Seeing is believing
Wanaka's National Transport & Toy Museum will delight children of all ages
This fascinating museum is one of the largest private collections in the world with four major buildings housing over 600 vehicles, 16 aircraft and 60,000 plus toys and miscellaneous items. The Museum is the result of one man’s dream – Gerald Rhodes, who started collecting in the 1950s while working as an apprentice for International Harvester in Christchurch and later went on to establish his own car and truck wrecking business, which further allowed him to be in the right places to pick up “bargains” for his collection.
Mr Rhodes lived in Christchurch, but Wanaka was chosen as a location for the collection because of the dry Central Otago climate (no sea breeze and low humidity) which helps preserve the machinery. From choosing the site in 1988, the first building did not start until October 1994. Many obstacles had to be crossed, but with great tenacity, the Museum started to take shape.
In 1995 the Second Building “The Hangar” was built to look like the original hangars used in the 1940s with old hangar doors from Christchurch used to give the building authenticity. The Museum opened to the public on 26th December 1995 making the dream a reality. In April 2004 a 1440m ² building, “The Fire Station” was built and December 2005 saw a 2000 m ² building “Hangar 2”.
Nestled on the outskirts of Wanaka just beside the Wanaka Airport, this Museum is a true trip down memory lane with a huge variety of exhibits that will keep visitors of all ages entertained. The museum has a variety of exhibits that has something for the whole family. There are over 70,000 items on display and new items are always being added. The Museum has the largest number of toys on public display in New Zealand.
The transport collection alone includes vintage and classic cars, fire engines, military vehicles, tractors, trucks, motorbikes, heavy construction equipment, buses, boats plus much more. Some items are extremely rare, like the 1924 McLaughlin Buick and the 1915 Sunbeam Rover WW1 Ambulance – the only ones left in the World.
Aircraft include a Russian Mig 21 and Antonov AN 2 Colt; an American Lockheed Lodestar and an English Hunter Jet Provost T5a, an English Electric Canberra and a Fokker Friendship.
The toys are a child’s dream! There are 1,000’s of die cast models, Meccano, dolls and teddy bears, tin, windup, clockwork and battery powered toys plus much, much more. Also on display are over 500 Barbie Dolls and accessories. The ever growing Star Wars collection must be seen to be believed!
There are 1,000’s of miscellaneous items around every corner, including typewriters, hurricane lamps, sewing machines, musical instruments and kitchen utensils – all bringing back memories of the past.
You can take a ride on the adult-size pedal cars around the grounds, clamber over various guns such as WWII Bofors and a Chinese Anti-aircraft gun, and climb over a 52-tonne Centurion Tank. Children can enjoy the arcade rides, Lego bricks and toys and a nearby picnic and playground area features swings and play equipment, as well as pedal tractors and trucks.
How did he collect it all? Auctions, flea markets, garage sales, newspapers, magazines and word of mouth. Since the Museum has opened another avenue has arisen – people coming through and finding the National Transport & Toy Museum is the place they would like their collection or vehicle to be, so are willing to sell or donate it to the Museum.
Nearly all the toys have been purchased in New Zealand, mainly from the Christchurch/Canterbury Region. About 3% of the vehicles are from overseas, 10% from the North Island and the rest from the South Island of New Zealand. The collection has been financed by the owner and gate receipts.
Gerald Rhodes died on the 13th of August 2015, after a long fight with Parkinson’s. His son and daughter, Jason and Debbie are still managing the museum. Jason started before the first museum building began and Debbie arrived just before the museum opened to the public.
Just about as fascinating as the museum collection itself is the toy and gift shop, which offers a wide selection of toys, models, gifts and light refreshments.
Situated within the Museum, the toy and gift shop stocks a huge selection of collectable toys from cars to dolls, games and gifts. It stocks the worlds best brands such as Meccano, Siku, Bruder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Sylvania Families, First Gear, Corgi, Barbie, Mattel, Hasbro Selectrix, Tamiya, Airfix models and many others. The shops offers terrific pricing and has an extremely wide range of models within each brand.
The National Transport & Toy Museum is a real nostalgia