Flyer back on track

Rusting: The Kingston Flyer in 2015

A Wakatipu tourism icon that’s been off the rails for four years is finally back on track.

The vintage Kingston Flyer steam train has this week been bought by a consortium of local investors.

Based full-time in Kingston since 1971, the Flyer has latterly been owned by former winegrower David Bryce.

He mothballed it, however, after running it for only two summer tourist seasons.

Poignantly, this week’s sale was confirmed a day after long-time Flyer manager and driver Russell Glendinning died, aged 79.

Tourism broker Adrian Chisholm, who listed the Flyer, won’t reveal the new owners or what they’re paying. But it’s understood they met Bryce’s latest asking price of $2 million.

Bryce put the train and about 80 hectares of surrounding land and buildings on the market due to ill-health.

Bryce struggled, however, to make the Flyer a viable business.

Queenstowner Chisholm says the sale is great news both for Kingston and tourism.

“Finally, the Kingston Flyer is in the hands of a group of investors who will do something.”

Despite undertaking “intensive” due diligence over the past month, they’re still keeping all their options open, Chisholm says.

He confirms one option is the train – comprising two 1920s locomotives and seven wooden carriages – resumes tourist trips on the 13km railway line from Kingston to Fairlight.

Other options for the train – which apparently isn’t in bad shape – include a static display in Kingston or selling a locomotive and some carriages. In recent years, there’s been interest from groups in Southland and the West Coast.

Chisholm says the new owners are looking at options for the land and buildings they’ve bought with the train.

They’re of increasing value, he points out, because the new Around The Mountains cycle trail passes through Kingston and Fairlight. Their priority, he says is to get an operator for the Kingston railway station cafe and bar.

Options for the under-utilised Fairlight station are also being considered.

Chisholm says a 4.6-hectare parcel around the Fairlight station is also being eyed up for tourism accommodation.

The investors are also looking at a movie studio on land between the two townships.

In the past, the train couldn’t leave the district due to its ‘category one’ heritage status.

Last year, several people asked the council to give the Flyer greater protection but staff recommended keeping its ‘notified’ position.

Chuffing through the years

1890s: Original Kingston Flyer service introduced
1900: Oldest of the Flyer’s current seven carriages built
1925: Flyer’s current steam locomotive AB 778 enters service
1927: Flyer’s other current locomotive AB 795 enters service
1971: New Zealand Railways recommences Flyer service
2009: Flyer’s private owners put into receivership
2011: David Bryce buys Flyer and resumes service
2013: Bryce mothballs Flyer and puts it on the market
2017: Flyer sold to local consortium