The Heritage

The first 100 years of New Zealand’s development relied heavily on steam energy.

Sawmills, garnering the virgin forests of the new land, were set up in primitive conditions. Portable boilers powering steam-driven log haulers dragged the felled timber considerable distances to the site for pit sawing.

As land was cleared of trees, traction engines, road rollers and steam dredges were used to build roads and drains. This gave important access to farmland, and readied further land for cropping and grazing.

Prior to the invention of large capacity tractors and trucks, traction engines were used to complete all manner of tasks. The powerful machines could pull huge loads, but because of their considerable weight were themselves subject to getting bogged in swampy ground. Another hazard with agricultural machinery involved the fire risk of sparks often wildly emitted from traction engine fire boxes.

Steam was also used to power steam trucks and fire engines. Remaining examples of these are few and precious now.

Our collection exhibits steam engines from all types of industrial New Zealand, and have a high heritage value.


The village of Tokomaru itself was established to support the surrounding farming district. Nowadays, the Steam Engine Museum is the most striking feature of the village.

Industrial progress in the area continues with Stevenson’s Structural Steel, the district’s biggest employer.

Nearby is the popular Horseshoe Bend river reserve.