Over the next 40 years, by 1950, the PS Antrim, the PS Mountaineer and the SS Ben Lomond were all decommissioned, leaving the TSS Earnslaw as the only remaining steamship on the lake. And despite the opening of the Kingston to Queenstown road in 1936 which affected the TSS Earnslaw’s passenger numbers, she continued to tirelessly ply the lake, catering to the needs of tourists and residents around the lake shores.

Loading wool and grain at Mt Nicholas Station
27 April 2011

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at 8:30 am, the TSS Earnslaw would travel to the head of the lake from Queenstown, stopping at the high country farms along the way – Walter Peak, Mt. Nicholas, Mt. Creighton, Elfin Bay, Greenstone, Glenorchy and Kinloch. After dropping off tourists and cargo at Kinloch, the TSS Earnslaw would travel across the lake to Glenorchy and then at 3 pm leave for its trip back to Queenstown.

During the height of the holiday season, the TSS Earnslaw also did exclusive passenger cruises to the head of the lake.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the TSS Earnslaw would head in the opposite direction to Kingston, stopping at Cecil Peak and Halfway Bay en route. She would deliver and pick up cargo, passengers and mail. At Kingston, the TSS Earnslaw would be loaded with coal as well as cargo to go back up the lake. Cargo like sheep and cattle from the farm stations would be also be unloaded at Kingston and transferred onto railway wagons.

Typical prices for a cross section of services during the 1960s were:

  • Return passenger fares from Queenstown to Head of Lake: 17s. 6d. per person
  • Return passenger fares from Queenstown to Kingston: 15s. 6d. per person
  • Morning and afternoon teas: 2s.
  • General cargo: £1 3s. 10d. per ton
  • Cattle: £1 3s. 3d per head
  • Sheep (upto 200): 1s. 3d per head
  • Wool from Queenstown to Kingston: 4s. 1d. per bale
  • Parcels (up to 28 pounds): 1s. 6d.

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Parts of the TSS Earnslaw were used as the basis for the SS Venture, the steamship in the movie King Kong.

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