GOLDFIELDS Railway has a shiny new, award-winning locomotive ready to add to its fleet.

Once track upgrades and locomotive certification is completed, the Hunslet DSA 551 will be the third locomotive working the tracks at the historic railway station.

The newly restored loco — which took nearly three years — has recently won a prestigious award. It took the motive power award (non steam) at the annual Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand (FRONZ) conference in Timaru earlier this month for its restoration job.

''This is a very important win,'' says secretary treasurer Chris Hale. ''A major plus for the railway here and a big recognition for the repair and maintenance team. They have done an excellent job.''

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Executive officer Peter Cooper put in the application which won the Hunslet over a handful of trains from around the country. FRONZ represents the heritage and tourist rail industry in New Zealand.

The old locomotive had had a rich history before it ended at Goldfields Railway undergoing a massive restoration.

It used to belong to New Zealand Railways Corporation which operated it, retired it and the loco went to Hastings to work as a shunter lugging fertiliser stock.

Eventually the fertiliser company sold it to a Napier man.

''We heard about it so Dennis Blake and I went to chat to him. We came to an agreement.''

''But what we found was that it needed a bit of work. Fertiliser gets in everywhere, in the all the joints, and so we stripped it right back down to the chassis, and we realised we had to rebuild it all.''

The best part of $90,000 was spent on the rebuild, Chris says. The engine was sandblasted, rebuilt, repainted and the air lines were restored.

''Now we have a good operable automotive.''

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From here, funds will be applied for the track to be upgraded. The loco can be run for testing but it is not yet certified to carry people.

When the track is upgraded it will pull their passenger train. The third loco is bigger than the other two and it will be able to take a slightly larger carriage. Chris hopes it will be ready by Christmas.

Boosting popularity
The addition of the Hunslet DSA 551 is all part of a drive by Goldfields Railway Incorporated to increase numbers.

The drive is take more people on to Waikino as they have the capacity to do this.
''With all the preservation work and to upkeep the railway itself we need to develop more income,'' Chris says.

''We have good income but it could be better, I spend a lot of time looking for more funding. The operation of the railway is able to fund itself but when we have major capital work to do, it's expensive — and we have to fund it ourselves.''

The railway was built in 1905 and Goldfields Railway society was established in 1980 to preserve the rail heritage. It is a popular tourist railway operating between Waihi and Waikino.

They are undertaking a plan with the emphasis on the preservation and historic part of the railway.

Chris says Goldfields is a charitable society that operates as a business, and all the money they make goes back into preservation and operation.

They have some paid staff and rely on the help of 30 volunteers.