All aboard for rail revival

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Oamaru could experience a swag of visitors in the not too distant future.

A Dunedin Railways train will be making it’s way to Oamaru.

The timetable has been set for the next twelve months and features monthly trips over the winter and more frequent excursions over summer.

The success of these trips will determine whether or not the service to Oamaru becomes a daily attraction and that’s something that excites both Tourism Waitaki and Dunedin Railways.

“It’d be fantastic to get the train coming daily and overall that’s our goal and what we’re aiming to achieve,” Dunedin Railways business manager Toby Mann said.

Trains to Oamaru will begin on May 29 in connection with the Oamaru Fire and Steam festival.

Mr Mann said the next 12 months was crucial to the future of the train.

“We want to see how they go. We’ve added it to our service after the Moeraki excursions were a huge success last year and we feel Oamaru could generate similar interest.”

While a daily train was the overall goal he said it was unlikely this would occur over winter.

“There’s just no way it’ll happen over winter but, in summer, we don’t see why it wouldn’t be able to work,” he said.

Exactly where passengers will alight from the train is uncertain but there is a chance passengers could be let off in Thames St until trains are given clearance to cross Bridge 160, which would allow the train to stop near Scott’s Brewery or the Loan and Merc.

Mr Mann said they were in the process of getting permission to cross the bridge.

“We’ve just got to play a waiting game in regards to the bridge being cleared, so we’re uncertain exactly where drop-offs will occur but it’s likely the train will leave from the railway station.”

“Passengers exiting at Thames St is an option,” he said.

Tourism Waitaki marketing manager Ian Elliott said the train has been in the pipeline for some time.

“On the back of the success of the other trains, we thought it was something we could do more with.”

Mr Elliott said he was confident it would succeed.

The Silver Fern railcar that will be used for the Palmerston, Moeraki and Oamaru trips has a capacity of 94 seats, and if it’s successful the 500-seater Taieri Gorge Railway trains could be used.

“We’re are really excited with [what] it’s going to hopefully bring to the town and to the coastal areas of Waitaki.”

He said the two bumper weekends in September and February were something to look forward too.

“In total they visit 30 times and the bumper weekends, which involve a train for Dunedin and Oamaru residents, will hopefully be a hit.”

Oamaru Steam and Rail general manager Harry Andrew said they have someone ready to look at the bridge.

“It’s slow going, but we want the bridge to be checked because there is no point us trying to do up the track if we can’t use it.”

By Brayden Lindsay

PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY – Tyla and Phil Scott, of Scott’s Brewing Co, with Tourism Waitaki marketing manager Ian Elliott stand where the trains to Oamaru could be parked if Bridge 160 passes its warrant of fitness.