Focus on the Land
Wa 165 will run but our train is now on its own
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Alice Te Puni
THE Wa 165 heritage train will continue its run to Muriwai and back but under its own steam.
Gisborne City Vintage Railway Society spokeswoman Dale Smith said Gisborne’s steam locomotive operated for the final time under the KiwiRail umbrella at the weekend. It is now an independent operation.
With the Government mothballing the Gisborne-to-Napier line next month, the charity in charge of the train needs to find the cash to keep the rail ride alive.
Rail enthusiasts who have operated between Gisborne and Beach Loop for 13 years are determined it will not be the end of the line for the train, which has been in service for more than 100 years, said Mrs Smith.
“Wa 165 has become an iconic symbol for Gisborne. We don’t want to see it locked away.”
Mrs Smith said KiwiRail was committed to helping the vintage rail continue operations and expects to come to an arrangement similar to those they have had with operators on other mothballed lines — which sees them pay for the maintenance and control of the track they use.
“We are still negotiating with KiwiRail but they have said there will be no major obstacles for access to Muriwai and back.”
The society’s major concern is a lack of funds.
“There will be expenses but we are not positive what the total costs will be. It’s estimated maintaining the track might cost $100,000 a year.”
Mrs Smith said “blood, sweat and tears” had gone into Wa 165 over the past 25 years.
“We are definitely not ready to give up.
“The society members, some now in their 70s and 80s, are still wanting to fight for Gisborne’s slice of local heritage.
“Nobody gets paid, it is all voluntary, but we are blessed to have great support.
“It will be lack of money that will close us down.”
Mrs Smith said “luckily”, there was enough coal in stock for the next two years and the society had in recent years upgraded all four train carriages “which was a bonus”.
Three carriages are air-conditioned, while the fourth one still has its original little windows you can open to feel the wind in your hair, she said.
The society has 60 members and is calling for new paying members to register their interest.
There is still hope KiwiRail will change its mind and revive commercial freight services on the Gisborne-Napier line.
Mrs Smith said the Gisborne to Muriwai run was a 33km turnaround trip.
Rides scheduled for November 23 have been booked out for kura kaupapa children in the morning and Ilminster Intermediate School in the afternoon.
Tickets are also selling fast for public train rides scheduled for November 24 at 1pm and November 25 at 11am.
A special open day is planned for December 15 from 10am to 2pm.
“We will put our train on a turntable and for a gold coin donation people can see if they can turn it.
“It will be a great little event to check out before the Christmas float parade.”
The society plans to have mini train rides using the diesel shunter and one carriage to the stop sign beside Portside Hotel at the open day.
• Divine intervention will be called on to try to change the Government’s mind about closing the line, when a prayer rally is held at Rugby Park at 2pm on Sunday.
STILL ON TRACK: The historic Wa 165 steam locomotive and carriages will continue the popular run to Muriwai and back but no longer under the KiwiRail banner. Picture by Dave Thomas
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