Restored ‘brother’ locomotives reunited
Two restored locomotives have been reunited, decades after they shifted coal together.
An orange locomotive has joined its green and gold "brother" in Blenheim, and both would soon be pulling passenger carriages from Brayshaw Park to central Blenheim. The engine was rescued by the Blenheim Riverside Railway Society from a Christian camp in Matamata that could not afford the upkeep of its train tracks.
Volunteer Gary Coburn says the locomotive was one of three built to transport coal from the Ohai mine in Southland in the early 1950s, and only two remain.
The other surviving ‘‘loco’’ was in fact the first bought by the society, about 30 years ago, Gary says. ’’They’re brothers, those two. They came out almost the same time.’’
The former owners have already restored the wheels and undercarriage of the engine, but there is still plenty of work to be done before the engine can draw passenger carriages along the riverside, Gary says.
Volunteers have spent about $20,000 to buy and restore the locomotive, borrowed from generous enthusiasts. A $20,000 grant from the Rata Foundation will help them finish the job, and start paying those enthusiasts back, Gary says. ‘‘It’s like having a big millstone on the back of the ledger. It will be good to get rid of it.’’
The third ‘‘brother’’ locomotive is likely ‘‘dead and buried’’ - as in literally buried somewhere. ’’There was a tendency in the old days to put obsolete locos into a river or something, out of practicality. The third train certainly doesn’t exist anymore,’’ Gary says.
Volunteers have painted the locomotive bright orange, after a lively debate on the best colour, he says. ‘‘When [the new locomotive] came to us, it was baby blue. There was some protest about the best colour - some wanted another green one. But when you go to England and you see the trains lined up in the shed they are all different colours, and they’re beautiful,’’ Gary says.
‘‘People living nearby will sit out on the porch with their cup of tea and see the orange loco going by, and they’ll say, ‘when the grandkids come down, we must take them for a ride on that orange loco’.’’
‘‘They’re brothers, those two. They came out almost the same time.’’
Gary Coburn, Blenheim Riverside Railway Society volunteer Blenheim Riverside Railway Society volunteers, from left, Gary Coburn, Ted Ellens, and Ralph Heywood, with the new ‘‘loco’’.