More than 2000 people celebrated the long-delayed revival of the vintage Kingston Flyer steam train on Saturday.
The 1878 train had been mothballed for the past two years after its operating company was placed in receivership.
Former Lumsden man David Bryce, who’s latterly lived in Marlborough, bought the train and other assets off the receivers two months ago.
Deputy Prime Minister and local MP Bill English cut a red ribbon – he’d hoped it would be a blue one – and said: “I now declare The Kingston Flyer refired.”
Through the day the Flyer carried at least 1200 people on five trips to Fairlight and back, utilising seven carriages.
“We were blown away by the support and enthusiasm of people from miles around,” Kingston Flyer business development manager Liz McLean says.
“We could have sold another train.”
One of the most excited onlookers was Karl Barkley, who founded “Friends of the Kingston Flyer Railway”, to try to save the train.
“I spent about 20 months trying to get public interest in trying to save it into a trust and it looks like David’s going to do exactly what we were wanting to do.
“It’s always been hard to make money out of it, but if it’s set up as a trust, you can get grants for any major work.
“It was looking like it was going to end up in the hands of an American company – this is a 100 per cent Kiwi icon, the locomotives and carriages were built in New Zealand, the track was built by Kiwi labour, it’s got to stay Kiwi.”
Barkley says his trust raised more than $50,000, though about half of that was spent on promotion.
The Flyer will run two scheduled trips a day from Kingston, at 10am and 1.30pm, till the end of April, utilising four carriages, but it can also be chartered for functions.
Meanwhile, English took the opportunity to launch his Clutha-Southland National Party campaign at Fairlight, during the Flyer’s inaugural run.
“This is a campaign that’s all about what this electorate’s about,” he said.
“The next 10 years, we have to earn our living instead of borrowing it, and we know how to do that because we are tourism and exports.”