Antique train restoration nears end

CHUGGING ALONG: From left, Ken Williamson and Allen Cartwright are nearing the end of the  restoration of Te Awamutu’s Climax 1317 train.
CHUGGING ALONG: From left, Ken Williamson and Allen Cartwright are nearing the end of the restoration of Te Awamutu’s Climax 1317 train.

A project to restore an antique train to its former glory is nearing completion but supporters are still unsure where the locomotive will serve out its remaining years.

Ken Williamson and Allen Cartwright have put in countless hours stripping away rust, adding new coats of paint and replacing brass fittings to Waipa's Climax B steam locomotive.

It sat at the Te Awamutu Memorial Park for almost 50 years delighting generations of children as they clambered over it but the man in charge of its restoration Russell Easton said those days could be over.

"We've been doing this for a museum type display," he said. "It's all brass and what-have-you and as you can imagine, those things will only last five minutes in the public arena, so it needs to be looked after."

The train was gifted to the community by former mayor, the late Jonas Smyth, and decades in the rain had taken a toll.

Rust filled and worn out, the Climax was given a new lease of life and Easton said it needed to be weather protected to keep it in pristine condition for the long haul.

"Everything has been put back to new and it'll just rust away if you don't. In a working situation its steaming and it heats up and dries out, whereas if you just leave it like it was in the park, day-after-day, it just rusts and deteriorates."

Easton had put nine years of organising and work into the project and said a small team of dedicated people had spent thousands of hours into the restoration for fundraising, administration and labour.

He expected the job would be done by Christmas.

"We've still got a bit of work to do on it, we're just trying to get a bit more money together which we hope to do shortly, but we're pretty much on the way."

The Climax steam engine worked the rail at Kakahi, south of Taumarunui, as a transporter for the Egmont Box Company and was one of only five of its type in New Zealand. Only two survive as complete examples.

It was taken to Arohena district and later to the nearby Ngaroma district and in 1960 was delivered to Memorial Park where it sat for decades.

Another Climax is housed at Shantytown on the West Coast, with others at the Pukemiro Bush Tramway and a 1904 version at the Tokomaru Steam museum in the Manawatu.

When the Climax was taken to the workshop in 2004, it was in several pieces but once it was completed, at 21 tonnes, about 10 metres long and four metres high, it would have to be moved to its permanent home with extreme care.

"We're going to have to look after the finished article. It's going to be quite a job."

"It has travelled a little bit so if the old fellas could do it back then with what they had, surely we can do it."

Waipa District Council heritage committee discussed a move to the Te Awamutu hub or the possibility of a historical site for the engine to showcase the region's farming history.

Te Awamutu Lions Club was in charge of the restoration and started the Climax 1317 Trust to fundraise and have raised over $150,000 so far. But Easton said they needed more to finish the job.

Waikato Times