the railway lines between Dunedin and Waitati, as well as further afield, since being leased from KiwiRail - initially one a one-year deal - in 2012.

Dunedin Railways chief executive Craig Osborne confirmed yesterday the lease was up and KiwiRail had exercised its right to have its equipment returned.

The railcar would be handed back to KiwiRail in early June, once it had completed the last of a series of rail tours beyond Dunedin's borders, he said.

On Saturday, 473 people took turns taking one-hour, $10 return trips from the city to Sawyers Bay.

The trips were a chance to give the popular attraction a "local farewell", as well as to give people a chance to take a short ride at a reasonable price, Mr Osborne said.

Its departure would be an "operational challenge" for Dunedin Railways, but plans to fill the gap were already being developed, including reverting to carriage trains on the Seasider route, he said.


Knowing kiwirail, I would say the rail car is now likely to be scrapped.

That is a shame. Instead of replacing it with a grubby old diesel locomotive pulling heritage carriages though, it would be great to see a modern clean replacement. I'm guessing it is perhaps unlikely for the costs to stack up, but the relatively short trips undertaken would make it an ideal route for a BEMU (Battery Electric Multiple Unit) railcar. A couple of sets of these could be an ideal project for Hillside once the Antipodean Explorer work is finshed.

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