Visitors arriving at the ticket office will first notice the museum railway and the original Tokomaru Station. The Station was sold as firewood in 1972, but retained in fitting character for the Museum. New Zealand’s late Prime Minister and former stationery engine operator, Norman Kirk, opened the first section of the one kilometre track in 1973. The railway was added as a development to the museum at the insistence of locomotive enthusiasts, who felt the collection was not complete without it. Proof of this was gained by the over 8000 people who attended the first Tokomaru Steam Festival in 1973.
All stationary engines in the Museum are powered by a single boiler. In the Museum’s early days, the boiler was wood fired, but today a more efficient diesel burner is used. Meanwhile, touring beyond the boilerhouse, visitors can progress past New Zealand’s oldest steam engine, the 1869 Appleby engine from the Patent Slip, Wellington. Amazingly, this one engine hauled ships weighing over 2000 tons out of the water and up the slipway for repair.
In the main room of the Museum, visitors will find themselves surrounded by engines small-to-mid sized—all silently ticking over. The smallest of these engines would provide enough energy for a progressive farmer’s milking shed. Larger machines, for larger demands, would power electric generators, sawmills, freezing works and parts of New Zealand’s fledgling manufacturing industry.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy the collection of working miniature models. Most of the collection on display are the work of one man, the late Phil Rhodes of Rata.
Also on display is the impressive sight of New Zealand’s largest steam engine, the Filer and Stowell from Imlay Freezing Works, Wanganui. During this engine’s working life in Wanganui, few people had the opportunity to ever see it. Everything about this machine is kingsize. Seventy tons of cast iron moves in hypnotising fashion. Scrap metal dealers refused to touch the engine in its final state in Wanganui, due to the dangerous ammonia pipes running under the floor around the machine. “If you can shift it, you can have it” was the challenge laid down to Colin Stevenson. Nothing else in the museum matched the time, effort and money expended in shifting this gigantic engine which now dominates the front of the museum.
The final leg of the tour leads to two rooms of machinery still undergoing restoration. The first room is “The Power House.” It contains machinery associated with producing electricity. Alternately, at the back of the Museum, resides “The Loco Shed.” This houses a further four locomotives, including the sizeable American 1904 Climax.
Outside, during occasions marked as “steam up” days, visitors will find the traction engine or steam roller collection actually operating. The pride of the collection is, without doubt, the immaculately restored 1904 Fowler traction engine.
Experience static displays with a guided tour.
Monday to Saturday, visiting hours 9.00am - 3.30pm;
Sunday, 10.30am - 3.30pm.
Christmas Day / Good Friday.