Kingston Flyer owner warns against appeal

The Kingston Flyer locomotives and carriages, now under lock and key in a siding in Kingston.
The Kingston Flyer locomotives and carriages, now under lock and key in a siding in Kingston.
The owner of the Kingston Flyer is urging the public not to give money to an appeal set up to save the mothballed historic steam train operation.

However, the long-time campaigner attempting to raise $3.6 million to get the Kingston Flyer back on track says he is undaunted.

Kingston Flyer owner David Bryce, a grape grower of Renwick, near Blenheim, told the Otago Daily Times he wanted to make it clear the renewed appeal by Karl Barkley via the Pledge Me website was not associated with him.

''I feel that people shouldn't give him any money towards it because it's never going to happen,'' Mr Bryce said.

Mr Barkley, an engineer and steam engine enthusiast, wants to raise $3.6 million - $2.5 million to meet the asking price of the operation and the remainder to form a charitable trust to run the train.

''I've been around the countryside for the past three weeks drumming up quite a bit of interest, trying to get the fire lit and some steam raised and get it to the next level,'' Mr Barkley said.

The Kingston Flyer locomotives and carriages, now under lock and key in a siding in Kingston....
The Kingston Flyer locomotives and carriages, now under lock and key in a siding in Kingston. Photos by James Beech.
Progress was ''very slow'', but he was not really disheartened.

''I've just got to find 36,000 Kiwis to come up with $100 and it's there.''

Mr Barkley said he had no problem with Mr Bryce wanting to distance himself and his operation from the appeal.

''I'm just going to carry on what I started four years ago when I was campaigning to buy it originally.

''He just turned up out of the blue and gave me two years' grace to refocus myself.''

Mr Barkley said public donations to his campaign at the time of Mr Bryce's purchase of the Kingston Flyer trailed off because of the Christchurch earthquakes and Pike River Coal mine disaster.

He said he raised about $55,000 and spent about $22,000 on promotion, leaving about $33,000 in pledges, not in a bank account.

''It's not cash, it's got to be called on once we set this trust up,'' Mr Barkley said.

''I've got all the receipts here, I'm on sickness benefit, I just haven't got a spare $800 or $1000 to put them in front of an accountant.

''That's the reason my previous trust got deregistered, because I hadn't filed a return on it,'' Mr Barkley said.

Mr Bryce confirmed the scenic heritage railway attraction would not run again under his ownership.

He spent $1.3 million restoring and relaunching the operation in October 2011, but was forced to sell the pair of vintage locomotives, seven passenger carriages, more than 80ha of land, buildings, chattels, plant and machinery due to health reasons.

The Kingston Flyer operation is advertised on the website of Tourism Properties.

Tourism and hospitality business broker Adrian Chisholm, of Auckland, said he was fielding 38 inquiries from interested parties in just over two months.

''I've had another three potential buyers [last] week. It's still out there and negotiations and discussions are happening on a number of fronts, all domestic,'' Mr Chisholm said.

''It's not an easy one, but we're confident we'll get it there with the right party that can do the Kingston Flyer proud and get it operational by summer.''


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