Emotions flow over Kingston Flyer sale

In its heyday: Kingston Flyer PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

News of the Kingston Flyer’s sale has sparked tears and applause in the local community yesterday.

There was a round of applause at long-time Flyer driver and manager Russell Glendinning’s funeral in Lumsden, while Flyer advocate Karl Barkley, who set up a Givealittle page to buy the trains, shed tears after learning it had finally been sold.

The $2 million sale to an unknown group, which the Otago Daily Times understands is not Kingston-based, was the talk of the town yesterday.

Barkley says his biggest regret was not being able to celebrate the good news with Glendinning.

“I think Russell knows, though.”

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Two steam locomotives, vintage carriages, the former Kingston Tavern, storage sheds, 14km of track and other undeveloped land totalling 80ha are included in the sale.

Barkley says the train should be run as a tourist attraction in the district.

“There’s been a lot of talk about breaking it up and selling it off — you just can’t do that.”

Kingston resident Annabelle Wilson, who worked as a guard on the Flyer 25 years ago, was cautiously optimistic.

She’s “stoked” the trains would not be left to sit idle and decay, and urged the business community to get behind any venture.

TourismProperties.com broker Adrian Chisholm told Mountain Scene on Wednesday the new owners had yet to confirm their plans, but were “keeping all their options open”.

They included building a movie studio on vacant land between Kingston and Fairlight.

Wilson says she hopes the Flyer would be restored to the tourist attraction it once was, but had some caveats.

“I just hope that if it does start up again, it will be economically viable.”

If it did not return to the tracks, putting it on static display in the township was preferable to seeing it leave the region.

Previous owner Kingston Acquisitions Ltd was placed in receivership in 2008 by Prudential Mortgagee Nominees after defaulting on its $4.7m loan.

In 2009, the ODT reported there was not enough money to operate the train for that summer’s tourist season, despite group bookings confirmed for two years in advance.

The trains, land and assets were placed on the market in November the same year.

David Bryce bought the assets in 2011 and spent $1.3m restoring the engines and carriages before relaunching the operation.

Less than two years later, he put the business back on the market with an asking price of $2.5m.

Otago Daily Times