Wellington resourcefulness and ingenuity
The Museum Hotel was initially located on the other side of the road, moving to its present site in 1993. The hotel made a 120-metre journey down an inner city street on railway tracks. Facing demolition to make way for the new Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. The 5 storey, 3500 tonne structure seemed doomed, until Chris Parkin, the owner, began to investigate the possibility of relocating the entire structure.
Several solutions were proposed, including sliding the building on a film of water and rolling it over masses of ball bearings. Ultimately, however, old-fashioned railway technology was recognised as the most suitable and cost effective solution. The railway track load-spreading ability being especially important when transferring such a weight across reclamation.
Resourcefulness and ingenuity became the order of the day for the three main companies involved. Mainzeal Construction held overall responsibility for the project. Dunning Thornton Consultants provided the engineering while Building Solutions Ltd carried out the construction work. Four months were required for the separation of the hotel from its foundation. The move itself took only 2 days. The building reached its destination in perfect condition and less than one centimetre out of line.
Only five months after the project started the hotel reopened in November 1993.
The Museum Hotel was the largest building ever relocated in New Zealand and one of very few in the world. An ingenious method of transferring the building onto a “railway carriage”, then rolling it to a new site, provided a means of saving it from demolition. The newly expanded hotel is now sited in the hub of Wellington’s expansive Lambton Harbour development.
One by one, each column was drilled through and fitted with a steel-supporting pin. The pins would ultimately bear the hotel’s weight when it was transferred onto the steel support grid. Two hydraulic jacks were inserted to temporarily free the column of its load.
17 Concrete columns formed the main foundations of the hotel. These were later connected to the steel grid upon which the hotel was to be moved. A network of tracks was laid beneath the hotel in order to support the bogies and steel grid. Ninety six bogies each carried 35 tonnes, or 9 tonnes per wheel.
Slowly the jacks were raised and the load of the building transferred to the steel support frame, rather than the columns. Chocks were placed under each end of the support pin, the jacks were released, and finally the columns, now freed of their load, could be cut away from the piles on which they rested. This entire process was repeated for each of the seventeen columns.
Midway through the hotels move, a 90 degree change of course was required. For this to be accomplished each of the 96 bogie sets had to be rotated individually, A special revolving hydraulic jack was placed beneath the exact centre of each bogie. Another set of rails had been laid at right angles and at a lower level than the initial tracks. After the first set of rails was cut away the bogies were lowered and rotated onto the new rail set. Steel packers were used to fill the resulting gap between the steel frame and bogie.
The hotel was propelled by several powerful hydraulic rams. After each extension the rams would be disconnected from their anchor points, retracted and fixed again ready for another push. Only a fraction of their combined pushing force of over 400 tonnes was utilised. The hotel progressed at a steady 5-10 meters per hour.
The model demonstrating the move is located on level one of the hotel’s Harbour wing.