Locomotive licence lets teen follow steam dream

George King (18) of Oamaru Steam and Rail worked his way up to getting his license to drive steam and diesel locomotives. Photo by David Bruce.
George King (18) of Oamaru Steam and Rail worked his way up to getting his license to drive steam and diesel locomotives. Photo by David Bruce.
At an age when most teenagers are trying to get a licence to drive a car, 18-year-old George King now has his licence to drive steam and diesel locomotives.

The Oamaru teenager has his car driver's licence, but it is restricted and he cannot carry passengers. On the railway tracks, he can carry as many as the carriages can hold.

George believes he is currently the youngest person in New Zealand to have passed an examination to drive a locomotive and on Sunday will take the Oamaru Steam and Rail's train along the track from the historic area to the Red Sheds at the Oamaru Harbour on its excursions.

He said it was an unusual interest for a teenager, one which had grown since he was introduced to Oamaru Steam and Rail by a mate when he was 13.

Then he started working his way up. He started as a volunteer crossing keeper and assistant guard, then graduated to the engine as a fireman.

About three years ago, he started driving the locomotives under supervision, notching up about 300 hours before sitting an examination with Russell Glendenning from the Kingston Flyer.

That involved driving a locomotive and answering questions, before passing the New Zealand Qualifications Authority's standards and obtaining his licence earlier this month.

Now he can operate Steam and Rail's diesel and steam locomotives without supervision.
George believed he was the youngest person holding a ‘‘locomotive ticket'' in New Zealand.

‘‘I'm in contact with steam and rail groups through the Internet around New Zealand, and they don't know of anyone else as young as me,'' he said.

George left school about two years ago and plans to continue driving locomotives as a volunteer. He would eventually like to drive locomotives on the main trunk line for Toll.

He wrote to Toll about two years ago and, although he did not get a reply, plans to pursue the career.

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