TSS Earnslaw

Gardens Gondola Lake Wakatipu Sheep Station TSS Earnslaw

TSS Earnslaw


TSS Earnslaw

The TSS Earnslaw is a 1912 vintage twin screw steamer plying the waters of Lake Wakatipu. It is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago.


Way back at the beginning of the twentieth century, New Zealand Railways awarded 21,000 pounds to John McGregor and Co shipbuilders of Dunedin to build a steamship for Lake Wakatipu. The Earnslaw was named after Mt Earnslaw , a 2889 meter peak at the head of Lake Wakatipu. She was to be 48 meters long , the biggest boat on the lake. Transporting the Earnslaw was no easy task. When construction was finally completed she was dismantled. All the quarter inch steel hull plates were numbered for reconstruction just like a puzzle! Then the boat was railed by goods train nearly all the way across the South Island from Dunedin to Kingston at the bottom end of Lake Wakatipu.


Six months later, after being rebuilt, on 24th February 1912, the TSS Earnslaw was launched and fired up for her maiden voyage to Queenstown. Her captain was the Minister of Marine, so the ship must have been fairly important to have a minister as her skipper.


She then became a valuable vessel for the New Zealand Railways and was known as the "Lady of the Lake".


The Earnslaw worked with her sister ships, the paddle steamers Antrim and Mountaineer and the steamer Ben Lomond, transporting sheep, cattle and passengers to the surrounding high country stations.


In 1968, the Earnslaw was very nearly scrapped but she was fortunately rescued. She was purchased by Fiordland Travel (now Real Journeys).


She was taken out of service for a huge makeover in 1984. Her 12 meter high funnel was painted bright red, with the hull a snow white, and her kauri timber decks glassed in.


the young Captain

During her long years on the lake, the most serious accidents to occur were two groundings on the shingle shores of the lake.


in the wheel house

In March 1990, the Earnslaw carried two very special passengers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. Other royalty to travel on board have been the King and Queen of Belgium and the Prince of Thailand.


As of 2007, the Earnslaw is still in routine operation carrying tourist passengers across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Farm, a tourism operation with farm tours, horse treks, heritage tours, barbecue lunches and evening dining at the historic Colone's Homestead.


Working fourteen hour days in the summer months and cruising 11 months of the year is an enviable record for a beautiful steam ship over 95 years old.


Each of the Earnslaw's screws is turned by a driveshaft driven by a triple-expansion steam engine. Passengers have access to a walkway in the engine room, where they can observe the operation of the engines during the cruise. The Earnslaw is the only working coal-fired steamship on the Lloyd's Register.

Text from Wikipedia



approaching Walter Peak Station





preparing to unload


non-paying passenger



the bridge


the bar in the passenger area

Photos of the Engine Room


the boiler





Video of the engine operating



Video of the fireman stoking the furnace


the fireman/engineer


work area

Photos from the early days



maiden voyage to Queenstown



wool and grain


sheep cargo

Gardens Gondola Lake Wakatipu Sheep Station TSS Earnslaw

Arrowtown Banks Peninsula Bird Park Bungy jumping Christchurch Countryside Dairy farming Doubtful Sound Dunedin Elderhostel Franz Joseph Glow worms Greymouth Kingston Flyer Mount Cook Purakaunui Falls Queenstown Rainforest Riverton Ross Goldfields Sheep farming Shell Jewelry Taiaoria Head Te Anau TransAlpine Express Waimakariri River Wanaka

World Heritage Mosaics Roman World Africa Antarctica Asia Atlantic Islands Australia Caribbean Central America Europe Indian Ocean Middle East North America Pacific Islands South America The Traveler Recent Adventures Adventure Travel


People and Places