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Preserving Our History With The Victoria Battery & Museum Society Inc.

Concrete cyanide tank stands reminiscent of ancient ruins are among the remains of the Victoria Battery at Waikino. Constructed on the south bank of the Ohinemuri River, it’s easily accessible from the Hauraki Rail Trail. 

The Battery was constructed by the Waihi Goldmining Company from 1897 to crush ore from the Martha Mine. Drawn by steam locomotives, 40 skip wagons each loaded with 1 1/2 tonne of quartz ore were hauled to the Battery site. There would be 14 trains daily.


Photo credit: Caleb Bird - Victoria Battery


The Waihi Gold Company built a weir across the Ohinemuri River 6 km from the Battery Site, and built a canal to bring the water that would run the machinery until other forms of power were developed on the site.

Once completed, the Battery with 200 stamps was the largest quartz crushing plant for gold extraction in Australasia. It was capable of crushing over 812 tonnes of ore each day to the consistency of sand. About 200 people on average, were employed at the Battery whilst in operation.

The Martha Mine closed in 1952, however work continued at the Battery until 1955 when buildings and machinery were dismantled. The ruins of the Battery are now managed by the Department of Conservation, and the site is a feature on the Karangahake Historic Walkway.

We asked Kerry Single from the Victoria Battery & Museum Society Inc. to tell us what visitors to the site can expect today, and about their work to preserve the history of the Battery.


Photo: Victoria Battery Museum 


What can visitors to the Victoria Battery expect to see and do?

Today visitors can wander around the relics of the Old Processing site or take a tour in the Tram pulled by old mining engines. Visitors can also take a tour of the Museum to hear and see a visual history of the site in the Old Transformer Building.

There are also tours under the kilns which help you imagine what it was like working there when the kilns were burning. You can walk across the top of the kilns and look down on where the ore was heated up which made it easier to crush.


Photo: A Tour in the Tram


What makes the Victoria Battery and its history fascinating for visitors?

A visit to the Battery is real Kiwi history of industrial development and the processing of quartz rock to produce gold and silver without the help of Google or the modern trappings of life today.


Tell us about the work the society undertakes to preserve the history of the Victoria Battery.

The Society brings together the stories and images that tell the story of the Victoria Battery and its importance to the life and development of Waikino and Waihi.

This is slowly being put into digital form, so they can be preserved and accessed by those wanting to learn. It is also about preserving and demonstrating some of the equipment that was used, so visitors can get a feel for what life might have been like over 100 years ago.


Photo: Victoria Battery Museum 


Who makes up your volunteers and can anyone get involved?

If you have a deep interest in History and the production of gold, and the life and development and preservation of the Battery site then come and join the group of volunteers. We are grateful for their time, knowledge and skills that will keep this History alive for everyone to learn from.


The Victoria Battery was the largest quartz crushing plant for gold extraction in Australasia. What made it so successful?

Simply the people, and their “can do” attitude. Maybe with a piece of number 8 wire thrown in.


Photo: Victoria Battery Museum 


Today the kilns, concrete foundations, steel relics and Transformer Sub Station House are all that remain. What can visitors learn from them today?

From what was, to what is, and the differences this has made in the way things are now done today. Also recognising the importance of keeping some items of history before they are lost.


Tell us about the Tramway on the six acre site.

The 1.2 km tramway winds its way from the Transformer House down past the remnants of the once noisy buildings and machinery, to give passengers a glimpse of what might have been. They then go back up to the Museum in the Transformer House where they can compare what they have seen with what once was.


Photo: Victoria Battery Tramway


Tell us about the unique Underground Tours which view the only underground roasting ore kiln’s tunnel in New Zealand.

This is a 200 m Walk through where men worked to rake the quartz ore that had been “roasted” out of the Kilns into the skips, that were then winched out of the tunnel to the primary crusher. You can see the drag marks of the cables that pulled the skips.

Looking up at the roof you can see the marks of the many pickaxes made to remove the rock. You can look through the hearth/chutes of the kilns and see the bricks that were locally made in Waihi and then placed around the walls of the kilns.


Photo: Victoria Battery Museum 


Transformer House now houses the society’s comprehensive Museum. What can visitors expect to see inside?

In 1913 the Wahi Gold Company completed the building of the first major power generating station on the Waikato River at Horahora. They then ran 82 km of cabling across the land supported on pylons to the building now recognised and known as the Transformer House.

This is now the only remaining building left on the site, which houses the Societies vast collection of photos and artefacts showing the history of the development of the site and the construction of buildings, rail yards, and trains etc…

You can see a small operating version of the large stampers, plus get to feel the weight of a gold ingot. There is a large model of the Waihi / Waikino area showing the reason for the positioning of the Victoria Battery, and how the ore was brought down from Waihi. Our volunteers give an introduction to the exhibits and are there to answer questions.


Do visitors need to book, or can they just turn up on the day?

There’s no need to book when we are open. Just come on up when the flags are flying. We invite large parties or groups to contact us, as we are able to open on other days at a time to suit your visit.

The Victoria Battery Tramway and Museum is generally open Saturday, Sunday, and Public Holidays from 10.00am - 3.00pm.


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