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TSS Earnslaw re-enacts maiden passenger voyage on Lake Wakatipu to mark centenary

Media Release

18 October 2012

Queenstown turned the clock back 100 years today (October 18) when a large crowd, dominated by school children waving flags, lined Queenstown’s Steamer Wharf to welcome the heritage steamship the TSS Earnslaw, as she marked her official centenary by sailing on Lake Wakatipu from Kingston to Queenstown re-enacting her maiden passenger voyage held on October 18 1912.

The Lady of the Lake as she is affectionately known, sailed into Queenstown Bay with flags flying, continuously blasting her whistle as she made a circuit of the bay flanked by a flotilla of commercial craft. From the shore, canons were fired as the band played on the wharf welcoming the steamer home.

Three hundred and fifty guests, dressed in period costume, made the journey and at Kingston the vintage Kingston Flyer steam train waited on the wharf, just as it did a century ago, when it carried passengers from the south to meet the TSS Earnslaw.

For many people, who had strong links with the steamer, it was a nostalgia trip and there were a lot of fascinating memories and stories swapped during the cruise.
Olive Lady Hutchins, who with her late husband Sir Les Hutchins founded Real Journeys and took over the TSS Earnslaw from New Zealand Railways in 1969, said it was an auspicious day for her.

“I have 34 of my family, made up of four generations on board, and I am just so proud of what has been achieved with the Earnslaw. When you consider she is the only passenger carrying coal-fired boat in the Southern Hemisphere it is a great record.”

Ross Williams of Melbourne whose grandfather, Hugh McRae, was the naval architect who designed the TSS Earnslaw, paid tribute to his work.

“The steamer has had a lot of ups and downs and it is good to see her in such excellent condition. My grandfather would have been very happy to know that she still remains in service 100 years to date”.

The TSS Earnslaw was built in Dunedin by shipbuilders John McGregor and Co. Ltd in 1911, then dismantled and taken by train to Kingston, where she was reconstructed on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and launched on February 24 1912.

Jim Sands of Auckland, whose grandfather Jimmy Alcorn was the foreman builder for the Kingston construction, claimed the fact that the TSS Earnslaw was now 100 years old and “still going strong is a testament to how well she was designed and built. This is a great day.

Real Journeys CEO Richard Lauder told the waiting crowd on the wharf that the rousing welcome into Queenstown Bay was “absolutely magnificent”.

“So many people from all over the world are passionate about the TSS Earnslaw and I want to recognise the Hutchins family for their support and investment over the years to ensure she continues to be maintained in excellent condition as a New Zealand tourism flagship.”

Real Journeys Director Tony McQuilkin who has had a 30 year association with the TSS Earnslaw noted that she still holds the record as the longest passenger carrying boat built in New Zealand, a record she attained in 1912.

“The TSS Earnslaw is an absolute credit to the thousands of men and women who have worked on her over the years and to everyone who has provided support to ensure she sails into towards another 100 years.”

Following the cutting of the centenary cake a plaque was presented to the TSS Earnslaw by the Royal Institute of Naval Architects “to commemorate 100 years of service and recognise the historical significance of the largest steamship built in New Zealand and one of the few remaining coal fired passenger steamers in the world”.


 Photo Credit: Dan Childs

For the TSS Earnslaw Centenary programme of events (14 - 22 October 2012):

For further information:

Lenksa Papich - Real Journeys Marketing Communications Manager
Mob: +64 21 523 899