New Zealand’s Kingston Flyer, a historic steam train, will soon launch its second season as a tourism experience after a winter-long maintenance campaign. The Kingston Flyer Railway will operate two trips a day during the 2012-13 season, from Sept. 29 until April 30. Train owner David Bryce initiated a major “strip down” of the boiler of locomotive AB 795 to secure its continued reliability for decades to come. In its first season, the train carried 16,000 passengers. The Kingston Flyer Gala Opening Weekend on Sept. 29 will include a car boot market day — with no attendance fee — from 10 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., free music, and discounted opening weekend fares at $30 for an adult and $15 per child.
The Kingston Flyer is a vintage steam train set in the mountains of the Queenstown Lakes District. When gold was discovered in the Wakatipu district in 1862, the need to connect the district by steamships and steam trains became apparent. The railway line at last reached Kingston on July 10, 1878. The express passenger steam train known as The Flyer serviced Kingston-Gore and Kingston-Invercargill in the 1890s. During holiday periods, it also carried passengers from Dunedin to Kingston to meet up with Lake Wakatipu steamboats connecting with Queenstown. The service was replaced by buses, and passenger numbers declined through the 1950s. The final Kingston Flyer operated during the Easter holiday of 1957.
The New Zealand government came up with a plan to save the historic steam train and funded its restoration in 1971. The atmosphere of the 1920s was retained and remains today, featuring polished brass and steel work, white tires, red fluted side rods and glossy black paintwork. The Kingston Flyer heritage service between Kingston and Lumsden continued until 1979. Today the service covers a 10-mile stretch of track between Kingston and Fairlight. The rails are the originals laid in 1878 but many of the 19,360 sleepers have been replaced.