Oamaru Steam and Rail: “Joining together to keep history alive is what counts" - Harry Andrew

The Oamaru Steam & Rail B10 engine and train

The Oamaru Steam and Rail Restoration Society's volunteer team keeps an important part of New Zealand history alive. Volunteers help restore and maintain several steam and diesel locomotives, the carriages, and tracks which run around the heritage buildings here in Oamaru, and operate the steam and diesel train rides for community members and visitors. They also have a social once a month, just for the ladies.

They are the most proud of ‘B10’, a Hudswell Clarke Steam engine that came to New Zealand from England in 1924 (featured in photograph). The Team are also working on a diesel TR35 train that is currently being restored. On a Saturday, their diverse volunteer group services 3 diesel locomotives, carriages and 2 kilometres of track. They have two teams, one team works on overall maintenance, for two days a week, while the other team are the ones up front, running the railway on Sundays (or any other day they’re asked).

The older, often retired, volunteers help youth to gain new skills and develop a sense of pride in themselves and their community. Youth and retired persons enjoy talking and working alongside each other. They create a welcoming social culture for many to interact with, and this provides all volunteers with a lively sense of belonging. Younger volunteers can also go on to get their Steam Ticket qualifications. Each volunteer feels a sense of pride in their work, as they offer the community interesting historical experiences.

“We have girls, boys, women and men, volunteering alongside each other, and they all love it!” says co-ordinator, Harry Andrew. “Our volunteer team are a special bunch, they're always enthusiastic when it comes to running events, selling tickets, and giving up their own time to provide free rides during Easter and other public holidays… and they especially love to run the Steam Loco on Sundays. They bring new ideas and provide great input into improving what we do.”

When asked how their volunteers weave the community together, Andrew says, “Joining together to keep history alive is what counts, that’s what draws people from different ages and backgrounds together around a common goal. It’s a fun, supportive and social environment, and it's these activities that provide volunteers with a lively sense of belonging and a positive culture for social interaction through shared interests. Both younger and older volunteers benefit and learn from each other within a supportive community. ”

Compiled by Steve Baker in conversation with Harry Andrew

Find out more about how you can volunteer in the Oamaru region: volunteersouth.org.nz/roles.