T.S.S. Earnslaw

Engineering Plant (eg railway, locomotive, car, plane)


The largest steamship built in New Zealand, T.S.S. Earnslaw is now one of the world’s last coal-fired passenger steamers. The ship is unique in that the hull was constructed in Dunedin, dismantled, transported to Kingston and fitted out for use on Lake Wakatipu.

The hull and machinery, including the boilers and engines, were designed and built in New Zealand.

When launched in 1912 the Earnslaw was an extension of the New Zealand Railways network from its terminus at Kingston. The development of the Wakatipu Basin owes much to the steamer for the role that it played in the servicing of Queenstown, Glenorchy, Kinloch and several major sheep stations on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

With present day road and air services the role of the ship is now that of a unique relic of early history, still servicing the remote sheep stations on the western shore of the lake, but better known as a tourist and entertainment attraction for which it has an international reputation.

Audio featuring a brief history of the T.S.S. Earnslaw on the Manatu Taonga's Channel (www.youtube.com; 1:43 minutes into clip)

Built for: New Zealand Railways
Designer: Hugh McRae – Dunedin
Builders: J McGregor & Co., Dunedin

Heritage recognition
IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project

This item of New Zealand’s engineering heritage was recognised as part of the IPENZ “Engineering to 1990” project which the Institution organised to help celebrate the country’s sesquicentenary in 1990. A plaque was unveiled to mark the significance of this vessel as part of the development of the nation.

Maurice Davis, 'TSS Earnslaw,' August 2012. See attachment below


TSS Earnslaw 2012 (550 KB).pdf


The Earnslaw operates from the Queenstown Wharf


Access Info
The Earnslaw is operated by Real Journeys and makes public trips daily (www.realjourneys.co.nz)

Nature of Engineering
Transport (Road, sea, air, incl vehicles)


Steamship Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu, Kinloch - Photograph taken by Gladys Goodall, 1951. Original photographic prints and postcards from file print collection, Box 2. Ref: PAColl-5584-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22904438

(Click image to enlarge )

Lat: -45.0336 Long: 168.6587