Northern Steam Ship Company

The Passenger Carriers

None of the Northern Steam Ship Company's ships were designed solely for carrying passengers. They were all workhorses, required to carry the necessities of life to those people living in the remotest areas, as well as to carry people to those places, and for excursion use. Some of the vessels however, were better appointed inside and were a comfortable form of transport in their own right.

The WAKATERE was used for day travel only and therefore did not require accommodation. She was particularly well-appointed and was everyone's favourite, described as having "green and crimson upholstered seats, beautiful saloons, piano, brass and electroplate fittings."

Overnight vessels such as NGAPUHI, AUPOURI, RARAWA, NGATIAWA, MANAIA and MATANGI were also well appointed but included sleeping quarters. NGAPUHI was very popular and carried thousands of people in her lifetime, in a lot more luxury than we would experience in transport today. Here is a description of her from the New Zealand Herald shortly after she arrived in Auckland:

'The hull is of steel throughout, subdivided by five watertight bulkheads and each peak is fitted for carrying water ballast. All exposed decks are of East India teak. Accommodation is provided amidships for about 100 first-class passengers, the staterooms being fitted with patent iron folding beds, and lavatories, and includes a large dining saloon, panelled in polished Austrian oak, ladies' cabin in Hungarian ash, and smoking room on bridge in dark walnut. There is also a social hall midships, panelled in polished mahogany, fitted with piano, and lighted by a large skylight overhead, glazed with stained glass windows representing New Zealand scenery. The whole is tastefully upholstered, and pantries, bars, lavatories etc. have been fitted replete with every modern convenience. At the after end of the vessel accommodation has been arranged for about 30 second-class passengers, with saloon and ladies' cabin. The officers are berthed in a deckhouse aft, and the crew in the forecastle. The vessel is rigged as a fore-and-aft schooner, and has two hatches, each with steam winch and double derricks for handling cargo. The other deck machinery consists of a powerful steam windlass on the forecastle, steam steering gear amidships, and screw gear aft. A complete installation of electric light has been fitted throughout the vessel, and every part is thoroughly ventilated. Both holds are arranged for carrying cattle, and are especially ventilated by electrically driven fans. The engines are on the triple expansion principle, the cylinders being 13, 21 and 34, with a stroke of 24. They are specially designed by Messrs. Gourlay for twin-screw vessels, and develop 1300 horsepower. At the trial trips on a run of four hours a mean of 12.6 knots per hour was attained'.

Smaller vessels such as WAIMARIE and TANIWHA were similarly appointed, using red Utrecht velvet, and furniture of mottled kauri and cedarwood. Unfortunately, photographs of the interiors of these magnificent vessels are scarce.

The NGAPUHI with a full complement of excursionists. Photograph: Bill Laxon loan The NGAPUHI with a full complement of excursionists.
Photograph: Bill Laxon loan.

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