SS Tongariro

SS Tongariro

- Built beside Waikato River, Taupō in 1899

- Construction by Bailey and Lowe, Auckland

- Built of heart kauri

- Two-masted, steam powered schooner (wood fired)

- 55 feet long with a beam of 11 feet, 6 inches

- Weighed 19 tons

- Top speed 15 knots

- Faithful service between Taupō and Tokaanu for over 20 years delivering mail, passengers and cargo

SS Tongariro Album

  • <p>A sketch of the SS Tongariro, a two masted steam powered schooner.</p>
  • <p>This photo shows timber arriving to build SS Tongariro. Heart kauri was railed south to Putaruru and loaded on to bullock wagons each of which needed 24 bullocls to pull it. While the journey from Putaruru to Taupō is only 90kms, the journey took fourteen days.</p>
  • <p>A few days after the maiden voyage the official trial took place over the length of the lake. Fourteen young men performed a haka in honour of the occasion. It was a fine morning but half an hour into the trip the lake became very rough. Most of the passengers were Māori (hapū Ngati Hinerau). Quite a number became frightened and were sea sick. When it was time to return from Tokaanu some rode back on horse-back rather than go back on the boat. It took some a week to make it back to Taupō.</p><p>Note the 'Tauhara' at mooring. SS Tongariro with its ability to handle adverse weather and maintain a regular service, took the mail service away from the 'Tauhara'.</p>
  • <p>Trials for the new SS Tongariro</p>
  • <p>SS Tongariro moored at the Tokaanu Wharf unloading 'Big Tree' benzene. The lake near Tokaanu is shallow so the wharf was extended to ease the transfer of both goods and passengers. The 260 metre wharf at Tokaanu is still in existence. It is one of the oldest wharves in New Zealand.</p>

Captain Thomas 'Darby' Ryan

1864 - 1927

With a new route for tourists opening up from the south there was a need for a passenger vessel to convey passengers across the lake. The government offered a subsidy for a suitable vessel. The offer was taken up by Darby Ryan with his partner Alexander Marshall, the engineer.

Ryan obtained his master mariner's certificate in 1900, and soon set up the first launch services for the public on Lakes Rotorua and Taupo. Between 1900 and 1909 he part-owned the SS Tongaririo, which ran between Taupo and Tokaanu, and was its captain from 1900 to about 1920

A wing three-quarter, Ryan represented Auckland and was a member of the original All Blacks in 1884.

Ryan was a talented artist (view portraits in Tūwharetoa Gallery) and an accomplished musician.

What happened to the SS Tongariro?

1924 saw the completion of the bridges over the last two rivers on the eastern lake route. With the increase in road traffic the SS Tongariro became under used and uneconomic. She was deregistered in 1925.

The owners sold the 'Tongariro' in the early 1930s. The engine was removed and it was converted into a houseboat by Mr J.Taylor for Mr.Newdick, the licensee of the Spa Hotel for the use of his guests. Five bedrooms were added to the deck to provide accomodation. She was moored at the boat harbour, Kawakawa Bay. A perfect sheldtered and safe achorage.

This little hotel in miniature became the most expensive in New Zealand. Fishing guests stayed on board at a cost of ten pounds per week. Cooking was done ashore on a wood burner. Unfortunately, the houseboat Tongariro was unstable and sank twice.

Eventually the old steamer was towed back to Taupuaeharuru bay, Taupō and was hauled up onto the shore where she slowly deteriorated. Nothing is left of her now. However a few pieces were salvaged in the 1980s, including a steel porthole, the large kauri rudder and part of her bow. A sad end for a gallant ship whose history is closely woven in the early history of Taupō.

Steamer to Houseboat

  • <p>Converting the SS Tongariro into a houseboat.</p>
  • <p>In the 1940s the houseboat was towed to Tapuaeharuru and hauled ashore where she deteriorated in the harsh Taupō weather.</p>