Steam Team Revives Lost Loco

It took the advanced engineering skills of dozens of volunteers and more than 30 years of meticulous work, but the restoration of an old steam locomotive train is now complete, thanks in big part to Lions in Renwick, New Zealand.

Restoration began with a collection of steam train enthusiasts, retired engineers, and Lions. They called themselves “The Steam Team” and spent long hours dedicated to the project.

The origin of the steam engine’s name has long been lost, but “Donald” was used at the Puponga Mines in Golden Bay, New Zealand, from 1901 to 1931, when it was replaced with two larger engines. Left by the side of the track to sink into the mud and deteriorate, Donald was rescued in the late 1990s by the Lions Club of Renwick and transported to the Blenheim Riverside Railway Society’s workshop at Brayshaw Historical Park in Blenheim.

Restoration involved first dismantling the engine entirely and sandblasting every piece. The broken chassis needed to be rewelded and strengthened. The boiler was beyond repair and replaced. One of the biggest challenges was drilling new rivet holes and riveting them in a blacksmith’s forge. Another huge undertaking was fitting the 64 steel boiler tubes, along with fitting the new axles, wheels, smoke box, and funnel.

“Donald” the steam locomotive looking worse for the wear after 60 years cast aside in the mud.

The entire cab was mocked up in plywood and transported to a manufacturer where a new steel cab was built. The boiler was adapted to burn diesel instead of coal, and a third trailing axle was added to reduce track wear on the Blenheim Riverside Railway track where it was destined. Air brakes and lights were added for the safety of passengers.

Finally, custom-built carriages in the style of the early 1900s were made for Donald from the chassis of two discarded carriages, and the Steam Team built fully enclosed cars with opening doors and windows painted to match the original Donald.

The project cost NZD$62,000 (US$40,000) of which NZD$35,000 (US$22,000) was provided by the Lions Club of Renwick.

The revived locomotive passed inspection and has been certified to carry passengers up and down the line between Blenheim and the Aviation Heritage Centre at Omaka.

All aboard!