Call for crane to be restored

SHARE

The Oamaru Steam and Rail Society is calling for a historic steam crane at Friendly Bay, believed to be unique in terms of its condition, to be restored and moved.
The 1926 Stothert & Pitt steam crane has been at the Friendly Bay playground since 2011, after it was moved from the harbour slipway to be featured at the playground as part of a Waitaki District Council project.
It is now fenced off for safety reasons.
Before being moved from the slipway, it was situated in the quarry area near the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.
The crane was first supplied to the Gisborne Harbour Board for use in a quarry to supply rock for a breakwater project, before it was purchased by the Oamaru Harbour Board in 1933.
In Oamaru, it was used to excavate rock for the proposed raising of the inshore portion of the eastern harbour breakwater, and the subsequent construction of the proposed Ramsay extension.
It lifted large boulders on to flat-deck rail trolleys, which were then taken out to the breakwater.
The crane, which can still be operated with compressed air, but not steam, was used extensively during the 1950s and 1960s to transport tetrapods, again as part of the breakwater construction.
Oamaru Steam and Rail Society manager Harry Andrew said the crane was due to be cut up for scrap in 1985, until the society stepped in to save it.
He said the council of the day made the society “custodians” of the crane, and said the society was not in favour of it being relocated in 2011.
“It got shifted against our will. We didn’t want it moved because we spent quite a bit of money setting it up where we had it [at the quarry].”
The crane had been earmarked to be “steampunked”, according to Mr Andrew.
“I managed to stop them altering it. It’s very rare and is the only one left [in working order] in the world.
“I would like to see it put back where we had it near where the yacht club is on the original rails. It’s a shame it’s stayed there [Friendly Bay].”
Mr Andrew said the society was keen to restore the crane, which would involve it being painted and a roof made and installed.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said its current location was not ideal.
“It’s not adding a lot of value where it is, so we certainly need to have that discussion about where it should be and if it should be restored. It’s an important piece of history of our harbour.”
Any discussions would include the society’s input, Mr Kircher said.
“The Oamaru Steam and Rail Society has got a number of restoration projects on the go, so I don’t know it would be a priority for them. But they would be one of the first groups we would talk to about it.”
The 16-foot tall crane, which has the capacity to lift up to 20 tonnes, was constructed in Bath, England.