A BRIEF HISTORY OF PADDLE STEAMERS IN ECHUCA, VICTORIA

Echuca and Moama has a very rich heritage stemming from its days as a bustling Paddle Steamer Port and together with Moama has the world's largest Paddle Steamer fleet in the world today. In the hey day of the Port of Echuca around about two hundred Paddle Steamers worked on the River.

The 1.2 kilometre wharf was built in 1865 and was the scene of great activity, second only to the Port of Melbourne. The wharf built of red river gums, has three levels to cope with the changing levels of the River Murray. The past 20 years or so have seen a major resurgence of interest in Riverboats and Paddle Steamers on the River Murray. The great wharf at Echuca reminds one of what a busy bustling trade area the Murray, with its Riverboats and Paddle Steamers provided.

The P.S. Adelaide being Australia's oldest Paddle Steamer, is also the third oldest of such Paddle Steamers in the world today. Two older ones are in Scandinavia - the Norwegian SKIBLADNER built in 1856 and the Danish HJEJLEN built in 1861. Today, the P.S.Adelaide carries passengers for the Port of Echuca giving people of today a nostalgic feel on how it was on the River days of old.

The three Paddle Steamers in Richard's portrayal of the Port of Echuca are PS Alexander Arbuthnot, the PS Adelaide and the PS Pevensy.

Alexander Arbuthnot was built as a towing vessel for Arbuthnot Saw Mills. It sank at Yeilima in 1947, was refloated in 1973 and taken to Shepparton. The vessel was bought by the Port of Echuca in 1989 for tourist work and was moved to Echuca in 1991 where her restoration was completed. She has the capacity for 47 passengers. Her dimensions are 23.2m x 4.6m x 1.4m. She was built at Koondrook in 1923. Her paddle wheel location - Side. Engine - Steam.

The matriarch of the Port of Echuca Fleet is the P.S.Adelaide. The Adelaide was originally built at Echuca in 1866. She was built as a towing vessel and did not have space on deck for any significant amount of cargo. Adelaide would often tow a number of barges loaded with red gum logs from the Burmah Forest and bring them down to the sawmills at Echuca. She was sold in 1958 to the S.A. Sawmill Company and taken to Paringa. The Adelaide was then sold to the Echuca Apex Club in 1960 and she steamed back to Echuca. She was removed from the River and set in concrete in Hopwood Park as an exhibit, adjoining the Echuca Wharf. Restoration of the Hull was begun in 1982; this enabled the Adelaide to be recommissioned.

Later in 1984, she was removed from across the River with the aid of two mobile cranes using heavy cable, she returned to the River and was moored at Echuca Wharf. Restoration continued until 1985 when HRH Prince Charles and the late HRH Princess Diana recommissioned the Paddle Steamer Adelaide. Today the PS Adelaide works as a Tourist vessel from the Port of Echuca. Her dimensions are 23.1m x 5.2m x 0.7m. Wood. Built in 1866 at Echuca. Paddle Wheel location - Side. Engine - Steam.

The third Paddle Steamer in Richard's painting is the P.S.Pevensy. She was built in 1910 at Moama. Her dimensions are 37m x 7m x1.4m Composite built. Paddle Wheel Location: Side. Engine: Wood burning steam. In the late 1960's P.S.Pevensy sank. She was refloated again in 1968 and was purchased by the Port of Echuca in 1973. It took a period of over three years to restore her to her former self. Often referred to as "this giant Clydesdale of the River". She is able to carry 90 passengers and 120 tons in her massive hold. She further has a claim to fame, as she was used by the producers in the film "All the Rivers Run" based on the book by Nancy Cato, and was temporarily renamed Philadelphia.

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RICHARD LINTON ASMA
Australian Maritime, Marine & Historical Art

 

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