Running out of steam? Call for sale deal re-stoke
The historic Kingston Flyer steamtrain could deteriorate beyond salvation because of the owner's "unrealistic" sale expectations, the 30-year caretaker of the train fears.
Former engine driver and manager of the Kingston Flyer for more than 30 years, Russell Glendinning, said the annual safety certificates for the twin steam engines, 778 and 795, had both expired, and because of damage and missing parts, would need a lot of work to get certified again.
The Flyer had been a major tourist attraction for Kingston, but has had a hard run in recent years.
After a long receivership, the train,which came with a substantial land and buildings package, was bought by Marlborough-based David Bryce in 2011.
Hailed as the Flyer's saviour, Bryce won the town over. Paddock fires caused by the Flyer emitting coal clinkers and sparks happened in the busy summer season, and Bryce came head to head with neighbouring land owners.
By April last year the whole operation was back on the market for $2.5 million, and has now dropped to $2.1m - which is still not realistic, Glendinning said.
Mounting frustration over the lack of a sale was exacerbated by the representative of a US syndicate leaving the country last month without any sale negotiation headway.
"Any buyer looking is basically looking at a non-operational train," Glendinning said.
"Engine 795 has a buckled front end, and 778 has brake gear missing, fire box problems and miscellaneous fittings missing. The carriages are getting rot in their woodwork, the window frames are disintegrating, and the canvas roofs are starting to split to the point where water's coming in.
"The carriage roofs need fixing before winter and carriages around the wharf have been broken into - nothing's even very secure around here."
Glendinning said he thought around 40 potential buyers had made purchase inquiries, but were "scared away" by the state of the steam engines and the specialist work needed to bring them to certification level.
He had asked Bryce to drop the asking price to "something realistic," because the train meant so much to the town.
"The train is a huge drawcard, and every day there are tourists stopping here and taking photos of the train, even though it's locked behind a fence and deteriorating to a point worse than it's ever been."
Everyone in Kingston is saying that if Bryce gets a fair price, he should let someone else run it, Glendinning said.
He said restoring the trains is probably going to cost a further $2m.
"No-one can understand why David won't sell something which he can't operate, and is costing him money in rates every day. From a community point of view, everyone just wants him to settle on a fair price and let everyone else get on with things."
Bryce told the Mirror Glendinning was not involved in any business aspect of the Kingston Flyer, and the two men had not talked for a long time. He declined to comment on anything Glendinning had to say.
A partial life:
Late 1970s: The Flyer becomes a tourist attraction
Early 1990s: Tourist operations. The Flyer is estimated to have attracted up to 39,000 passengers per year
2004: Kingston Acquisitions Ltd purchases the Flyer
2007: Kingston Acquisitions owes $4.7 million to Prudential Mortgage
2008-2009 Summer: At least 50 people per day take Flyer trips November
2009: Kingston Acquisitions placed into receivership
March 2011: After two years sitting dormant, the Flyer is listed on Trade Me, attracting inquiries from the UK , China and Australia
June 2011: David Bryce registers Kingston Flyer Ltd and Kingston Tavern Ltd with the New Zealand Companies Office and purchases the train and assets
October 2011: The Flyer re-launches with more than 1000 passengers riding the train on five fully booked trips
April 2012: The Flyer closes out its first season under David Bryce's ownership having notched more than 15,000 customers
October 2012: The Flyer starts its second season under Bryce with 611 passengers and hundreds of spectators turning out for opening day
December 10, 2012: Flyer operations are suspended because one locomotive needs critical maintenance. Eleven seasonal staff are stood down at the peak of the season.
January 4, 2013: Operations resume
April 20, 2013: Citing health reasons Bryce puts the Flyer and associated land and chattels on the market through Tourism Property Brokers.
The Southland Times