Steam train project losing puff 

About 10,000 hours of labour went into the train to restore it to its former glory. Supplied

Six months after work was finished last year to save a 105-year-old steam engine, it still sits in a warehouse as frustration grows around finding it a new home.

It took 15 years and $250,000 to restore the the engine – and now Te Awamutu Lions Club trust which brought new life to the old train are frustrated.

Trust head Russell Easton said that they are still waiting for council to confirm a spot for the engine

“I’m bloody disappointed, we’ve been working to find a place for it and council use BECA to come and do a futile exercise and expected to put up a building for over a million dollars,” he said.

“First of all the loco doesn’t need a building of that size and who can fundraise that amount of moment in this community as well?”

In 2019 the council commissioned consultants BECA to look at the options and seven locations were identified around Te Awamutu.

The Lions Club favoured a location next to the i-Site but it would close off views of Selwyn Park and occupy space normally used by weekend markets.

Council staff recommended it be put on Albert Park Drive a high profile location, in a “natural stopping, pause point” for those on the nearby cycle trail and walking path.

The council set aside $100,000 to move the engine into a new home in its last long term plan.

The Lions obtained estimates of up to $300,000 for a semi-industrial style building while BECA estimated a cost of $1 million for a suitable structure on Albert Park.

The community board approved Albert Park as a suitable location but also recommend Waipā District Council staff investigate the corner of Arawata Street and Scout Lane, the car park of the Bunnings store which closed last August as an alternate.

Easton said he has been working directly with the community board over the last few months and with the recent purchase of the Arawata Street site a couple of months ago believes it will be the chose site.

But he said that confirmation or updates to where the train can go have been non existant over the last few months.

He said that some were getting so frustrated that they thought they should sell the steam engine and cut their losses.

“In the New Zealand there are a number of places that would be interested in purchasing it tomorrow but we put or heart and soul into this project and don’t want it to leave like that.

“Myself personally I’ve put around 3000 hours of work into it over the years, which wasn’t for nothing, and I want to see it remain in the community where it’s spent most of its time in.”

He said that for the mean time the trust will keep fundraising to help with any financial support the project needs to get it back in the public eye.

The B Class Climax 1317 steam engine was gifted to Te Awamutu by former mayor Jonas Smyth in the late 1950s.

The engine was used for logging in the Ōtorohanga district and is thought to have been manufactured around 1915. It was one of six imported to New Zealand from Pennsylvania.

Before going in for restoration it was based at Te Awamutu War Memorial Park for close to 50 years until its condition deteriorated and the Waipā District Council decided to repair it in 2003.

The engine was moved in 2005 after the Te Awamutu Lions Club formed a trust the year prior to fundraise and restore it.

The trust struck up an agreement with the council to restore the Climax engine to a condition suitable for display. The Lions Club trust over the years raised $280,000 for the project and put in about 10,000 hours of free labour so the engine’s restoration could be completed.

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