Museum needs buyer to take it full steam ahead

5:00 AM Wednesday November 4, 2015 Colin Taylor

An aerial view of the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum which is for sale in Tokomaru, 18 kms southwest of Palmerston North.

A museum of working steam machinery including steam locomotives, an historic railway station and a kilometre of private track, is being sold as a going concern business and freehold property at Tokomaru about 18 kms southwest of Palmerston North.  

“The sale includes the property of nearly 4.8 hectares, the business and chattels,” says Lewis Townshend of Bayleys Palmerston North who is marketing it via an international tender process closing at 4 pm on Thursday November 26.

For sale with the 4.7905 ha property is:

  • a three bedroom house, built in the 1930s, with major improvements undertaken in 1989;

  • fifty steam engines, including most types of stationary engines and two fully restored steam rollers;

  • working steam engine museum complex, including circular rail track, complete with steam locomotives and carriages;

  • the historic Tokomaru station as the focal point to the railway track;

  • a comprehensive engineering workshop;

  • a detached triple garage; and

  • a number of work and storage sheds.  

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A steam roller exhibit within the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum. 

Townshend says the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum, with its extensive array of machines is the creation of 85-year-old Colin Stevenson, and his wife Esma Stevenson, aged 81.

“Now, after 50 years of collecting and lovingly restoring the steam engine collection, the Stevensons are calling it quits because of their age and for health reasons,” Townshend says.

“Colin Stevenson says that in the 1960s he was horrified at the scrapping of ‘obsolete’ steam engines which had served New Zealand so well carving out rugged landscapes for roads and clearing forests during the past century. While his wife, Esma, was busy raising three children, Colin took it upon himself to preserve examples of New Zealand’s industrial heritage by starting a steam engine collection. And then, following demands from steam enthusiasts, he opened the museum in 1970.”

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Owners of the Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum 85-year-old Colin Stevenson, and his wife Esma Stevenson, 81.

A few years later, in 1973, Prime Minister Norman Kirk, a former stationery engine operator, opened the first section of the museum’s one kilometre rail track. The first festival held in Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum in the same year attracted a crowd of more than 8000 people.

Pride of place in the museum is New Zealand’s largest steam engine, an American-made Filer and Stowell.  The giant engine, made up of seventy tons of cast iron, occupied a 220 ton concrete foundation at the Imlay Freezing works in Wanganui.

“The scrap metal workers told Colin wouldn’t touch the machine because of dangerous ammonia pipes under the floor, so it was his for the taking if he could move it – which he did,” Townshend says. “It was a mammoth haul, and Colin says no other task took him so much time and effort.”

“There is scope for The Tokomaru Steam Engine Museum to develop further, with more machinery to be restored, including an American Climax locomotive, built in 1904. This machine weighs in at thirty tons, and came from the Ellis and Burnard timber mill in Mangapehi, in South Waikato.”  

Another popular museum exhibit is a restored Climax locomotive which puffs around the private track.

Townshend says a purchaser will inherit one of the most comprehensive private collections of working steam engines in the world and the opportunity to enhance regional tourism in the Horowhenua district.

“The museum has enormous tourism potential with the next owner able to slip into the driver’s seat and take it full steam ahead to the next level,” he says. 

For more information on this property, visit: