The first time in nine decades exposed to the open air, two locomotives from the V-class are now one step closer to the removal of the Oreti River at Lumsden.
The project to retrieve the trains got a boost Monday when contractors removed surrounding soil and mud from the area, so the team could look around the site.
Lumsden Heritage Trust chairman John Titter said he was able to see the trains from the river bank and that the work of contractors was essential.
"We have achieved much more than we thought we would do.
"I think they have a lot more idea of what they are focused on."
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Although trust has been allowed to remove the trains for five years, it now worked to secure funding to reach that stage, he said.
The trains in the river were made in England in 1885, the so-called locomotives of the V-class, and they are the last of their kind that are intact in the world.
"For their age they are not in bad shape, they've been here since 1927, so they look like they've been there for so long."
If the engines were not dumped, they would have been dismantled for scrap in the early 1930s, but the scrap price was then too low, Titter said.
"It's interesting, because if they had not been dumped here, they would never have been seen again, and the V-class was specially made for the conditions in New Zealand."
The excavation on Monday provided insight into the next steps in the process of removing them, he said.
Titter now had to get quotes and complete the procedure so that he could find out how much money would have to be collected to have the trains fully removed and returned to Lumsden for repair.