Kingston Flyer Weekend soon

The Kingston community will celebrate the return of the historic Kingston Flyer at the end of this month, with the inaugural Kingston Flyer Weekend.

The weekend, to be held on March 31 and April 1, will be particularly poignant for the community of about 200, because it almost lost the train for good in 2009 when former operator Kingston Acquisitions Ltd went into receivership owing Prudential $4.7 million.

New owner David Bryce (53), who is originally from Riverton but moved to Lumsden in 1968, bought the train in August last year.

Kingston Community Association chairwoman Annette Dalziel said the community was "absolutely thrilled" the train would continue to underpin the "tiny tourism industry" and would continue to be seen "puffing its way between Kingston and Fairlight ... as it has done for more than 130 years".

"This old steam train is a vital and integral part of our community and we are very keen to support the new owners in keeping it going."

Mr Bryce suffered a stroke in March last year.

"That changed my life completely. It gave me perspective," he said.

"I had to struggle to rehabilitate myself physically and mentally and did so by setting small goals.

"When I saw the Kingston Flyer for sale on Trade Me, I made it my goal to secure ownership of the train and build the business for the community.

"So that's what I'm doing."

Now a wine grower in Marlborough, Mr Bryce said he had bought the train without seeing it, which had been a shock for his family, but they now supported the purchase.

His first goal was to make sure everyone knew about the train and had the opportunity to "fall in love with it".

"When I'm on that train or at the station I love seeing the joy on people's faces.

"It's not only the kids; people of all ages just love it.

"When I was on the locomotive for the first time it was very emotional and people kept coming up to me and patting me on the back and thanking me.

"It's still emotional for me now. Kingston has an amazing energy about it and I want people to come spend time here and experience this amazing train. It's part of New Zealand's history."

Mr Bryce credited the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand for its support and as a thank-you would give $5 from every ticket sold during the Kingston Flyer Weekend to the foundation.

"The foundation was the catalyst for me to get everything I needed at the time.

"It is a fantastic support for stroke sufferers and survives on some government funding but predominantly donations. It is an integral part of the support structure for people who've suffered strokes and I should do anything I can to help and support them."

The Kingston Flyer Weekend will take place every year on the last weekend in March.

This year three trips on each day would depart Kingston for Fairlight at the special Kingston Flyer Weekend rate of $20 per adult, $10 per child and children under 5 free.

"This is a family affair. It will be enormous fun for all ages and stages and we have priced this journey to make it affordable for as many people as we can put aboard."

Mr Bryce said it would be a community event, so invited other groups to get involved.

Individuals were also welcome to create a "carnival atmosphere" by hosting a stall and selling their wares.



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