SS TOROA - 1923 to 1926

Posted by on 20 September 2013 | Comments

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SS Toroa is the last of eight Albatross-type steam passenger ferries built between 1904 & 1925 to work between Auckland City and the North Shore on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. She spent her life working the Devonport run in tandem with the SS Makora and later with the Kestrel conveying people (20,000 a day at peak between them) across the harbour. 

1923 11 October
Tenders close for the Devonport Steam Ferry Company’s new ferry to be constructed alternatively in wood and steel.

1924 January
George Niccol contracted to build a ferry for the Devonport Steam Ferry Co. on the model of The Peregrine.
Triple-expansion engine and fittings for the new ferry ordered from Aitcheson, Blair Ltd. of Scotland.


1924 March   
Keel laid and construction of the new ferry commences under the supervision of Mr. W. Matthews.

1925 28 April
The launch of the new ferry from George Niccol’s Freemans Bay shipyard. Named Toroa by Mrs J. Fotheringham, daughter of Mr. Ewen W. Alison, Managing Director of the ferry company, she cost nearly £24,000 and took 11 months to build.

Photo: Auckland Star

A report in the Auckland Star dated April 28, 1925, under the headline "Like a Bird", said the vessel "floated as gracefully as the bird after which she was named, Toroa being the Maori for the albatross".  “The ceremony took place at 10 o’clock, just before the top of the high tide in the presence of the Hon. E. W. Alison, Managing Director of the ferry company, Mr. A.E. Alison (Manager) and several others connected with the company,  the naming of the vessel being performed in the time honoured manner by Mrs. J. Fotheringham.  It was a perfect launching.  No sooner was the last chock knocked away from under her keel than the big craft, lying snugly in her temporary cradle, slid down the boathouse skids ...  Mr. Matthews, the foreman of the yard, and staff were warmly congratulated upon the success with which the handsome craft slipped into the waters of the Waitemata.”

1925 7 July          
Toroa’s trial run to Brown’s Island with Mr. Matthew Scott as Master and in the presence of a number of other captains.  The ferry put up an excellent performance, averaging slightly under eleven and a half knots over a measured mile with and against the tide. Mr. Ewen Alison stated that her tonnage was greater than that of any ferry steamer yet built at Auckland and that her bottom was sheathed in pure copper. [This copper, an indication of the quality of construction of the vessel, was to cause problems over the years and decades.]


1925 12 July

Toroa commences work on the Devonport run,running opposite SS Makora and replacing SS The Peregrine.


Ferry steamers at the Auckland Ferry Building and Auckland ferry terminals

 Photo: James D. Richardson    Sir George Grey Collection, Auckland Libraries