The Dream

The Museum creators, Colin and Esma Stevenson, never meant to start a museum at all. It all began from Colin’s hobby.

As technology progressed, steam machinery in the workplace gradually became obsolete. During the 1960s, most of this country’s old industrial machinery was smashed up for scrap metal. Horrified at the scale of this, Colin took it upon himself to preserve examples of New Zealand’s industrial heritage for future generations. His dream was to demonstrate machinery that operated in the condition in which it was used, rather than romanticise the image with bright paint work.

Colin was born in Palmerston North and lived all his life in Tokomaru. Grandfather Stevenson settled in Tokomaru in 1897 as the local blacksmith. When he retired at 45 his two sons Charles and Alan bought the business. Those two sons sold out to Colin and Rob. This business was divided into two companies; one becoming the very successful Stevensons Structural Engineers, the other Tokomaru Springs & Engineering Co. which Colin owned, with his love of machinery and maintenance leading into the establishment of the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum.

Colin married Esma Hodges in 1955, purchased a fowler traction engine in 1963 and officially opened The Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum to the public in 1970. Gathered here now is the biggest and most comprehensive collection of steam engines in New Zealand. Visitors can see most types of stationery steam engines, small locomotives and steam rollers.

Over their 64 years in Tokomaru together, Colin continued to develop the museum exibits whilst Esma kept busy raising their three young children and teaching at the local school.

In 2000 Colin was awarded the QSM for services to community and tourism. Colin and Esma remained in a strong partnership until Colin's death in 2017.