After yesterdays epic journey todays little foray pails into insignificance. The railway line to Kingston was bought into being by the Great Northern Railway as the first privately owned railway in NZ. It ran from Invercargill to Kingston and was opened in 1878.
Two years later the Waimea Plains railway opened another private line from Dunedin to Kingston to service the Goldfields of Wakatipu and the growing rural community along the way. Along with the Paddle steamers plying Lake Wakatipu between Kingston and Queenstown, Kingston became a very busy railway terminus and shipping town connecting the paddle steamers and railway for excursion trips from Invercargill to Queenstown.
The train got the nickname of the Kingston Flyer when American Rogers locomotives were introduced to improve the service. Speeds of up to 60mph were obtained which would have been unheard of at the turn of the century. Once a road had been built to Queenstown in 1936 passenger numbers dropped until the line was eventually closed due to drop off in freight tonnage.
Ab778 simmering away while awaiting the green flag.Built in 1898, this 5 compartment 1st class "Birdcage" carriage is reputedly the only one in existence.Outside corridor of the 1898 "Birdcage" carriage.
The Government Railway restored the service between Lumsden and Kingston as a tourist venture in 1971 but by 1979 this was becoming a financial burden and was closed. Over the years the train has had a some what chequered career under various owners in different locations until 2002 when it again passed into private ownership. The track bed to Lumsden has long been removed so the railway now covers 14km from Kingston to Fairlight.
Most New Zealanders would remember the train some 20 or so years ago when it featured in the TV advert for Cadbury Crunchie bars. This coming week-end is going to be some sort of anniversary and rumour has that the train may well get held up by horse riding bandits once more.
Naturally being a train buff a ride on this famous train was a must. Travelling in vintage carriages which date back as far as 1878 with a coal fired pacific class 4-6-2 locomotive built in 1925 has to be something to be remembered.