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Iconic train launches ‘Friends of the Flyer’

30 August 2012

Iconic train launches ‘Friends of the Flyer’

New Zealanders are being invited to become ‘friends’ of the famous Kingston Flyer to ensure the iconic steam train is around for future generations to enjoy.

The Kingston Flyer came perilously close to being lost to the nation when her former owners went into liquidation three years ago.

Now she’s back on track thanks to new owner David Bryce, who famously bought his ‘train set’ off Trade Me in August 2011 and set about restoring her to her former glory and introducing her to a whole new legion of fans.

With forecast on-going maintenance and repairs required for the long term, a new ‘Friends of the Flyer’ package is being introduced to help fund the on-going restoration of the Kiwi icon so she steams her way between Kingston and Fairlight for years to come.

Launching this Saturday (September 1), a month before the train is set to open for its second season under Mr Bryce’s ownership, train lovers can buy a Friends of the Flyer card for just $65 to support the restoration. The card entitles holders to a 50% discount on up to 10 regular fares, and complimentary tea and coffee on board the train.

The card is fully transferrable to friends and families, has no expiry date and all proceeds will support the Flyer’s ongoing restoration.

Kingston Flyer owner David Bryce said the ‘Friends’ offer was a great way for all New Zealanders to get involved in restoring a slice of history and heritage.

“Many people don’t realise just how much goes into maintaining an ‘old girl’ like the Kingston Flyer,” he said.

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“I’d estimate that the Kingston Flyer will require significant investment over the next few years just in restoration costs, with regular maintenance and repair works on top of this.

“I’ve been happy to dig deep into my own pockets to fund all restoration works to date, and I’m still totally dedicated to keeping this iconic slice of New Zealand’s heritage going, but it would be good to have the support of additional funding.

“I’d encourage anyone to become a Friend of the Flyer. Even if people aren’t able to get down to ride the train, we’d still very much appreciate and value that support.

“For anyone who does get the opportunity to take a ride on the Kingston Flyer, have a look around at the delight on people’s faces when they see her puffing away at the station, or steaming up the tracks. She’s an absolute joy. I’m dedicated to ensuring she’s going to be around for a long while yet.”

Operating since the 1878, the Kingston Flyer was nearly lost when previous owners suffered financial failure in 2009. Two years later Mr Bryce, a winegrower from Marlborough who was born just down the road from Kingston, took over ownership.

My Bryce’s first season as operator of the Kingston Flyer saw over 16,000 passengers enjoying the train ride.

The Kingston Flyer has been hibernating this winter while a planned maintenance overhaul has been carried out. Part of the maintenance works included a major ‘strip down’ of the boiler of locomotive AB795 to secure its reliability for decades to come, with AB778 scheduled for the same maintenance overhaul in three months’ time.

The train is now primed and ready for the opening of the 2012/13 season, launching in time for the New Zealand school holidays on September 29 and running until April 29 2013.

The season opening will kick off with a ‘Gala Opening’ day on Saturday September 29, a fun-filled day which will include a car boot market day – with no attendance fee – from 10am to 3.30pm, free music, and discounted opening day fares at $30 for an adult and $15 per child. Vintage cars and machinery are invited to be on display in Kingston. The Saturday timetable will see the train operate at 10am, 12pm and 2pm, while on Sunday it will revert to the regular season long timetable and run at 10am and 1.30pm only.

For more information and to purchase a ‘Friends of the Flyer’ card and reserve tickets for the 2012/13 season go to

About the Friends of the Flyer card
Cardholders are entitled to 50% discount for 10 regular fares. Cards can be purchased online along with discounted fares. Discounted rides are transferrable to friends and family. Book online at or phone 0800 4 FLYER. To receive the 50% discount on fares cardholders MUST present their card at the ticket office in Kingston or Fairlight stations when tickets are collected. Cardholders receive complimentary tea and coffee on board the train. Kingston Flyer Ltd reserves the right to limit the use of this card on special trips.

About The Kingston Flyer
The Kingston Flyer is New Zealand's famous vintage steam train set in the spectacular mountain scenery of the Queenstown Lakes District. When gold was discovered in the Wakatipu district in 1862 the need to connect the district by steamships and steam trains became apparent. The railway line at last reached Kingston on July 10, 1878 and a public holiday was declared by Queenstown Borough and Lake County Councils.

The express passenger steam train known as "The Flyer" serviced Kingston-Gore on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Kingston-Invercargill on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the 1890s. During peak holiday periods she also carried passengers from Dunedin to Kingston to meet up with Lake Wakatipu steamboats connecting with the popular holiday destination of Queenstown.

The service was replaced by buses and passenger numbers declined through the 1950s. The final Kingston Flyer operated during the Easter holiday of 1957. Trains continued to run on the Waimea Plains Railway until 31 March 1971.

The New Zealand Government came up with a plan to save the historic steam train and funded its restoration in 1971. The atmosphere of the 1920s was retained and remains today featuring polished brass and steel work, white tyres, red fluted side rods, and glossy black paintwork.

The Kingston Flyer heritage service between Kingston and Lumsden continued until 1979. Today the service covers a 14km stretch of track between Kingston and Fairlight. The rails are the originals laid in 1878 but many of the 19,360 sleepers have been replaced.

The driving force and face of The Kingston Flyer was Russell Glendinning who is credited with saving and restoring the Flyer back in the 1970s. This was acknowledged when he received an MBE in 1975 New Year Honours. Russell’s career began at age 14 in Dunedin in 1953. His apprenticeship took 7 years. In 1964 he became a First Class Driver and in 1969 a Special Class Driver. Russell's passion and energy continues to this day, he still occasionally drives the train, shines the brass and can be seen regularly out maintaining the track.


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