Housed in the category 1 powder magazine building (1874) at Magazine Bay, Lyttelton, this museum primarily exhibits the remains of Thornycroft torpedo boat number 168.

A 36 minute documentary film is shown on request. The film sets out the political context of the Russian scare as it affected New Zealand and Australia and relates the history of torpedo boats in general with specific regard to number 168. It displays historic photographs of the vessel, her crews, exercises and shows graphics of how the spar operated.

The 1999 recovery of the Torpedo boat and its subsequent restoration as well as the general history of Magazine Bay as a military reserve are also covered. As well as the partly re-constructed bow and stern of the Lyttelton torpedo boat, the museum features a scale model of the vessel and an example of the steam engine that once powered it. This is in pristine working order obtained from one of its long scrapped sister ships.

Thornycroft torpedo boat number 168 - a brief history
One of four torpedo boats purchased by the New Zealand Government in 1883 in response to the possibility of an invasion by Russian forces.




Built in Chiswick, London by John I Thornycroft and company


Commissioned at Lyttelton


Decommissioned and sold


Towed to Purau


Pulled into sandhills by Mount Herbert County Council traction engine and broken in two


Remains buried


Excavated and remains conserved for display

Particulars of number 168 -Thornycroft spar torpedo boat


Dimensions (feet/inches)










30' Spar torpedo
35lbs gun cotton charge


Constructed of 1/16inch galvanised high tensile steel

Powered By

Coal fired steam engine giving a maximum speed of 17.5 knots; 650rpm

Vessel plan [PDF, 54 KB]

Magazine Bay is situated within a former five acre military reserve, which was gazetted in 1885 at the time of Russian expansionist threats in the Pacific. The torpedo boat formed part of the coastal defence system for Lyttelton Harbour which included strategically placed gun batteries. A gun was established on the headland above the magazine building. A slipway and shed for the torpedo boat was built in the bay and also caretaker's and gunner's cottages. The reserve reverted to local Council control in 1984. Interpretative signs are provided. The sandy beach and reserve are popular places for swimming and picnics in summer and the area has good all season walking tracks.


Magazine Bay, Lyttelton

Museum location map [PDF, 27 KB]

Opening hours

Season Days Hours
Summer Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 1pm - 3pm
Winter Saturday, Sunday 1pm - 3pm


  • Adult $2
  • Child 50c
  • Group tours - by arrangement, refer to the Lyttelton information centre.

Contact us

  • Tel (03) 328 9093
  • Lyttelton Information Centre, 20 Oxford Street, Lyttelton 8082