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Kiwirail, the Government's transport operator, says it will not be stepping in to buy the historic Kingston Flyer because the business is not commercially viable.
Its owners have appealed to the Government to help save the train, which is for sale after they defaulted on a $4.7 million loan from finance company Prudential Mortgage Nominees.
Kingston Acquisitions Ltd director Robbie Caldwell said unless a buyer could be found, the train would have to stop indefinitely.
He said the Government should help save it as a historic tourist attraction of national importance.
KiwiRail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw said Mr Caldwell approached the Government-controlled organisation to buy the train and tracks and put a proposal to KiwiRail about a month ago.
"We have a mandate from our shareholders to act in a commercial manner and we don't see the proposal as consistent with operating commercially," he said.
Mr Caldwell hopes to ask Prime Minister John Key for Government backing when Mr Key visits Kingston next week.
He said the train was operating at a profit, but the operators had got into financial difficulty because loans made to Kingston Acquisitions had not been repaid.
Mr Caldwell took over the directorship of Kingston Acquisitions from controversial developer Dan McEwen, who is reported to owe creditors over $100 million.