The Lumsden Heritage Trust has staged another audacious recovery of a piece of New Zealand railways history.
Yesterday a team of contractors rescued an 1883 wooden passenger carriage which had been sitting on a farm at Wairio, in western Southland, since 1952, and transported it 64km to Lumsden, its final home.
The Lumsden Heritage Trust (LHT) made international news earlier this year when it salvaged two 19 th century V Class locomotives from the mud of the Mararoa junction, a tributary of the Oreti River, near Castlerock.
The trains had been dumped there by New Zealand Railways in 1928 to help form a flood protection wall.
Chairman John Titter says it was a happy coincidence that the trust heard about the A Class, elevated roof passenger car, number 199.
John had been looking at another carriage for use as an information kiosk at the Lumsden railway precinct.
However, the plan quickly changed when he heard about A199 through Hamish Montgomery, from Clear Drain South, who was a member of the project team at Lumsden when the V Class locomotives were recovered in early 2020.
The carriage was already on the farm when James and Philippa Montgomery bought the property in 1963.
Hamish and his sister Liz played in it when they were children.
Once John was put in touch with landowner Philippa Montgomery, she immediately offered to gift the carriage to the Lumsden Heritage Trust. John says it was “an offer we couldn’t refuse”.
The passenger car was built by New Zealand Railways at Addington, Christchurch, in 1883. The 43-foot wooden car was a composite – half first class, half second class. It was sold to the Ohai Railway Board in 1941 and remained in use there until 1952, when it was transported to the farm now owned by the Montgomery’s.
No-one is sure how it got there, as it would have required some heavy lifting.
Since hearing of the carriage just three weeks ago, the heritage trust reformed what
John calls “the A team” of Southland contractors who carried out the locomotive recoveries in January and February this year.
Project Steam chairman Clark McCarthy and his father Gary, from Dunedin, who were integral in the V Class rescue effort, were quickly recruited to provide technical support, while contractors Smith Crane and Construction, Southland Machine Hire and Linton Contracting again put up their hands to do the job.
John and fellow trustee Rob Scott are both in awe of how seamlessly the operation went.
The contractors spent yesterday preparing the site, demolishing an old shed and clearing overgrown tree branches which would have impeded the cranes’ access. With a clear run at the carriage, yesterday’s removal effort started at 8am and ran like clockwork. By midday the carriage was on blocks in Lumsden.
Pic – Lumsden Heritage Trust
It now awaits restoration to its former glory by Lumsden carpenter Gordon Lawrence.
The trust plans to refurbish the carriage and used it as an information kiosk telling the story of the V Class locomotives and other information about the township’s proud railway history.
The cost of today’s recovery and refurbishment was already covered in the trust’s business plan for the recovery of the two V Class locomotives earlier this year.