Ship's birthplace marked

Southern Heritage Trust founding trustee Ann Barsby and marine engineer Maurice Davis unveil a...
Southern Heritage Trust founding trustee Ann Barsby and marine engineer Maurice Davis unveil a plaque on the Dunedin Railway Station overbridge yesterday commemorating the place where TSS Earnslaw was built. Photo by Linda Robertson.

Queenstown's lady of the lake was celebrated on a Dunedin railway yard bridge yesterday.

The site where Lake Wakatipu steamship TSS Earnslaw was built a century ago was commemorated with a plaque on the railway station overbridge.

Among the 20 history enthusiasts at the unveiling was Dunedin marine engineer Maurice Davis, who worked as a consultant on the steamship for many years.

''Everybody knows about the Earnslaw. It's an Otago and New Zealand icon. But the people who built it haven't received the same recognition,'' he said.

''The variety of skills that went into it is extraordinary. The entire ship, engines and boilers were all manufactured here in Dunedin. The fitting-out is all cabinet-maker quality.

''It's an incredible thing. It cost 21,000 to build, but you'd spend 10 times that on an overhaul now.''

The ship was built for New Zealand Railways by John McGregor and Co Ltd in 1911 in a ''dirt-floored'' workshop behind the Dunedin Railway Station car park.

''It was amazing to me that from that place this amazing ship emerged. The Earnslaw was 100 years old last October and it's a tribute to the skills in the city at that time that it's still going after 100 years.''

''Not many ships last anything like that. You only expect about 40 years out of a ship. And there's no reason it shouldn't last another 100 years.''

The Earnslaw's TSS acronym stood for ''twin-screw steamship'', he said.

Southern Heritage Trust founding trustee Ann Barsby said the plaque unveiling was originally planned to coincide with the inaugural Steam Festival last October.

''We had wanted to unveil it at the opening of the Steam Festival, but we had problems with the consent process.''

The plaque has been installed on the railway pedestrian overbridge facing the John McGregor and Co Ltd site.

- nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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