Steam locomotive rides again
It was a special day for Marlborough today as the Ja1240 steam locomotive made its first trip under its own power, and pulling a train, on South Island soil in 42 years.
The train pulled out of Picton at around 8.45am, making the 25km journey to the first stop of Blenheim on route to Christchurch.
Eager train spotters, young and old alike lined access points along the line while cars slowed and drove in convoy to catch a glimpse of the majestic old loco along State Highway 1.
Mainline Steam Heritage Trust operations manager Michael Tolich said the locomotive will be stationed in Christchurch from where it will run planned excursions.
"This is the first time that it will pull a train under its own power on the South Island in 42 years. Its old route used to be from Christchurch to Dunedin and back," Mr Tolich said.
The survival of the old engine is thanks to two men, the late Peter Coleman, from Marlborough, and train collector Ian Welch, who owns the locomotive. However, Mr Coleman is the man who saved the engine from being scrapped when he bought it in 1971 and moved it to his Fairhall property where he spent a year restoring it.
His sister Joan and brother-in-law Raynor Henson, who live in Picton, recalled watching Mr Coleman work on the huge machine.
"Peter was a real collector - he even owned a Mustang aeroplane. He pulled the engine to pieces, transported them up to his section and built it up again and got it going," Mr Henson said.
Ja1240 was built in 1946 and after Mr Coleman died it was bought from his estate by Mr Welch in 1991 before being fully restored between 2007 and 2012.
After arriving in Christchurch the engine, which has been named Jessica, will do a return trip to Timaru as well as Arthur's Pass. Both of these trips are sold out.
Mr Tolich asks that the public remain well clear of the train and the train tracks when viewing it, both at the station and along the line.
The Marlborough Express