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TSS Earnslaw makeover for 100th birthday celebrations
The TSS Earnslaw heritage steamship is being primed for her 100th birthday during the next five weeks after being slipped on to her purpose-built slip at Kelvin Grove in Lake Wakatipu for her biennial survey.
The Lady of the Lake will mark her centenary on October 18 2012, 100 years to the day after she made her maiden voyage from Kingston to Queenstown. Real Journeys is planning a re-enactment of the first trip on October 18, along with other centenary cruises from October 14-22, and hundreds of visitors are expected to take the opportunity to sail on her.
The TSS Earnslaw was hauled on to the slip on Monday (May 21) by machinery even older than herself. The engine and boiler from the original Antrim paddle steamer, launched on Lake Wakatipu in 1893, were salvaged when she was withdrawn from service by New Zealand Railways in 1920 and installed at the slipway two years later. Today the Antrim’s boiler is the oldest surveyed and operational boiler in New Zealand.
Real Journeys Earnslaw-Walter Peak Manager, Angus Small, said the Antrim’s engine and winching gear were as reliable as ever this week when they were fired up to haul the TSS Earnslaw up the slipway.
“We had a small hitch when we pulled her out of the water and she wasn’t quite trimmed right, so we dropped her back down and quickly sorted it, then she was away. The steamer’s centenary slipping is a milestone and there was quite a crowd of locals out to watch the event.”
Mr Small said that because this year is also the TSS Earnslaw’s 100th anniversary a greater investment is being made to ensure the steamer is in prime condition for her birthday celebrations.
“A few years ago we looked at what is required to future proof the steamer and we have a replacement programme in place. As well as a total overhaul of the engines and boilers which is done annually, the starboard shaft is being removed for inspection and one of the crankshafts is being overhauled and has to be lifted out by crane, which is a big job.”
The vintage steamer will undergo a full paint job, and a decking project begun last year with the replacement of timber on the foredeck is being continued, with new flooring installed on the lower deck to complete the work.
“The old lady will also get new upholstery in the saloon so overall she is having a significant spruce up during the next five weeks,” said Mr Small. “Real Journeys is committed to maintaining her in the best possible condition and the biennial survey is another opportunity to give her a good makeover.”
Consultant engineer Russ Morton, who is contracted by Real Journeys to assist with the biennial survey says in 2012 the TSS Earnslaw’s engines are working harder than ever, yet she is still in peak condition.
“She is completing an average of 2000 running hours a year which is much more than she did when she was owned by New Zealand Railways in the early days. She is using 2,000 tonnes of coal a year, all hand stoked, and travelling 40,000km a year, the equivalent of a circumnavigation of the world.”
During the TSS Earnslaw’s absence from Queenstown Bay Real Journeys is using the motor launch, Explorer, to transport visitors to Walter Peak. While evening dining is not available BBQ lunches and daily farm shows at 12.00pm and 2.00pm are scheduled.
The TSS Earnslaw will return to service on Lake Wakatipu on June 30.
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