The Pumping Plants of Calliope Dock

The Calliope Dry Dock was opened for the Auckland Harbour Board on 16 February, 1888. The following description of the equipment which superseded the original was sourced from the Auckland Harbour Board archives held by the Maritime Museum Auckland.


Although the Auckland Graving Dock, 1878 and Calliope Dock, 1888 have been well described in publications such as Evolving Auckland, information on their pumping equipment if included appears to have provided little detail. Both docks were designed by William Errington who name is familiar to Auckland Steam Engine Society members as the designed of the Western Springs pump-house, its equipment and associated water reticulation system.  

The Calliope Dry Dock was opened for the Auckland Harbour Board on 16 February, 1888. However, although the Board kept meticulous records throughout its existence, information on the original steam pumping plant is for technical reasons not available at present. The following description of the equipment which superseded the original was sourced from the Auckland Harbour Board archives held by the Maritime Museum Auckland.

In 1886 the following pumping plant was supplied to the Calliope Graving Dock Auckland by James Watt and Co. London and Birmingham:-[1]

Engines:  Two – horizontal, single cylinder, steam jacketed each with Watt’s patent slide valve and surface condenser

Cylinder bore                          34 inches

Stroke                         4 feet

Crankshaft                  12 inches diameter

Flywheel                      15ft diameter, 11 tons weight

Pumps: Two – Vertical, single cylinder, double acting

Cylinder bore              48 inches

Stroke                         5 feet

Speed                          12-20 strokes per minute

Boilers: Three – multitubular, with furnaces below in firebrick

Diameter                     6 feet

Length                         13 feet

On 23 November 1887 commencing at 10am Mr Errington made an official test of the pumping plant in the presence of Auckland Harbour Board members and staff. After the drydock had been pumped clear of water Mr Errington expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the performance of the plant. With both engines/pumps operating at 20 strokes per minute the drydock can be emptied of water from the high tide level in 4.75 hours [less time when a ship is in the dock].

In 1903 three new coal-fired boilers manufactured by Seager Bros. Ltd. Auckland were installed. There were of an under-fired, multi-tubular, Colonial type with a working pressure of 90 to 100 lb/inch². Their shell length was 13 feet and diameter 6 feet 3 inches. The new boilers provided steam for the original pumping engines until 1913 when two new engines and pumps were installed. These pumps and engines were built by Fullerton, Hodgart and Barclay Ltd, Vulcan Works, Paisley, Scotland. Each engine was compound, with the two cylinders arranged at 90º and working on the same crank of a vertical shaft. The crankshaft was coupled to an intermediate vertical shaft which drove the centrifugal pump, the discharge centre line of which was 10 feet above the dry-dock floor. Details of the engines, pumps and auxiliary machinery were as follows:


Cylinder Bore              H.P. 14 inches, L.P. 26 inches

Stroke                         18 inches

Valves                         H.P. piston, 55% cut off

L.P. flat slide, 55% cut off

Speed                          160 rpm

Indicated HP               220

Boiler Pressure           95 lb/in²

Type                            Centrifugal, with 5 feet, 6 inches diameter impellor

Suction                        30 inches diameter

Discharge                    27 inches diameter

Performance              Trial January 1914

Both Engines operating together developed a total of 395 IHP pumping

35,000 gallons/minute against a head of 21 feet

Auxiliary Equipment

 One surface type condenser of 960ft² area

Twin air pumps each with a cylinder diameter of 10 inches and stroke

Of 8 inches. These pumps were gear driven at 150rpm by a single cylinder steam engine of 6 inches cylinder diameter and 4 inches stroke, running at 500rpm. This engine also directly drove the condenser water circulating centrifugal pump which had an impellor diameter of 15.5 inches

One boiler feed pump by Clarke Chapman & Co having a steam cylinder diameter of 7 inches, water cylinder diameter of 5 inches and stroke of 12 inches [maker’s No. 21136-1904]

One sluice vale horizontal steam engine with two cylinders each of 4 inches diameter and 4 inches stroke

One drainage pump vertical steam engine with a cylinder diameter of 14.25 inches and stroke of 12 inches. Engine speed was 90rpm and drove through reduction gearing the pump which had three single  acting cylinders of 10 inches diameter and 30 inches stroke. Pump speed was 3rpm. This engine also drove the mechanism for opening and closing the Dock Caisson gate. The drainage pump was built by James Watt & Co in 1886. In the latter years of steam operation the pump was converted to be driven by a 20hp [15KW] electric motor through chain and reduction gearing.

In 1952 one of the boilers surveyed showed crack in a welded patch and by 1954 all three were deemed to require renewal. A report was prepared proposing three options:

[a] Renewal of the boilers as the pumps and engines were in good condition

[b] Removal of the boilers, engines and auxiliary equipment and installation of diesel  engines to drive the existing pumps

[c] Similar to [b] but with installation of a diesel electric system. The diesel generators were to be available to supply emergency power to the Dockyard

Option [b] was adopted and in 1958 the following equipment was installed to drive each of the existing pumps:-

General Motors 110 series, 230hp, 1800rpm diesel engine with clutch supplied Mason Bros. [Mesco] Ltd.

Vulcan-Sinclair No. 23 fluid coupling

Radicon RHV-20 11.83 to 1 speed reduction and right angle drive gearbox

The output shaft of the gearbox was arranged with its axis vertically downward to couple the existing pump drive shaft. In 1957 a spar pump impellor and shaft was purchased from Fuller, Hodgart and Barclay Ltd who were the supplies of the 1913 pumps and engines.

In 2012 the pumphouse remain a protected historical building but the Fullerton Hodgart and Barclay pumps and the General Motors diesel engines have gone replaced in 1996 by two electric motor driven submersible pumps located deep below the pumphouse. Sadly also, the begonia window boxes which adorned the building have gone along with the nostalgic aroma of steam and oil and the sight of polished cylinder casings, connecting rods and brass fittings. These features are also fondly remembered by our fellow member Barry Brickell from his youthful days as a Sea Scout. It has been said that the engineer dedicated to the running and maintenance of the boilers and the Fullerton Hodgart and Barclay steam plant retired or resigned at the time of the diesel conversion in 1958

Submersible Pumps

 Sarlin AB [Helsinki Finland] model S4 400 10F7Z supplied by Pump and Machinery Co Ltd Wellington and Auckland

Motor Rating 400kW [536hp]

Pump performance from Sarlin test reports:

No. 1 Serial No. 117471 2500 l/s [33000 gpm] at 6.82m [22 ft] total head with power input of 311kW

No. 2 Serial No. 117472 2500 l/s [33000 gpm] at 6.35m [21 ft] total head with power input of 299kW

As a result of the drydock being flooded, sealed with the caisson gate and then pumped out, fish are often trapped on the dock floor. During our Dockyard apprenticeship days, on Friday afternoon we slipped a fish into the small Gladstone lunch bag of fellow apprentice Ross Smith – his bag was opened on Monday morning by his mother, to pack his lunch!


[1] Research undertaken by Peter Short – material located in Auckland Star 24/11/1887, New Zealand Herald 15/2/1888, Thames Advertiser 17/2/1888.