Hastings-born-and-bred Kelvin Langley, better known as Spud, has been awarded Hawke's Bay Rail Inc's inaugural life membership award.
HB Rail Inc is a group that shares a strong interest in railway heritage within Hawkes Bay.
The group's chairman, Murray Twigg, explained the award was a way to recognise Spud's extraordinary effort and commitment to restoring many structures at several small rural HB railway precincts.
For at least the past 30 years, Spud has committed himself to care for obsolete and abandoned rural railway structures. His effort and work on restoring railway assets was all voluntary.
HB Rail Inc believes Spud deserves recognition from not only train enthusiasts but the wider community, Twigg said.
Twigg, HB Rail secretary David Pryor, and club member and close friend Dean Hagen presented a certificate to Spud at his home on April 28.
Due to his frail health, the trio arranged with Spud's family what the best time would be for visitors.
"Spud did get a heads-up at short notice that we were coming to his home to make this award, but not that it had been planned earlier," Twigg said.
"The cat was therefore out of the bag on the day, but nevertheless, you could read the pride in his face."
From the age of 3, the Hastings local had been an avid rail fan, and in his youth he often used to cycle to the Tutaekuri River mouth to watch trains.
Spud lived in Hawke's Bay his whole life, attending Frimley and Raureka primary schools, Hastings Intermediate, and Hastings Boys' High schools before working at the Tomoana Freezing Works as a butcher, then later the Pacific Freezing Works.
In 1977, Spud contracted leptospirosis, an occupational hazard for freezing workers.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria known as leptospira, and Dairy NZ said it is one of the most common diseases transmitted from animals to humans in New Zealand.
Spud's illness has made what he achieved "more remarkable while carrying this debilitating condition", Twigg said.
"Railway history is not at the top of most people's priorities, so railway heritage structures can be lost without too much community care.
"To people like Spud and other HB Rail Inc members, these structures are precious, and any ultimate loss will be regretted."
Spud believed it was better to do something than sit by and witness the gradual loss of all the infrastructure required to operate rural railway stations, back when railways were an essential part of rural logistics.
Twigg said, "For that we are grateful. He has done his bit and now it is time for younger people to carry on the work."
While Spud's health issues have stopped him from further active involvement, other HB Rail members have picked up the baton, recently repainting the Eskdale station and are now repainting Waipunga station.
After Spud and friends' original Eskdale station restoration, an arsonist burned the station building to the ground.
Spud then organised a copy to be built with fire-resistant materials, funding the cost himself.
"The station must have a jinx as shortly afterwards, a motorist lost control on that curve of the highway, colliding with the station building and doing serious damage to it," Twigg said.
"Spud's contribution is significant in enhancing and preserving an often-overlooked part of Hawke's Bay's railway heritage."