Track repairs will put locomotive back on track

CHUGGING AHEAD: Waitara Railway Preservation Society chairman Denyse Bettridge.
CHUGGING AHEAD: Waitara Railway Preservation Society chairman Denyse Bettridge.

Waitara's famous locomotive will be chugging down a familiar path when repair works to its Lepperton tracks are completed.

Waitara Railway Preservation Society chairman Denyse Bettridge said going back to running the locomotive's original route was an exciting time for the organisation.

The track, 7.2 kilometres long and linking Waitara to Lepperton, has been closed for the past 10 years.

Bettridge said repair works had been on the society's to-do list ever since.

The line was first bought by the society from TranzRail in 2002 with a $300,000 grant from the Taranaki Electricity Trust.

"There's been a lot of excitement around town," he said about the repair works.

It cost the society $50,000 to have the repairs done, with some money for the work received from the TSB Community Trust.

Bettridge said the track's structures were still "pretty sound".

"It's just that all the sleepers have rotted, so we're putting pine sleepers on there, which will last 25 years," he said.

Native trees will also be planted along the tracks in a bid to encourage local birds to "settle back" in the area, Bettridge said.

The society is also looking to lease back part of a 6ha section further up the tracks, where the original train workshops, built in the 1870s sat.

"That was where all the locomotives, wagons and carriages were assembled and maintained for the Waitara line," Bettridge said.

"We're looking at getting part of the land back on our lease so we can put a station up there or a run-around track."

Its monthly hour-long Sunday train excursions are quite popular, with visitor numbers ranging from 50 to 200 at any given time.

"It brings a lot of people into Waitara who probably never come here and that's the tourists as well," Bettridge said.

It would take about a month and five engineers to whip the tracks back into shape, providing the weather co-operated.

Visitors will be able to experience the reopened line once the society recommences its monthly excursions on the first Sunday in September.

Taranaki Daily News