Mystery comment puts dampener on fire risk

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013
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Kingston Flyer

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A Southland Times website reader's comment and DIY engineering have put the Kingston Flyer steam train back on its tracks since sparking a scrub fire in tinder-dry conditions stopped it a week.

Kingston Flyer managing director David Bryce temporarily suspended train runs from January 27 because Kingston Station owner Tim Taylor claimed he would lose $14,000 in revenue from the fire.

Mr Bryce said 6 hectares of scrub he had already sprayed by helicopter were burnt, making the land useless for winter grazing.

However, after testing and fitting an apparatus that bypasses steam from the engine to the smokestack thus dampenening any live cinders left in the steamtrain's exhaust, Mr Bryce has opened operations again.

"We've basically rigged up a copper pipe to funnel the steam that the locomotive produces in its firebox to inject into the smokestack," he said.

"That steam then condenses . . . and that water will eliminate any live sparks coming out of the smokestack."

Smokestack-triggered fires are nothing new to steam trains, and in 2012 and 2011 major fires were sparked in Europe from vintage locomotives running through dry regions in summer months.

The idea of using a steam condensation bypass valve to dampen live embers came from a comment left on the Southland Times news website last week.

The comments, which referred to fires started by locomotives in America, and may have been left by an American reader, have since been removed.

But as soon as Mr Bryce saw the comment in the middle of last week he enlisted the help of his son Davey, and the duo swung into action at the locomotive yard workshop.

"It's great that the person who left the comment was so generous with their knowledge, which was obviously sparked by their own experience - excuse the pun," he said.

There were already bookings for today's first run of the train at 10am, and on any given day people would invariably turn up to look at the train, which would often lead to them becoming passengers, Mr Bryce said.

While the system was being trialled a staff member would still be on fire-spotting duty, Mr Bryce said.

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- The Southland Times

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