2001-2008 Establishment; conservation plan; wheelhouses; fundraising

2001-2008 Establishing on site; the conservation plan; restoring the wheelhouses; fundraising; the first new ribs

An intensive period of fundraising and design and infrastructure preparation for the major project to restore the hull and the machinery to a sound and seaworthy state, complying with all the statutes and regulations to be able operate in steam and carry passengers again on the Waitemata Harbour. And during this time, the restoration of the two wheelhouses and the acquisition of 13 tonnes of steel bulb angle for framing renewal.

The establishment of workshops and site facilities: security fence; power & water supplies; workshops; site office; and storage facilities.

The preparation of a comprehensive conservation plan by Peter McCurdy of Maritime Heritage Preservation & Design. The Toroa Conservation Plan provides the philosophical and practical basis for decision making in the restoration of the Toroa, defining and guiding what is done and how it is done, and it establishes the heritage credentials of the project and the Toroa Preservation Society with funding agencies and sponsors.

Measurement and draughting of the hull:  A painstaking exercise required for both statutory design approval by a Maritime NZ-certified naval architect and to record the arrangement and structure of the hull as a prime heritage conservation responsibility. Out of survey since 1980, Toroa must now comply  with all the Maritime Rules and all the relevant statutes, regulations and by-laws as a new vessel—no grandfathered allowances; no dispensations. The lines, which define the shape of the hull, were taken off by Peter McCurdy and Colin Brown—the lines plan is the essential basis for the stability and freeboard calculations required for statutory design approval. Peter McCurdy measured & made dimensioned sketch plans of every element of the hull, converted to CAD plans by George Smith. This work and the conservation plan were funded by a grant from the Scottwood Group.


Taking off the lines of the Toroa‘s hull: marking stations and waterlines on the planking with the aid of a rotating Laser level mounted on a scaffold pole. Offsets at each station were measured with a Laser distometer. (The dayglow lines indicate the general area—the markings are much more precise.)  Photo:  P.J. McCurdy, Toroa Collection

The Toroa lines plan, a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional form

Toroas engine, boiler and condenser lifted out of the hull and housed separately on site to be restored. With the machinery removed, the corroded steel frames and bulkheads become accessible for restoration.

Lifting off the steel fiddley and the base of the funnel from the promenade deck         Photo:  Edmo,Toroa Collection

Followed by the boiler, the triple-expansion engine & the condenser          Photo:  P.J. McCurdy, Toroa Collection










With the steam machinery out of the way, the lengthy process of the detailed measurement of the structure of the hull was carried out. Three examples from the dozens of dimensioned sketches of the hull.

13 tons of steel bulb angle for new hull frames – ribs – purchased from Dent Steel in Yorkshire, with the assistance of a grant from TTCF Waitakere Licensing Trust. An extensive search had eventually found that Dents were able to extrude new 120 x 75 bulb angle; the only other bulb angle located was in Austin Texas and was much too big. The original frames were from 5″ x 3″ rolled bulb angle.

Below: The original rolled bulb-angle rib section and the new extruded bulb-angle section













Toroa‘s two wheelhouses rebuilt by Colin Brown Shipwright and returned to the Selwood Road site.  About 300 hours work by Colin Brown, Colin Davidson and apprentice Josh Hawke went into the restoration, using traditional methods.

The wheelhouses’ solid sills or deck-logs of 150mm x 100mm kauri — cut to the curve from straight timber — were replaced by sweeps that were already curved because they came from a giant Coromandel kauri tree stump. No glue was used—the timber members were locked together with dowelled mortise-&-tenon joints, just as the builder George Niccol had done in the original construction.

toroa wheelhouse2

The restoration of the wheelhouses was funded by a grant from the Waitakere Licensing Trust.


Work begins to establish a method of bending frames for the central engine-&-boiler space of the hull.  Attempts to cold-bend the steel frames using a press were undertaken by Marine Steel and by VT Fitzroy at the Devonport Naval Dockyard, however the bulb angle insisted on bending just as much sideways as in the proper plane. A section rolling machine developed by Andrew Macbeth suffered the same problem, but later proved perfect for bending steel-angle deck beams.  The Dockyard subsequently lent the Society a number of cast-iron dog-slabs and ADM Contractors Ltd. set up to hot-bend the frames in the traditional way but using a large oxy-acetylene torch instead of a furnace to provide the heat.

Further difficulties were overcome in making the tight bend in each frame each side of the keel and the first complete frame was bolted into the hull at the end of 2008.

bending the steel frames

Andrew MacBeth of ADM Contractors Ltd. and volunteer Brian Claney bending a steel frame in an early investigation into the method.  Photo: Toroa Collection


Successful grant applications made to the Lottery Grants Board and the ASB Community Trust to fund the first stage of renewal of the steel framing of the hull. Steelwright Andrew Macbeth of ADM Contractors of Henderson begins the repair and replacement of steel framing and bulkheads in the boiler and engine rooms, under contract to the TPS. Supervision and supplementary design by Peter McCurdy; Survey for compliance with the Maritime Regulations by Neil Hayter in association with Dunsford Marine; design & stability certification by John Harrhy.

first new steel frame fabricated and fitted to the hull

new hull frames installed








The first new frame fabricated, ready for installation in the boiler room.     P.J. McCurdy, Toroa Collection