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STAFF REPORTER

It was full steam ahead on Sunday as the Pleasant Point Museum and Railway marked the 50th anniversary of the final run of the Fairlie Flyer and the recommissioning of locomotive Ab699.

Pomp and ceremony . . . Members of the Mackenzie Highland Pipe Band pipe Ab718 out of the station, just like they did when the train left Fairlie for the final time on March 2, 1968. PHOTO: BRYAN BLANCHARD

At noon, Ab699 was dressed up as Ab718 – the lead locomotive on the final Fairlie Flyer special excursion trip – complete with fluttering flags and Ab718 cab plates on the front and rear, and was piped out of the station by the Mackenzie Highland Pipe Band.

Later in the afternoon, now dressed as its original New Zealand Railways operating number, Ab699, it was piped back into the station. A gold ribbon stretched across the track in its path was cut by Dowell McLeod, the head restorer of the locomotive boiler, assisted by Daniel Smith and Josh Granger.

A large crowd gathered for the occasion, and to enjoy the night time running of the museum and railway’s two steam locomotives, Ab699 and D16, and the Ford Model T Railcar – the first time all three had operated at night.

Train watching . . . Many headed out to the Pleasant Point Museum and Railway on Sunday to see Ab699 back on track. PHOTO: BRYAN BLANCHARD

Visitors to the event included a large number from around New Zealand, and at least one from as far afield as Queensland.

Ab699, built by A & G Price in Thames, New Zealand, was one of 20 the company built for New Zealand Railways and is now the only one left.

Society president Bryan Blanchard said members were thrilled to see it operating again after being out of commission for five years.