Tourism back on track in quake-hit Marlborough town

A heritage steam train named in honour of railway workers killed in World War I will today honour the return of tourism to quake-ravaged Kekerengu.

The 1915 locomotive Passchendaele operates the tourism train Marlborough Flyer. Photo: Supplied/Steam Incorporated

The south Marlborough coastal settlement was badly damaged in the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

The 1915 locomotive named Passchendaele, was now the engine that operated the tourism train Marlborough Flyer. It will take passengers today on a heritage steam journey from Blenheim to Kekerengu and back.

The four-hour return journey will wind its way through the Dashwood Pass and Awatere Valley, taking in coastal views of the Pacific Ocean.

John Bovis of Steam Incorporated – the society that restored the locomotive in 2014, said it was one of only a few in New Zealand ever named.

Steam Incorporated was formed more than 40 years ago and was based at Paekakariki on the Kapiti coast. Its main purpose was to rebuild and maintain heritage railway equipment to the standard required for main-line operation.

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Cracks in the land at Kekerengu. Photo: Tracy Neal

Mr Bovis, who was heavily involved in restoring the locomotive Passchendaele, said the society‘s aim was to rescue such machinery from the scrap heap.

He said the loco was a special part of history that was great to see back up-and-running.

“I guess it‘s a living memorial and a lot of effort went in to designing and building the loco.

“We‘ve put in a lot of effort restoring it, and we‘ve taken it around much of the country since then so it‘s been from Auckland to Bluff and the West Coast, attracting crowds wherever it went,” Mr Bovis said.

“Passchendaele”, or Ab608 was the first of Ab class locos built in 1915, in Christchurch‘s Addington workshops. Mr Bovis said after World War One a suitable memorial for all the railway workers lost in the war was needed.

“This loco was chosen and named Passchendaele,” Mr Bovis said.

He said the loco originally operated from Christchurch south.

“We want to give future generations a feel for what used to be when these locos were hauling trains around the country.”

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