The West Coast has missed out on buying the Kingston Flyer steam train, which has just been sold to a Queenstown consortium, but Development West Coast says there is another train in Wellington which may be a possibility.
The idea of putting a steam train on the lines as a tourist attraction has the backing of all three West Coast mayors and the region's MP.
Queenstown newspaper Mountain Scene reported the sale to local investors today.
The train had sat dormant for several years without a buyer, and when Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn suggested buying it in early 2015 but DWC ruled out the possibility.
However, when MP Damien O'Connor resurrected the idea two weeks ago DWC was more open to the idea.
DWC chief executive Chris Mackenzie has since been investigating the possibility, and he said today although the Flyer opportunity had gone, they could potentially get an identical Ab locomotive from Wellington, rebuilt and ready to go, complete with carriages.
"I will follow up with the trustees next month, whether they want us to follow anything up," Mr Mackenzie said.
A steam train enthusiast who can actually drive one, Mr Mackenzie said when the Flyer's agent had told them a sale process was already under way and closed yesterday. A third party was also interested.
"I'm disappointed in some respects for the West Coast. While the train itself may never have made a profit, it would have boosted trade at food outlets, accommodation and shops."
Before a steam train could come to the West Coast, it would need Kiwi Rail approval to run on the tracks, and it would need people to fire and drive it. The boiler would to be need lit at 3.30am or 4am daily, so that by the time it was on its way to, say, Westport, the crew would need to be changed. It would also need two drivers and staff in the carriages.
O'Connor said today he was disappointed to hear it had sold, but he was determined to help investigate other options.
"I have spoken with other people with steam train assets, we need to re-engage with them," O'Connor said.
Kokshoorn said there was "no point crying over spilled milk".
"If there's another opportunity and Chris with the trustees is prepared to follow up, I'm right behind them. We have got a lot of railway track that's under-utilised, and fantastic history around steam.
"We need to get some finance from Development West Coast now to deliver it. Let's do it."
Westland Mayor Bruce Smith was also enthusiastic and said the tourist train idea had "tremendous merit".
"I would back Mr Mackenzie."
Buller Mayor Garry Howard said the idea had merit, though it needed to be carefully costed, including the running costs and maintenance.
At one stage they had looked at a multi-vehicle option, with an on-rail, off-rail coach.
"There are different options available."
Based full-time in Kingston since 1971, the Kingston Flyer was latterly owned by former winegrower David Bryce.
Tourism Properties.com broker Adrian Chisholm, who listed the Flyer, would not reveal to Mountain Scene the new owners or what they were paying. But the report said it was understood they met the asking price of $2 million.
Chisholm did say one option was for the Flyer to resume tourist trips on the 13km railway line from Kingston to Fairlight.
Other options for the train - which apparently is not in bad shape - include a static display in Kingston or selling a locomotive and some carriages. The investors are also looking at a movie studio on land between those two townships.
- Greymouth Star