Rail stock sale opposed

Karl Barkley.
Karl Barkley.
Southland railway enthusiast Karl Barkley says he will challenge the Southland District Council’s  decision to split up the remaining Ohai Railway Board rolling stock and lease two items to groups outside Southland.

The council  decided to lease four items to four  groups.

A Mitsubishi diesel locomotive will find a new home with the Otago Railway and Locomotive Society in Dunedin, while a guard’s and plough van dating from 1883 will go to Ferrymead, Christchurch, a vintage wooden passenger carriage will go to the Waimea Plains Railway Trust for restoration and display at Mandeville, near Gore, and another wooden carriage will be displayed in Lumsden by the Lumsden Heritage Trust.

Mr Barkley was one of seven parties who submitted lease proposals.

The railway board was formed in 1916 to build and operate a railway line from Wairio, near Nightcaps, to the Ohai coalfields. It became part of the SDC in 1989.

The line closed in 1990, and in 1992 the line, land and buildings were sold to the NZ Railways Corporation, now KiwiRail, with the SDC taking over ownership of the rolling stock and other assets.

KiwiRail now wants the rolling stock removed from Wairio.

Mr Barkley, an engineer who lives at Wairio, said the decision to split up the assets was "very disappointing" and he planned a "big challenge", although he would not say what it was.

Others were also concerned and it was hoped a trust would be formed to keep the assets together at Wairio for restoration and display, he said.

"We had a meeting on Sunday. Six people turned up and there were seven apologies."

However, Southland Mayor Gary Tong said Mr Barkley’s protest was "too late" as tenders had been accepted and fully supported by all councillors.

The assets were going to places where they would be appreciated, and the two carriages were staying in Southland, he said.

Mr Barkley has also been campaigning unsuccessfully to establish a trust to keep the mothballed Kingston Flyer tourist train, which is back on the market, in Southland and get it operational again.

Mr Tong said he was  "aware of Mr Barkley’s passion for railways".

"He has good intentions, but he doesn’t have the backing to follow them up."

In its lease proposal, the Otago Railway and Locomotive Society said it proposed to restore the Ohai locomotive over three years and use it on the Ocean Beach Railway at St Kilda, Dunedin.

The society had already bought  a 1939 diesel shunting locomotive from Ohai and restored it.

"Having the Mitsubishi locomotive at Ocean Beach would mean the first and last diesel diesel locomotives ...  are stored and operating together."

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