The last surviving, wooden, double-ended, steam passenger ferry in the world, the Toroa is a labour of love for a dedicated team of volunteers working to restore it to its former glory. In service from 1925 to 1980 it could do the Auckland to Devonport run in 12 minutes, as fast as modern ferries, without the need to turnaround. The forty metre long vessel carried up to 1,200 passengers, or even double that on occasion in the age of limited health and safety regulations.
Dry docked just off the Henderson motorway off ramp since 2002, progress may look limited but significant progress has been made as the ferry is being effectively rebuilt from the inside out. After being underwater for a month in 1998 after a severe storm there is a huge amount to do but progress is tangible, and will become much more apparent when the outside timbers are replaced. Already they’ve installed 40 tonnes of new steel skeleton, a kilometre of bulb-angle framing, and replaced 10,000 rivets, a herculean task!
Inside the steel frame of the hull has been replaced, a pretty major and structurally important task, particularly as the ship now needs to meet modern build standards, quite a feat! The boiler and engine have been removed as they’re restored, but will eventually be returned into the centre of the ferry.
Restoration is well progressed on the two attractive wheelhouses. Exploring the main deck and cabin (all done as part of their regular Auckland Heritage Festival tours) gives a much better idea of what it would have been like originally as a passenger.
For more information about this amazing restoration or if you’ve got any time / skills that could help them please visit the Toroa Preservation Society website.