Still full steam ahead for train buff

Des Burrow readies his Shay Pacific Coast replica steam train for service at the 78th annual...
Des Burrow readies his Shay Pacific Coast replica steam train for service at the 78th annual Otago Model Engineering Society Festival in Dunedin. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Even though Des Burrow has been retired from the Hillside Engineering Workshops for nearly 25 years, he says there has been little time for sitting around on his caboose.

In fact, the 82-year-old says he has never been busier.

Since retiring from his job as a coppersmith, he has been building scale-model versions of his favourite steam trains, and more than 50 boilers for other model steam train builders around the world.

''I reckon my real career didn't start until I retired from Hillside in 1989. I've never worked harder,'' he said, as he gave his model Pacific Coast Shay steam train a few tweaks and a couple of miniature shovelfuls of coal on Friday.

As the train puffed into life, Mr Burrow disappeared behind a mix of steam and smoke, but when the air cleared, he had a broad smile as he exclaimed: ''Success! She still goes.''

It had been at least five years since the engine was last fired up, and Mr Burrow said it was time she was given another outing.

So he spent about 30 minutes on Friday dusting her off, so she could be displayed at the 78th annual Otago Model Engineering Society Festival, which began yesterday at the society's John Wilson Ocean Dr clubrooms in Dunedin.

The model is one of many trains which will be on display until February 9, and it is believed Mr Burrow probably had a hand in building many of them.

Other models on display at the festival will include submarines, boats, aircraft, tethered cars and scale railway dioramas from around the country.

While the festival is held annually to raise funds for running costs, it is also geared towards inspiring a passion for model engineering among younger generations.

Mr Burrow said the hobby had been declining in popularity among younger generations for many years, and he believed it was partly caused by the increasing cost of building models.

''It's an ageing hobby. It's an expensive hobby today, but not in my day - I used to borrow a lot of stuff from the Hillside workshop,'' he said with a wink.

The society's clubrooms will be open at weekends and Waitangi Day from 10.30am-4pm, and from 6.30pm-8.30pm on weekdays.

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