Paddle Steamers – A trawl through the archives

PS Melbourne at Mildura, Vic

I’m quite sure that each of the paddle steamers operating on the Murray is unique. They all have a romantic quality and some, to quote Peter of ‘Peter’s Ponderings’ look like they’ve been built by shed builders. With cabins and cupboards filling every available space. They were once the life blood of the river carrying wool and cargo before the arrival of the railways. These quirky vessels seem to have been built to fit the river. The paddles are on the sides unlike the American ones with the paddle at the rear and they have a shallow draft. Before the advent of the Hume Dam and the many locks that were built to control the flow of the Murray the river was prone to drying up in parts during droughts. It must have taken some canny river boat skippers to be able to get their cargo through. They were known to be left high and dry for long periods awaiting rain. I should mention the red gums here as well. These trees can grow to be big stocky giants but when the river undermines their roots there is only one place to go and that’s to provide a tangled haven just below the surface for the fish. Skiing is popular on the Murray, but as any skier will tell you they spend just as much time on the alert for snags and sunken trees. Life would not have been easy navigating on one of these boats.

PS Oscar W at Goolwa, SA near the Murray mouth

7 thoughts on “Paddle Steamers – A trawl through the archives

  1. Just as people use old railway carriages, or shipping containers, I dare say that if you looked around you would find someone, somewhere, has a small paddle steamer on a plot that they use as accommodation, or as a shed!

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