The vintage steam train, which was cleared for commercial operation last July, will operate two public services along the Kingston to Fairlight line every Sunday for the next three months.
Kingston Flyer Ltd manager Neville Simpson, who led the restoration of the train and tracks, said he was delighted to have it in service.
“It’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of great people and it’s great to get all the consents across the line so we can get started.”
The Flyer was introduced in the late 1890s, operating as a freight and passenger service between Kingston and the Main South Line at Gore. It began operating as a tourist train in 1971, then was privately operated as a heritage steam railway tourist attraction from 2003 until mothballed in late 2013.
Mr. Simpson, who had worked on and off with the Flyer since 1983 as a firefighter and then prime engine operator, had been involved in several earlier restoration efforts.
When the Flyer was bought, along with the associated land and buildings, by a group of Auckland-based investors in 2017, Mr Simpson returned to assess the condition of the train.
“When I was asked to come back to see if we could get it going again or not, and then when the decision was made to go ahead, my ambition was to get it up and running again commercially,” he said. he declares.
And while “the rest is history,” the restoration project was no small feat for what was often a team of three or four.
“The rail corridor was completely overgrown so it had to be cleaned…the sleepers and some rail tracks were replaced, the carriages were in very poor condition…and we had to do a lot of work on a locomotive to get it operational.”
With four out of seven wooden carriages fully restored and the AB795 locomotive, which entered service in 1927, back in operation, Mr Simpson said he was ready to “chill out” and pass the baton to the next generation.
“My vision now is to be able to pass it on to other people… who can be enthusiastic and take it over.
“It’s an important step, of course… and I think it just shows that with the determination and enthusiasm of a small group of people with the expertise, we can take this forward into the future. “
While the Flyer has been making charter trips since last year, Mr Simpson said the public was delighted to get on the steam train again, with both trips this Sunday sold out and trips advertised through December almost complete.