Nestled in the warm confines of New Zealand's winterless north is the Bay of Islands. This area was the seat of early colonial activities but is now more a tourist spot and a place where those tired of the bustle of city areas can retire (if the finances allow). 

I went on a whirlwind jaunt in mid July with Graeme Wilkinson -founder member of the Auckland Steam Engine Society- and we looked up some people we had not seen for a while. The Collins Brothers' steam sawmill in Inlet Road Kerikeri is an interesting way to spend an hour or so breathing in the timber and steam smells, and listening to nature and to the howl of the timber saws and planers. 

The Collins had been sawmillers for a long time and realised what timber mills of old knew: That the waste products of the saws will in fact burn and can be used to raise steam and to run drying kilns etc. In my childhood I used to frequent a local timber mill in Auckland. They used to use off cuts to fire an underfired multi boiler which ran the kilns as well as a marvellous Tangye horizontal which ran a lot of the mill. Alas, they realised that electricity was more convenient (if expensive) and that the end user would pay in any case. 

The Collins mill has reversed the trend and now generates all the power to run the saws and planers and kilns and uses only a small amount of domestic electricity for lighting. 

The tailings are fed into a Dutch oven where combustion occurs. The heated gases are drawn into a 20 hp Babcock triple pass boiler by an arrangement of steam jets in the boiler and induced draft in the chimney. This latter arrangement is provided by a nice little Sissons enclosed single. Boiler feed is by the customary Weirs pumps and in this shot you can see part of the Dutch oven and boiler at the rear. 

Electricity is provided three phase 400 v by an Ashworth and Parker compound rescued from a hospital down country. 

And alongside yet another Sissons is being brought into the scheme of things as time allows. The main switchboard may be seen in the background. 

Logs are broken down by a gang saw which is presently powered by an apparently uncomplaining Fordson tractor via its power take off, but there is a large Tangye horizontal being refurbished to provide the ultimate power. 

The whole mill is geared to take the smaller logs and process them efficiently. The operation is obviously very successful and won an award recently for its farsightedness. The standard of the installation is a credit to the Collins brothers. 

It is quite easy to find: Just loaf around in the Kerikeri area and listen for the mill whistle sounding at 10am, noon, 1pm and 4, then follow it. You will be most welcome to visit and they even provide a complimentary cup of tea or coffee.

Alas, you have only until the end of the year to do this. It will not be steam driven for much longer: The new owners are changing focus and electricity mightbe more the norm.

Maintained by Russell

Copyright Russell Ward 1999 All Rights Reserved.