My first encounter with the TSS Earnslaw was in October 1926.

My parents, Neil and Lenore Cook, with their four sons and two daughters, were shifting to the Head of the Lake to establish a sawmill at Routeburn. Our only method of transport was the three boats on the lake, Mountaineer, Ben Lomond or the Earnslaw.

We first lived at Paradise but shifted to Routeburn when the timber was milled and our house was built there. Kinloch was to become our port.

Author with parents, circa 1929
20 August 2012
Mum and Dad, Lenore and me (Janet) waiting for the Earnslaw to go to Invercargill about 1929.
 
TSS Earnslaw at Kinloch
20 August 2012
Earnslaw at Kinloch. Unloading a winch onto the mill truck for the bush hauler about 1935. Note the timber waiting to be loaded.
Boat Day

It was always exciting on boat day as the mail and papers arrived along with anything that had been ordered from the outside world. All our groceries were ordered in bulk and sent up on the Earnslaw, enough for three months at a time.

We knew all the people who worked on the boats. Three Captains, Herbert, Tot Lucky and Scottie Munro, deck hand Scottie Burns and engineer Bill McInnes. The two ladies who looked after the food and dining room were Miss Ryne and Miss Angelo. I loved it when Mr McInnes would take me down into the engine room to see the working of the engines. Sometimes we were allowed to go up and steer the boat. It was exciting.
 
The people at the lakeside stations would be on the wharf to meet the boat.  Our mothers would enjoy a short chat while the boat was loading.  

Christmas Time
Christmas Time
20 August 2012
My brothers with two of the men who worked at the mill about to go to Kinloch with a load of timber. The bags on top are firewood and the branches are mistletoe for Miss Angelo and Miss Ryan to decorate the boat.


Every year Dad would get orders for fruit cases from the orchardist around Cromwell, Alexandra and Roxburgh. When we had the orders ready and tied up into bundles ready to be nailed up into cases he would charter the Earnslaw, load it with a full load of cases which would be taken to Frankton wharf and unloaded there. I remember the full load of bundles of cases completely filling the upper and lower decks. Mr McInnes was worried it was such a big load the propeller may be above water so they stacked more right along past the engine room and saloon to weigh the stern down.

Fruit cases waiting to be sent from the mill
20 August 2012
Fruit cases waiting to be sent from the mill

The family would load the old lorry and car on the Earnslaw and travel to Frankton where we would pitch two tents to live in. My four brothers would take turns, two at a time to deliver the fruit cases and that done each day it was then Christmas holidays for them. I remember them talking about the night cruises and dances on deck on the Earnslaw and how much they enjoyed them.

Wool
20 August 2012
Mr Lewis Groves of Routeburn Station and the road man from Glenorchy with a large load of wool being transported on Cook's lorry to the Earnslaw

In July 1936 we shifted from Routeburn to the Catlins. This involved lots of heavy machinery being transported by the Earnslaw. The photo shows the bush hauler and roll of wire rope and a bush trolley on its way to Kinloch to meet the boat. It was a marathon job to shift all the mill and bush machinery as well as the motor vehicles and furniture that had to be transported by boat.

Moving to the Catlins
20 August 2012
Moving to the Catlins

Truck being loaded onto the Earnslaw
20 August 2012
Our Chev truck is pictured being loaded onto the Earnslaw at Queenstown

The Earnslaw was a lifeline for the residents on the lake. I married in 1948 and went to the Routeburn for my honeymoon.Now when I go to Queenstown and see the TSS Earnslaw I realise how important she was to our lives from 1926 to 1936 and the memories of the first 10 years of my life flood back.

Good Luck “Lady of the Lake.” Keep sailing for another 100 years!
 

The TSS Earnslaw uses 1 tonne of coal every hour.

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