A steam locomotive salvaged by a group of Hawke's Bay steam enthusiasts after being out of action for half a century is set to ride the tracks again, as winner of the national Steam Locomotive Restoration Award.
The honour was bestowed at the Federation of Rail Organisations conference in Rotorua on Saturday on the Silver Stream Railway, which is completing the restoration of the Hawke's Bay Steam Society which owns the 91-year-old Locomotive 531.
On hand was Napier man Jason Durry, whose boyhood fascination with trains developed into an obsession to see the engine restored, after it had been bought as a rusting shell in Northern Hawke's Bay in 2001.
He even moved to Wellington about a year ago to help see the restoration through. His father, John Durry, said last night,: "He was going down there every weekend. It was costing too much."
Although describing his son's passion for trains and the project as "unbelievable", he was never surprised. When the family lived in Wellington his son was fascinated with trains from the moment he clapped eyes on the machinery when first taken to Silver Stream, at the age of about 18 months.
The family moved to Hawke's Bay and Jason went to Tamatea High School.At the age of 30, Jason Durry was welding with a Napier firm before moving back to the capital.
All-but completed, the engine will be New Zealand's only operating Barclay locomotive, and also the smallest ex-New Zealand Railways locomotive still in existence, but whether Jason Durry's dream of having it one-day back in Hawke's Bay comes true is much less certain.
Silver Stream Railway will have it on lease from Hawke's Bay Steam for four years from the date of completion.
John Durry said it would then have to be "found a home", but there were issues to explore as to whether it could ever be moved to Hawke's Bay or stationed in the region.
His son said from Wellington later there's nowhere to run the locomotive and "running it on the network is out of the question".
It was built at Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1921, starting its life downunder as a Public Works workhorse assisting with the Stratford-Okahukura line construction.
In 1938 it was sold to New Zealand Railways and involved in track easement work in Auckland, but ultimately was left for scrap at the East Town workshops in Whanganui.
Resurrection was first contemplated by Sir Len Southward for possible display at his then fledgling Paraparaumu car museum, but he sold it in 1981 to Tokomaru Steam Museum, where it was sandblasted, primer-painted, dismantled and stored until sold to Northern Hawke's Bay enthusiast Roy Currie.
He also did some work, but was stalled by the daunting task of replacing the boiler, leading to its sale in 2001 to the Hawke's Bay society formed for the purpose of its restoration.
In 2009 it was leased to Silver Stream to complete the overhaul.