STEAM DOWN UNDER


| September/October 1986



Steamship

108 Garfield Avenue Madison, New Jersey 07940

When one travels throughout Europe and the Far East there is an underlying feeling of antiquity that seems to seep into one's thinking. Time is measured not in decades but in millennia. Our own history begins in the 1600's and so we often think in terms of several hundred years. Not so in the lands down under. Australia and New Zealand were not even discovered until Europeans were well established on the North American continent.

New Zealand was originally discovered by the Dutch sea captain Abel Janszoon Tazman in the service of the Dutch East India Company in 1642. He thought it a part of Australia then under the control of the British and sailed on. Not so, for it was not until British Captain Cook arrived there in 1769 did it begin to come under British influence with colonization getting under way with the arrival of missionaries in 1814. Its 103,400 square miles are concentrated mostly on the North and South Islands. If you superimposed it on a map of the United States with Auckland in the north over Cleveland then the southern tip would be over Mobile.

New Zealand is remembered for its bold experiments in social reform much of which took place in the 1890 to 1906 period. These included women's suffrage, social security, old age pensions and requiring management and labor to submit their differences to arbitration.

Steam power on the farm and in the work place and aboard ships and used to power trains grew along the same lines that steam power grew here at home. It is interesting, however, to look backwards in time for just a moment to see specifically how our neighbors half a world away achieved their success. For this today there are two very good examples in operating museums, in effect, for the visitor to experience.

These are the SS Earnslaw plying the waters of 45 mile long Lake Wakatipu and the 42 inch gauge Kingston Flyer formerly of the New Zealand Railways. Originally these two steam activities were in a coordinated transport system hauling passengers and freight from the coastal city of Dunedin. Let us look at the steamship first for it represents a tremendous achievement in engineering and construction for its time.