How Rob Roy Tavern Will Be Moved


Moving the Freemans Bay Rob Roy (Birdcage) tavern 40 metres up Franklin Road to make way for the construction of the Victoria Tunnel’s southern portal is about three weeks away.
It will be an incredible feat to watch. It will be done on one weekend day.
When it is ready to be moved it will be placed on runway beams just below ground level.

Additional structural bracing will be added at this stage to keep the building rigid. Hydraulic arms will then push it gently and very slowly along the beams up the road, where temporary foundations will be ready for it.
But the company that is doing it, Dunning Thornton Consultants, has done such amazing things before.
It moved Wellington’s Museum Hotel across the road to make way for Te Papa museum.

The hotel is now across the road and has been extended. I went to visit its first floor to check out the models and photos of the move, which give us some clues as to how they do such stuff.

The Wellington hotel was the largest building ever relocated in NZ.

An ingenious method of lifting and then rolling the building on railway tracks provided a means to save it from demolition.

Midway through the hotel’s move, a 90 degree change of course was needed. 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 was laid at right angles and at a slightly lower level beneath the initial tracks.

After the first set of rails was cut away, the bogies were lowered and rotated onto the new set.

Blocks of steel were then used to fill the resulting gap between the steel frame and bogie.

View from the moved Museum Hotel to Te Papa across the road

View from out of the relocated Museum Hotel

So here’s how NZTA says the Rob Roy will be movedL

The 2-storey masonry building was built in 1885-86 and has a Category 1 Historic Places Trust classification. Its one storey basement is not being moved.

At 125 years of age, its bricks and mortar were not strong.

New foundation beams were built at the base of the brick walls and the building will be supported by the beams when moved.

The focus becomes moving the foundation beam frame, letting the tavern structure piggyback on it.

To transfer the building load onto the runway beams, hydraulic flat jacks will be inserted between the sandwich beams and the runway beams at each of the 14 points where the beams intersect. These jacks will be carefully monitored to ensure that all points of the building remain level at all times.

Beneath each flat jack will be a sliding bearing that consists of a low friction Tefln puck that will slide along a stainless steel strip fixed to the top surface of each runway beam.

The jacks will be incrementally loaded until the building load is transferred from its existing foundations onto the new beam system.

The building will not be lifted but once the flat jacks are carrying the load the old foundations will be cut away. This will be done after the building has been monitored for one to two days to ensure the new beams are satisfactorily carrying the load.

Hydraulic pushing rams will be installed between the building and the runway beams to provide the moving force. Each stroke of the rams will move the building forward by about 1.5 metres.

A spin off of the building being reinforced to keep the brick structure secure during the double move will be that the building is now seismically strengthened for its future redevelopment.

Strengthening work being done | NZTA

As for the Rob Roy, when the tunnel is complete, the building will be moved back down the road to its original site.

The old tavern will then become the focal point of a new public plaza. Urban design plans for the plaza are now being finalised.

Maybe while the Rob Roy is sitting up the road, it could have been used for RWC2011 Party central which would have saved the Queens Wharf controversy!




  1. Nick R says:

    I hope they start calling it the ‘Rob Roy’ again, pehaps with the ‘Birdcage Bar’ down one side.

  2. karl says:

    Will there be much to watch? I might wander by, but the pace at which this will be moving is going to be glacial, and likely behind big screening fences anyway…

  3. Jeremy says:

    a public plaza space with a motorway right over top of it, yay.

    Why couldnt the money be forked out so that both directions went underground, would allow for a massive public space - victoria park


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