Track upgraded for penguin convention

Oamaru Steam and Rail general manager Harry Andrew and a team of volunteers have upgraded 120m of the society's track to allow Dunedin Railways to bring passengers to the southern end of Oamaru Harbour for the first time. Photo: Hamish MacLean
Oamaru Steam and Rail general manager Harry Andrew and a team of volunteers have upgraded 120m of the society's track to allow Dunedin Railways to bring passengers to the southern end of Oamaru Harbour for the first time. Photo: Hamish MacLean
For the first time, a Dunedin Railways locomotive is due to pull in at the southern end of Oamaru Harbour, at the end of this month.

Attendees of the 10th International Penguin Conference, in Dunedin from August 24 to 28, are being offered an excursion, mid-conference, from the Dunedin Railway Station to Oamaru Harbour to take in a night viewing of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony's nearly 200 breeding pairs.

Oamaru Steam and Rail general manager Harry Andrew said while Dunedin's larger DJ class locomotives had been to the historic harbour area at Wansbeck St about 10 times over the past couple of years, Dunedin's railcars had never ventured past the Oamaru society's Waterfront Rd crossing.

He said he hoped the trip on August 26 would be the first of many.

Society members had spent weekends working in advance of the trip to replace about 120m of track, 70 railway sleepers, and smooth out a tight curve on the southern portion of the society's track to allow Dunedin's larger locomotives through.

When the suggestion came from Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony science and environmental manager Dr Philippa Agnew, ''I grabbed it'', Mr Andrew said.

''My hopes are that we can have all types of railways in here.

''I'm just trying to look for more tourists.

''We make nothing out of it ... I've got to keep the track up to a good standard for our gear. Why not go one level higher?''

Dr Agnew, a member of the conference's local organising committee, said up to 200 conference attendees were expected to make the train trip north.

The triennial conference was first held in Dunedin at the Otago Museum in 1988.

This year is the first time the conference has returned to the city.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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