Historic train pulled from Southland river after being dumped 90 years ago

John McKenzie
Source: 1News

After nearly a century buried beneath the Oreti River, workers have finally resurfaced a 135-year-old steam engine locomotive in Southland.

“It’s surreal,” says Lumsden Heritage Trust chairman John Titter.

Two V-Class steam engines were tipped in to the river in 1927, with several attempts to raise them in recent years never gaining momentum.

The Lumsden Heritage Trust though has spent the last six years working on a plan, with a large team resurfacing one of the trains, along with a coal tender this morning.

"There are bits and pieces of these trains around the country, but this is the only complete one in existence,” says rail enthusiast Clark McCarthy.

The trains were used in the South Island in the early 1900s as freight and passenger trains.

They were then dumped in the river for flood protection, where they sat for the last 93 years. Workers first draining the river and digging away mud, before a crane lifted the locomotive out this morning.

Despite a bit of rust, all workers were surprised at the condition of the train, saying the wheels were still turning as it was airlifted out.

“They’re 135 years old, that’s pretty amazing isn’t it,” says Titter.

Despite their best efforts, a second locomotive wasn’t able to be lifted out.

“The plan now is to take them straight in to town and put them straight on display,” says Titter.

They will be displayed in Lumsden.