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The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust has always relied on volunteers, and has been strongly supported by all sorts of people with all sorts of skills to contribute, whether it be as train drivers or guards, working on the railway station grounds, cleaning, manning the shop, engineering or a wide range of restoration work on carriages, engines and buildings.
In 2010 the trust won the prestigious New Zealand TrustPower Supreme Community Award for its outstanding volunteer support and activities.
"Generally the volunteers have been from the older age group — often retired — people who are keen to use their experience or to learn new skills, and more of these folk will be warmly welcomed," said Frank Leadley.
"But we have been very heartened by the number of younger people who are displaying a genuine interest in supporting the vintage railway. Two young men in particular stand out in this regard.
"Braxton Matthews, a 17-year-old Bay of Islands College student, has been a very keen supporter for the last two years, involving himself in all sorts of activities, and is a regular at the station as assistant to the driver and to the guard during train operations. He took on the task of painting Clyde, a 1959 cattle wagon, one of only a few left in New Zealand.
"He is passionate about the railway, and sees it as potential future employment.
"On several occasions he has brought along other college students to assist in tasks around the railway yard.
"Meghshyam Prakash is also 17, a student at Springbank School. He was selected this year as Matt King's Youth MP for Northland.
"He sees great opportunities for employment in the railway, and wrote a letter of support for the trust's current application to the Provincial Growth Fund, in which he stated, 'Bay of Islands Vintage Railway is planning on helping the youth of the Bay of Islands by the creation of a job training centre at the Kawakawa station. This would allow our youth ... to gather hands-on experience in rail and a wide range of transferable skills that could be used in all sectors of employment.'
"But Meghshyam is not passive in his support. Last month he organised a working bee, which involved two teachers and 13 students from Springbank School, who carried out excellent work involving painting two KP freight wagons, clearing muck from the working parts of the points in the station yard, and painting new planking for the edge of the station platform at the Kawakawa Rugby Club."
And there were others, such as Charlotte Stanley-Scott, now 21, who had been with the railway since June 2017 and was now a fully qualified guard.
"The vintage railway, in conjunction with the cycleway and the steam ship Minerva, is poised to commence a whole new stage in employment and tourism growth across the region. With the support and enthusiasm of youth, we will be in very good hands."
This article first appeared on www.nzherald.co.nz
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