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Engineer Neville Simpson led a team of volunteers from Invercargill and Dunedin to help restore Ab795 before yesterday’s commemoration of the late Russell Glendinning and David Bryce.
Mr Glendinning, whose association with the train spanned about 40 years, died on February 20 last year, aged 71 — the day after the train was sold by Mr Bryce to a consortium.
Mr Bryce died on August 14 last year, aged 59.
By 1pm yesterday about 1500 people had gathered at Kingston to see the train move on the tracks for the first time since April 2013.
Yesterday, Mr Simpson told the Otago Daily Times it was a "very emotional" day.
"It’s just so wonderful to see this many people — we didn’t really know what to expect."
While aesthetically the engine was in a "poor" statebefore the restoration efforts began last June, mechanically it was "quite good" but did need some repairs.
Asked if the Kingston Flyer might be fully restored and put back into operation, Mr Simpson said that was an "unknown" but there were "positive signs" it could happen.
"The great thing is that it’s been decided that it’s going to stay in Kingston, and I think that’s a very positive step for an operation to happen again."
Mr Glendinning’s "acquired daughter", Shirley-Anne Monaghan, of Invercargill — also Mr Bryce’s sister — said it was a "very significant" and emotional day.
After her father died in 1981 Mr Glendinning "made a promise" and kept it until his death last year, even helping to give away one of Ms Monaghan’s daughters, Lisa Graham, when she married her husband, Gene, in December 2016.
The family was with Mr Glendinning when he died, under a cherry tree at Lakes District Hospital, and to mark his anniversary had planned to visit Maclennan, in the Catlins, where Mr Glendinning was born and spend time in Kingston.
"Once Neville let us know this was happening, our plans changed," Ms Monaghan said.
Yesterday morning former Kingston residents Peter and Margaret Gibson led a special service at the Kingston wharf. Ab795 was steamed to the end of the tracks and some of Mr Glendinning’s ashes were placed in the engine’s firebox, ready for when the train "cranked up again".
"It’s part of our grieving process as well, and enabling Russell to rest," she said.
"I’d say he’ll be watching over us and he’ll be so proud and so grateful and so chuffed to see ... that steam."
Mr Bryce’s mother, and two of his three children also attended yesterday’s event.
Mr Simpson told those gathered it was time to forget about the "criticism and finger-pointing" from the past.
"From today we move on, it’s a new beginning."I think we should just look forward to what’s going to happen here."