Our Paddlesteamers

History of the Paddlesteamer era

Abandoned steamboats and barges, tall redgum wharf, small towns that show evidence of once having been much larger, old station homesteads that face the Murray, all these are constant reminders to the river traveller of the days when hundreds of steamers raced along the Murray River, opening up large areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. For many settlers, they were the only source of supply and contact with the outside world.

After Sturt first discovered and named the Murray River in 1830, it was over twenty years before the first two steamboats made their way upstream. In 1854 the ‘Mary Ann’ skippered by William Randall, and the ‘Lady Augusta’ under Captain Francis Cadell, ran an unexpected race up-river, each sure of being the first to open up the Murray for traffic. The ‘Lady Augusta’ passed the ‘Mary Ann’ arriving at the tiny settlement of Swan hill only hours before the ‘Mary Ann’. The few settlers along the way greeted both with much enthusiasm and hospitality.

By 1860 there were 17 steamers trading and operating on the river and by 1863 the new town of Echuca had a population of 300. Less than 10 years later it was 1,600 and Echuca was Victoria’s second largest port with 240 boats annually trading in all types of goods, particularly wool.

But just before the turn of the century, railway lines were linking many river towns with the larger cities and the steamboat era was already passing. Eventually boats were tied up all along the Murray River waiting for work that never came. Some sank or were broken up, a few ran halfway into this century as fishing boats, logging steamers and passenger boats.

Interest in restoring and using old steamboats has been revived and there are some like the ‘Etona’, ‘Melbourne’ and Enterprise’ which, to the delight of steam enthusiasts keep their steam engines in defiance of diesel power.

PS Alexander Arbuthnot

The Alexander Arbuthnot was one of the last steamers built on the Murray River during the riverboat trade. She was but at Koondrook in 1923 to tow barges carrying logs from the forest to the Arbuthnot Sawmills for some years until the 1940’s when she was sold to charcoal producers in the Barmah Forest. During WW2 the PS Alexander Arbuthnot lay idle and in 1947 sank at her moorings. In1972 she was raised by a group of Shepparton volunteers. the Alexander Arbuthnot was bought by the City of Echuca in 1989 for restoration at the Port.

PS Adelaide

For more information on cruises Call 1800 804 446.

Built at Echuca, PS Adelaide is the oldest wooden hulled paddle steamer still operating in the world!

Built in 1866 the Adelaide was originally fitted out to accommodate passengers on the run from Echuca to Albury. In 1873 she was refitted as logging steamers and her semi circular paddle boxes were replaced by square ones. Owned by Murray River Sawmills, she towed barges to the Barmah Forest where they were loaded and drifted back downstream to Echuca. She left town briefly during the 1950’s but later was brought back to Echuca as a community effort in 1960. 1964 saw her lifted from the water and put tho rest in Echuca’s Hopwood Gardens, where she lay for 20 years. However, in 1980 restoration commenced and she was recommissioned in 1985.

PS Pevensey

Book your cruise on the PS Pevensey today call 1800 804 446.

The PS Pevensey was originally built as a barge in 1910, and was then converted into a paddlesteamer 1911. She was built in Moama for Permewan Wright & Co, one of the largest ship owners on the river. Powered by a 20 horse power twin high pressure steam engine, the Pevensey is a large capacity cargo / two boat and was capable of carrying 120 tons in giant holds. In 1932 she was almost destroyed by fire at Koraleigh Landing below Nyah, but was rebuilt in 1933-35 at Morgan, South Australia. In 1939 she ran a regular cargo run between Morgan and Mildura before becoming redundant and being tied up at Mildura. In 1973 the Echuca City Council purchased her from the Collins brothers and steamed her back to Echuca. In 1975 she was slipped at Moama and completely restored. She now operates from the Port of Echuca and was used in the mini series ‘All The Rivers Run’ playing the PS Philadelphia.


PS Canberra

Book your cruise on the PS Canberra today on 1800 804 446.

The PS Canberra was built in 1912 at Goolwa, South Australia as a single deck fishing steamer and then used for a short while as a light cargo boat.

In the 1940’s the Canberra received an upper promenade deck and was fitted our as an excursion boat, where she was operated by the Collins brothers at Mildura.

Since 1967 the Canberra has operated out of Echuca and in 2003 she was fully restored and fitted with a 1923 wood fired Marshall steam engine.

Pride of the Murray

Built in 1924 by Murray River Sawmills, The Pride of the Murray commenced life as an outrigger barge and is 82 feet 6 inches long and 16 feet wide, with a depth of about 5 feet. She was named C24, a number which can still be seen at the bow of the boat immediately under the deck. C24 was used used in the construction of the new bridge at Barmah, a small riverside township located in the world’s largest redeem forest.

She was towed upstream to Barmah by the Oscar W under the charge of Captain Paddy hogg and was let go to drift downstream with the current, steered by a chain dragged from the stern.

At the end of her working life as a large, instead of mooring her adjacent to where the Moama Centenary Wharf is now located (the usual place for all Echuca barges). C24 was left on the Victorian side of the river just upstream of the Echuca Moama bridge. In 1973 restoration was commenced and the C24 barge was refloated from the Echuca wharf slipway in 1977 as The Pride of the Murray.

Book your cruise on the Pride of the Murray today on 1800 804 446.

PS Emmylou

Book your cruise on the PS Emmylou now on 1800 804 446.

The PS Emmylou was built in Echuca during 1980-82 in the style of the 19th century paddleboat and is driven by a completely restored 1906 Marshal 7 Sons steam engine.

30 metres long and 10 metres wide, steel hulled and timber decked.

She is the only wood fired paddlesteamer in the world to regular 1, 2 or 3 overnight cruises. Enjoy morning or afternoon tea, or lunch and dinner on the PS Emmylou.

PS Hero

Built in Echuca in 1874 the PS Hero worked the river trade up in the Koondrook area, later moving to Boundary Bend. During her time the PS Hero has worked as a cargo steamer, a merchandise steamer, towing the logging barge “Canally’. It was while working at Boundary Bend in 1957 that the PS Hero caught fire and was badly burnt and later sank. In 1989 the Byrof family purchased what remained and finally in 1998 were able to raise the hull and transport her to Echuca where she has been completely restored to first class luxury, fitted out to the finest detail. Now available for private charter, overnight accommodation, weddings, events and corporate occasions. Hero is an unforgettable experience offering enchanted journeys along one of Australia’s greatest rivers.

Call 1800 804 446 for more information.

PS Success

The PS Success was built in Moama in June 1877 and was the last working paddle steamer to carry wool along the Darling and Murray Rivers during the floods of 1956. The PS Success spent her working days towing barges of sawn red gum, wool and other cargo along the river system as well as operating as a passenger boat from Swan Hill to Mildura during 1915-16.

The newest addition to Echuca’s paddle steamer fleet, the PS Success is currently undergoing restoration at the Port of Echuca. The hull of the PS Success was purchased from the Riverboat Society in Mildura in 2009 and is to be fully restored under the experienced hand of Kevin Hutchinson, the Port of Echuca’s Senior Shipwright (and one of Echuca Moama’s – The Murray’s Living Legends).

PS Etona

PS Etona was built in 1898 at Milang, South Australia as a missionary church steamer for the Church of England. The Etona’s run was from Mannum, South Australia, where she was based up to Renmark. As churches were built in river towns she was no longer required and in 1912 she was sold to Captain Arch Conner who used her as a fishing steamer at Boundary Bend for many years. She was brought out of retirement during the 1956 floods to do trips up the Murrumbidgee River. She was eventually bought by interest in Echuca and restoration was commenced in 1962. The Etona, now fully restored with her original steam engine can now be seen moored along side the historic wharf at Echuca.