A Palmerston North train enthusiast is heading down south today to upgrade his toy trains to the real thing.
From playing with Thomas the Tank Engine as a kid, to landing a three-week work experience stint on the Kingston Flyer, 18-year-old Cameron Persson is on the right track to landing his dream job of being a train driver.
The former Awatapu College student has secured a hands-on holiday as a fireman, or stoker, on the well-known vintage steam train thanks to his connections - his friend Josh.
"My mate sent me a text a few weeks ago about coming to do some work, he's paying for my flights and putting me up at his place in Kingston.
"It's my first time out of the North Island and I wasn't expecting the text from him at all, so it'll be great - I can't wait."
As a fireman for the Kingston, he will be doing long days and dirty work, and may not even get a foot in the cab door.
"I'll be cleaning the loco, oiling it up, shovelling coal and stuff like that, just keeping it clean and keeping it going, exactly how they did in the old days."
For Mr Persson, he has been in the driver's seat before, but is hopeful his chance will come in the Queenstown Lakes District.
As the youngest member of the Feilding and District Steam Rail Society, he has driven trains, under supervision, around the yard in Feilding.
He has also been aboard a smaller version as a volunteer driver at the Esplanade Scenic Railway.
Since putting his hand up four years ago to join the steam rail society, he said he hardly ever left the place.
"I'd have to say what I enjoy most is working with the guys and learning the old way of doing things and listening to their stories.
"A lot of them are ex-railway workers and retired drivers, so there's a lot to learn off them.
"Although my generation isn't really interested in these type of things, I am."
Mr Persson wants to work for KiwiRail, and his maiden journey down south is a step in the right direction towards becoming a qualified and certified train driver.
- Manawatu Standard
Should Manawatu's earthquake-prone buildings be yellow-stickered?Related story: Council won't use earthquake-risk stickers