Written-off railway wagon restored as Airbnb

David Crook with his restored railways guards van. Photo: Greymouth Star
David Crook with his restored railways guards van. Photo: Greymouth Star

A derelict railway wagon has been spruced up and given a new life -- as an Airbnb.

David Crook has restored an old NZ Railways guards van that was involved in a runaway rail smash at Moana on March 13, 1963.

"The wagon was written-off by the NZ Railways because of the damage and was moved to the side of the lines," Mr Crook said.

The Lake Brunner Yacht Club stepped in and took the wagon to be used as a club base. However, after the club, of which Mr Crook is a member, built a more permanent facility the wagon fell out of use again and the Department of Conservation requested its removal.

"The carriage was offered to the Midland Rail Trust. They looked at it but decided it would be uneconomic for them to fix, so I took it."

He had the wagon shifted to his property on Gold Nugget Road, near Shantytown, in January 2012 with the intention of restoring it as a sleepout.

The wagon was then in a sad state of disrepair.

"I went to see a man in Westport who gave me plans for a 34ft guard van; I worked out what it should look like."

To begin with Mr Crook was not a rail enthusiast.

"I became one because of the research trying to make things as authentic as possible without being pedantic."

After extensive repairs, included installing a new wall, the wagon was knocked into shape and remained as a sleepout until 2016.

"It cost more than I expected; I had to admit that to my wife (Sarah) it was an investment.

"We decided then to so something with it rather than just leave it rotting at the end of the garden in the rain and weather."

He embarked on more restoration work, putting in another new wall and insulation, installing proper foundations and building on a small adjacent 'railway station', which serves now as a kitchen.

On October 1, last year the wagon began a new phase of its life as a Airbnb and has proved popular with tourists.

"People do like something different," he said.

- by Chris Tobin

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