Woo Hoo - All Aboard The Kingston Flyer
I'm like a big kid when it comes to trains. Especially old steam trains. Now don't get me wrong, I'm no trainspotter. I don't even own an anorak. But steam trains take me back to my childhood, when I used to have a collection of wind-up steam trains and a small oval track. I even experimented with using boiling water in one of them, to get the authentic steam effect. Unfortunately, this wasn't all that successful, and Mum's carpet suffered terribly, but it never put me off the real thing. So when there is a chance to jump on a real steam train, I usually grab hold of it with two hands.
Kingston is a small town near Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand, with a wopping population of 65 people. But it is also the home of the Kingston Railway Station (where I think half of the population actually live), and the start of my journey on the Kingston Flyer.
The Kingston Flyer originally serviced the area 125 years ago. The Main South Line ran between Kingston and Gore, moving the many farmers and their stock around the district between 1878 and 1955. Now, only 14km of this historic track remain, and it was on this that I made my 75 minute return journey to Fairlight and back.
I ran up and down the steam-heated carriage (built in 1898) like an excited child (or an insane man), trying my best to stick my head out the small windows and get a whiff of the unique steam smell. Barren mountains, some still with a dusting of snow lightly touching their tops, slid past as we gathered speed. Cars on the nearby road slowed and stopped to watch as we thundered past, many of them groping for their cameras in the back seat, desperate to get a shot of the classic train.
Now, I know I said I wasn't a trainspotter, but here is where I get to share a few facts about the Kingston Flyer. It consists of two AB Pacific Class steam locomotives. AB 795 was built in 1927, and is a former Royal Train locomotive. AB 778 was built in 1925. Both are shiney and black, and I couldn't help yelling "Chu Chu Chu Chu Woo Woo" at the top of my voice (causing one mother in my carriage to grab tightly hold of her son, I guess telling him that this is what happens to children who don't eat their greens, or who pour boiling water on their train sets).
As well as the Flyer, Kingston has a good souvenir shop (where I bought a classic steam engine tea towel - for Mum, to soak up accidents involving water), a B&B, a campground, a pub, a golf course, a bowling green (!), and walking tracks.
Trips on the Kingston Flyer cost $44 adults and $22 children return. [more]