This morning Robin, Jenny and I were off and away to Mandeville to visit the Croydon Aircraft Co and Aviation Centre. This establishment is world renowned restorers of De Havilland aircraft and have a fine collection of their own which are all airworthy and can be hired for 10, 20 or 30 minute flights.
Upon arrival Jenny settled into the cafe with a coffee and a good book while the boys headed over to the workshop hangar. Here they found up to 20 De Havilland airframes in various stages of completion. Wings and tail planes in various stages awaiting covering in cloth, lacquering or the final paint job once fitted to the fuselage.
Gypsy engines in 4 and 6 cylinder versions adorned the engine bay and spare parts didn’t appear to be a problem with many cylinder sleeves, crank cases and crankshafts being readily available. There are 5 full time staff and many part time specialist’s on call dedicated to keeping NZ’s Aviation history alive and kicking.
Back in the main Hangar were the fleet of airworthy flying machine's such as Gypsy Moths, a Fox Moth, Dragonfly, Dominic/Rapide as well as a glider and a couple of home build racer/stunt planes. Off in one corner was a swing wing De Havilland Puss Moth that had been shifted to make room in the Restoration hangar. It will eventually go back to be completed as room allows.
Outside this magnificent establishment stands an American Rogers locomotive NZ K class #92. This had been dumped in the Oreti river along with numerous other loco’s for shoring up the bridge abutments. Luckily, when recovered the boiler was found to be intact along with a large percentage of the cab. Initially saved by the Te Anau Vintage machinery club who started restoration, K92 was passed on to Colin Smith of the Croyden Aircraft Company who then set about bringing K92 back to life which has now been completed.
The next task has been to set up the Waimea Plains Railway Trust with the job of rebuilding this once private railway that started in 1880 from Gore to Lumsden. They plan to rebuild part of the old Mandeville station goods yard with a line running out around the perimeter of the airfield. Track and vintage rolling stock have been acquired but the latter is awaiting funding for restoration to begin. The goods shed still remains on site in good condition along with the water tower which needs a new pedestal. Interested in helping the trust achieve their aims or becoming a member? Then contact them here I’m sure they would love to hear from you.