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Locomotive's restoration on track for war tribute

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 08:23 13/12/2012
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KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

MILESTONE: The boiler of the locomotive Ab608 Passchendaele is lifted back on to its wheels at the Steam Incorporated workshops in Paekakariki.

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A milestone in the restoration of a historic steam engine is another step towards Passchendaele firing back to life in time to play its part in upcoming World War I commemorations.

The boiler of Ab608 Passchendaele was lifted back on to its wheels at Steam Incorporated workshops in Paekakariki yesterday as an extensive 20-year, $350,000 rebuild nears completion.

The handsome locomotive was built in 1915 at Addington Railway Workshops in Christchurch and was the only steam engine to be officially given a name by New Zealand Railways in the 20th century.

In 1925 railways minister Gordon Coates agreed to a proposal to name the locomotive "in memory of those members of the New Zealand Railways who fell in the Great War".

The train was retired in 1967, when its boiler required heavy repairs. It was subsequently given to the New Zealand Railways and Locomotive Society for preservation, arriving in Ferrymead, Christchurch, in 1978. In 1993 it was arranged for Steam Incorporated to take charge of its restoration.

Steam Incorporated president Peter Norman said getting the boiler back into its frame was a big step towards getting the locomotive going. "It is our passion. We will carry on reassembling the engine and hopefully have it running to coincide with World War I commemorations."

Steam Incorporated business manager John Bovis said they were discussing several ideas with the World War I committee, including using the steam engine in an exhibition train to stop at main centres around the country.

The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 was a campaign by the British and their allies against the Germans near the Belgian city of Ypres. The darkest day in New Zealand's military history happened in the battle on October 12, when 846 soldiers were killed.

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- The Dominion Post

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