They're not a common sight on modern train tracks - steam engines.

But a small but dedicated Whanganui group is committed to making sure these "jiggers" don't disappear altogether.

"The organisation is called SteamRail Wanganui," Blair Jordan said. "People say 'why have steam in the name when you don't have a steam train?'

"But we do have a steam crane at the other end, and the group was formed to restore the turntable here, which we did over three years, to attract visiting steam excursions to Whanganui."

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Jordan is one of 40 volunteers who gather each Sunday to continue their painstaking work, restoring and maintaining many old machines.

"We've got a couple of members who used to be coach builders at the East Town Workshops, so their knowledge is getting tapped to see how we restore these things," Jordan said referring to a machine in the workshop built in 1895. "It's the only one of its kind left."

Volunteer, Hamish Coull is also passionate about trains. It's a hobby that spills into his day job maintaining signals for KiwiRail.

"The basic concept's the same where you've got sections of rail, it's a block section and you're only allowed one train on the section at a time so that principal still applies, it's just implemented a different way," he said.

Restoring machinery from the age of steam isn't paid, and there's certainly no glamour with this work, but the group knows it's preserving history.

"People used to come to Whanganui by rail, jump on the river boat, head off up the river and then get off at Taumaranui to carry on their journey," Jordan offered by way of explanation.

"This is an A&G Price built loco, built in 1964. It went up for scrap and I managed to save it before the scrapper cut it up!"

SteamRail Wanganui opens its doors twice a year to the public, allowing a tour of this otherwise forgotten world.

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