Railway preservation in New Zealand

Railway preservation in New Zealand

Railway preservation in New Zealand is the preservation of historically significant facets of New Zealand's rail transport history.


Early initiatives

Early preservation efforts in New Zealand were restricted to static public display of locomotives, probably the first being a Double Fairlie E class in Dunedin in the 1920s. In 1944 rail enthusiasts formed the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society and branches were soon established up and down the country. The NZRLS Otago Branch initiated active rail preservation in Dunedin in 1960 with a small industrial steam locomotive on the Ocean Beach Railway. Similar works were soon started in Christchurch (Ferrymead Railway), Auckland (Glenbrook Vintage Railway), Wellington (Silver Stream Railway) and the Waikato by the NZRLS Canterbury Branch, Railway Enthusiasts Society (former NZRLS Auckland Branch), NZRLS Wellington Branch and NZRLS Waikato Branch.

Later developments

Other notable efforts during the 1960s and 70s were begun by Steam Incorporated of Wellington, Pleasant Point Museum and Railway, Ashburton Railway and Preservation Society, Museum of Transport and Technology, Canterbury Steam Preservation Society and the Otago Excursion Train Trust. Most of these groups had their beginnings in the demise of steam from New Zealand Railways during the era. Most of the early societies were established to acquire and preserve locomotives and rolling stock, with a short line on which to operate and in some cases extensive museum type displays. Steam Incorporated and the Otago Excursion Train Trust were however founded on the basis of running trains upon the main lines of the NZR and were later joined in this endeavour by the Railway Enthusiasts Society and a newer group, Mainline Steam. Early trips by these groups were diesel haulage of their respective carriage fleets but a relaxation of the NZR's steam ban in the early 1980s combined with the opportunity to commemorate some significant anniversaries led to the operation of heritage steam on the main lines. NZR also formed a preservation operation, the Kingston Flyer, in 1971 with two steam locomotives. This operation was later taken over by a private company.

Although the pace of preservation has slowed through the 1980s and beyond, several more operations involving longer lines have been established, as well as the more traditional museum-focused operation. The Weka Pass Railway, Bay of Islands Vintage Railway, Taieri Gorge Railway and Goldfields Steam Train Society took over parts of old lines in Canterbury, Northland, Otago and the Bay of Plenty respectively. Christchurch's Diesel Traction Group was formed in 1983 to preserve diesel locomotives exclusively and now has a collection of four such locomotives based on the Ferrymead Railway. Several other groups also acquired some of the early mainline diesels as they were withdrawn from NZR service.

Other societies and museums have been established in Oamaru, Dunedin, Southland, Nelson, Reefton, Westport, Greymouth, Blenheim, Carterton (Wairarapa Railway Restoration Society), Feilding (Feilding and District Steam Rail Society), Wanganui, Pahiatua (Pahiatua Railcar Society), Waitara, Gisborne and other places.

Current projects

The most ambitious heritage project to date is the Rimutaka Incline Railway, which proposes to construct from scratch a railway line over an existing historic formation abandoned in 1955. This is the route of the former Rimutaka railway and Rimutaka Incline over a distance of some 20 km, including 5 km of the 1 in 15 incline worked by the Fell centre-rail system. Although the Taieri Gorge Railway in Dunedin is a much longer and successful heritage railway at 60 km length, it has the advantage that all its track was still in place when it was set up in 1990. The Rimutaka proposal faces many obstacles from the construction of new track and formation rehabilitation works, to the building of new locomotives of the Fell type. The project is in the planning stages and it will be some years before any construction starts.

Another ambitious project is currently being undertaken by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Trust, which has recovered the remains of WMR No. 9/NZR N 453 and aims to restore it to full operational condition. No locomotive used on the Wellington and Manawatu Railway was believed to still exist, as they had all been scrapped and dumped by the end of 1931, and no WMR wagons are known to survive either, but the remains of No. 9 were found near Arthur's Pass and retrieved in 2003. The ultimate goal of the Trust is to operate main-line heritage trains with a restored No. 9; these trains will also include a refrigerated wagon restored to be a historically-accurate replica of a wagon used on the WMR.

ee also

* List of New Zealand railway museums and heritage lines

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