Restoration programme

Aims and objetives

  • Highlight its national importance as one of the early and unusual steam locomotives associated with the early period of NZ’s railway development (1870s).  It was both an Otago and Canterbury engine.
  • Emphasise its retirement use post its NZGR (New Zealand Government Railway) use at the Port of Timaru and the link with Reefton and the coal industry. [Note: Timaru Harbour Board’s other ex NZR engine Wd 357, was formally an operating engine at Ferrymead Heritage Park]
  • Be a feature in the Reefton rail heritage precinct.
  • Give the opportunity for passenger train running both on and off the     national network so that people get the opportunity to witness the engine working and its uniqueness, that could include use on the private lines such as Ferrymead Railway (not far from the Port of Lyttelton where the engine operated) / ‘Steam Scene’ Railway / Shantytown Railway / Oamaru Steam & Rail Railway / Dunedin Railways, Taieri Gorge Railway (formerly the Otago Central Railway on which the engine used to run on) / The Weka Pass Railway etc.
  • Provide the opportunity for the locomotive as a regular operating exhibit at national Railway Museum, Ferrymead, Christchurch.


Graham Gollan removing fittingsGraham Gollan removing fittings from the R22 replacement boilerThe loco is an asset owned by the Buller District Council (BDC) on behalf of the community.  An existing lease dating back to 1981, between the Inangahua County Council (amalgamated with the Buller District Council in 1987) and the original Single Engine Fairlie Group is in place, but does need updating in line with the new local authority (Buller District Council) and the current restoration plans. 

In the future, post the restoration of R 28 it is likely that the lease will be transferred from Reefton Inc to another community organisation with a specific mandate for heritage management.  The initial step of Reefton Inc coordinating the restoration will enable the restoration of the engine to be achieved, as agreed by interested parties at a community meeting about the engine’s future, chaired by Bert Waghorn Inangahua Community Board Chairperson 2005.

Note to clarify the community groups involved:

The Fairlie Engine Committee – formed to save R28 from being removed from Reefton.  In 1981 the committee moved the engine from the Reefton playground to its current location, The Strand.  A letter of agreement and lease was put in place the following year between The Fairlie Engine Committee and the former local authority, the Inangahua County Council (now merged with the Buller District Council).

The Single Engine Fairlie Restoration Project Group – followed down the track from a meeting in 2005 between the original Fairlie Engine Committee, Inangahua Community Board representing the Buller District Council and additional interested parties/individuals.

Restoration Goal


‘The Single Engine Fairlie Restoration Project Group’  became formed in July 2010 and is a  Reefton Inc sub committee  dedicated to the engine’s restoration and operation.  A goal is to have the engine operational by March / April 2018, it’ will be an opportunity to showcase a significant heritage item in the Buller District

Restoration Considerations

The first step in the restoration process will be to determine the suitability of utilising the spare R class boiler (R22) owned by the Canterbury Steam Preservation Soc, McLean’s Island, Christchurch.  The boiler is the most critical component of the engine and the part of the engine that there is considerable cost associated with its repair.   Inspection of this boiler by SGS in 2012 has determined that the boiler can be brought into survey, i.e. be an operational boiler, with minor repairs.  Fundraising is now underway (2015) to purchase the boiler from the Canterbury Steam Preservation Soc.  The boiler is at Morrow Engineering Christchurch where the repairs will be undertaken.

A fundraising strategy will be developed and implemented to achieve the estimated $360,000 required to bring the locomotive up to operational condition. Where possible the restoration work will be undertaken in Reefton but some of the work requiring particular technical expertise will be contracted out to competent engineering co firms.

to allow the majority of the work to be undertaken on a contract basis by competent engineering firms, and time framed to enable the engine in-part to be part of the 150th rail anniversary celebrations.  But the motivating goal is to be at the planned Dunedin Steam Festival in October 2014.

Restoration work will proceed on a stage by stage basis, and it is likely that several restoration stages will run in parallel with each other depending on funds on hand. March / April 2018 has been set for the completion of the restoration project.

In terms of the operation of the engine, this may well be undertaken under the umbrella of an organisation that is currently involved in network steam operations, such as Mainline Steam, Steam Inc, Fielding & Districts Steam Rail.

Proposed Restoration Programme:    

  1. Inspect the R boiler at Mclean’s Island owned by the Canterbury Steam Preservation Society to determine its integrity and suitability for use as the operational boiler for the R28 project – SGS 2012
  2. On a satisfactory result for the boiler, take steps to purchase the boiler $25,000 inc Gst – Initiated 2015
  3. Undertake a formal assessment of the condition of the locomotive other than the boiler to determine operational requirements by a competent steam engineer, Alastair Maciver, Steam Inc, Wellington – Achieved Oct/Nov 2012
  4. Review the Les Wright written (draft) conservation plan that will guide restoration and enable funding to be sought from such agencies as Lottery World War One Commemorations, Environment & Heritage Grant Fund. Chris Cochran Conservation Architect, Wellington to do the review (Recognised by Lottery’s as an independent conservation specialist)
  5. Forward a pre-registration / restoration plan that is required to be submitted to the Heritage Technical Committee of FRONZ for approval. Approval is a prerequisite to enable the possibility of running on the KiwiRail network
  6. Fundraise / seek sponsorship support, to achieve the 1/3rd or better sum of $120,000 ext Gst to enable a grant application of $240,000 ext Gst for the R28 project to go forward for consideration by the Lottery’s World War One Commemorations, Environment & Heritage Grant fund committee. Closing date for the application, most likely November 2016. Total project cost estimated to be $360,000 ext Gst
  7. Re-submit the Lottery World War One Commemorations, Environment & Heritage Grant Fund application by November 2016
  8. Establish the advocacy group, a ‘Friends of R28’ to build a support base for the project and to help raise awareness, help with funding initiatives and build the competent volunteer base
  9. Identify key stakeholders and maintain ongoing relationships
  10. Update the Buller District Council as to the R28 restoration project and objectives – seek an updated lease of R28 for restoration and operational purposes. Utilise modified FRONZ (Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand) lease agreement
  11. Liaise with the Reefton Historic Trust Board for the use of the Reefton Railway (Steam) Engine Shed as a place for R28 restoration work, also liaise with the organisation behind the ‘Mens’ Shed’ located on Bridge Street as another suitable venue for restoration work to take place
  12. Start in 2016 the restoration of the engine components with repair of the leading bogie (as per the re-firing R28 Steam Locomotive Restoration – Work Programme (2016) – available as a pdf ). A start with restoration and progress with restoration builds credibility, attracts interest, sits very comfortably with funders and usually facilitates the possibility of further funding support
  13. Develop operational possibilities / operational programmes for the post restoration phase, which will include showcasing the engine on the railway network on the West Coast, and other parts of the south island, that may also include visiting private railways
  14. Identify revenue possibilities for the engine’s ongoing sustainability, with reference to the operational programme
  15. Have the locomotive restoration completed and operational compliance requirements met by March/April 2018

A Health & Safety programme is to be effectively managed throughout entire project.


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