By PHILIP CHANDLER
Queenstowners and visitors can now dine out on the resort’s rich maritime history.
Named after an early paddlesteamer, The Mountaineer Room has opened as an annex to The Boat Shed cafe by the Frankton marina.
It’s the work of the Wakatipu Community Maritime Preservation Society, which restored the
cafe building about eight years ago — it was the original New Zealand Railways shipping office — and the adjacent boatshed/slipway, both of which had fallen into despair.
The museum’s been created by pushing a wall through into the slipway.
Society secretary Jeff Williams says it’s been loosely modelled on the dining saloon of the Mountaineer, which plied Lake Wakatipu from 1879 till it was sold for scrap during World War II.
It houses models of all the early lake steamers, including the Mountaineer, another paddlesteamer, the Antrim, and the Ben Lomond.
Restored chairs from the Mountaineer are also in the museum and cafe.
A model of the steamship TSS Earnslaw, the only historic boat still in service, takes pride of place.
It was painstakingly made by Aucklander Bruce Tantrum, who lent it to the society last year.
Williams says they’re also indebted to Wayfare Group for lending the other models.
He also hails the contribution of fellow trustee Steve Kirk for his building expertise.
Support the society received had kept the budget under $100,000, he says.
‘‘The panelling has been very cleverly concocted from very ordinary materials, but a lot of
work has gone into making them look a lot like the original bird’s eye walnut.’’
Williams says it’s great to chronicle Queenstown’s colourful boating past as it’s not been well recorded around the country.
‘‘The lake had a huge maritime history — it was the motorway of its time, and Queenstown’s wealth was taken out on those boats.’’
The museum will be officially launched at the society’s AGM, onsite, this coming Tuesday at
Williams is also looking for any other objects from the steamship era to potentially go on display as well.