Toroa—the very last of the Auckland steam ferries
Toroa departing the Auckland Ferry Terminal, 1st March 1963
The Toroa is the only steam-powered survivor in Auckland, New Zealand of the fleet of Waitemata Harbour double-ended steam ferries that used to run between Auckland City and the North Shore. She is a tangible piece of the history and development of Auckland and she is absolutely irreplaceable. Her restoration to authentic, seaworthy condition is well underway.
Toroa was the last of the eight Albatross–type double-ended steam passenger ferries to be built for the Waitemata. She was built at George Niccol’s yard at St. Mary’s Bay, Auckland for the Devonport Steam Ferry Company Ltd. and was launched on Tuesday 28th April, 1925. Until her retirement in August 1980 she served the North Shore, mainly on the Auckland to Devonport run with Makora, carrying 20,000 or more passengers a day between them at the peak of the passenger service before the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959. Toroa ended her working life as an excursion ferry and was laid up in 1980 when her certificate of survey expired, having carried upwards of 70 million passengers.
Toroa is hauled out at Selwood Road, Henderson for restoration to authentic and seaworthy condition, beginning with the hull and the engine.During this painstaking restoration, full advantage is being taken of the opportunity to train new people in historic vessel and machinery conservation work.
Toroa is still equipped with her original Scottish-built boiler and triple-expansion steam engine and other machinery. The engine is almost completely restored; the condition of the rest of the machinery and equipment ranges from serviceable to restorable to needing replacement. The ferry was only slightly modified during her working life, however much of the composite-construction hull (timber planking and backbone; steel framing and bulkheads) and the timber superstructure have required considerable work to return to sound condition.
The Toroa Preservation Society has made major progress with the restoration and the renewal of the steel skeleton is close to completion. Renewal of the planking will start when the last of the new main-deck beams is installed. Toroa will in due course return to the Harbour as an authentic double-ended steam ferry, preserving the history of the ferries, and presenting the story and the phenomenon of steam propulsion to new generations of passengers from Auckland and the World.
How soon this happens is dependent on how fast the restoration funds can be raised. There has been very good support so far. More is required for the next stages—your support will be very welcome.
The Devonport Steam Ferry Company double-ended steam ferry Toroa departs
Devonport Wharf some time in the 1950s. © David Frith, Toroa Collection
The Toroa Preservation Society Inc. is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the restoration, preservation and maintenance of the Toroa. New members are most welcome to actively assist and/or support the Society’s efforts.