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Koondrook Paddle Steamer Heritage

The history of Koondrook is heavily influenced by the timber industry, which started to emerge in the 1870s as early settlers took advantage of nearby red gum forests. The first wharf, completed in 1882, was a vital trading point for river boats along the Murray River. The Kerang-Koondrook Tramway, which opened in 1889, linked the area to the Melbourne railway network and its port. The first paddle steamer to be built in Koondrook was PS Emily Jane in 1881, with a total of 14 vessels constructed. They not only hauled timber to the mill but conducted trade, and carried produce and passengers along the river and its tributaries. Each paddle steamer and barge had a personality and story of their own, often living multiple lives and being transformed over time.

PS Emily Jane

The iron hull paddle steamer Emily Jane was the first paddle boat to be built in Koondrook. The Emily Jane was built in 1881 by J. Webb for Thomas Buzza and named after his wife. This was to replace the first Emily Jane built on the Goulburn River in 1875. Emily Jane was a hawking vessel which carried goods for retail sale along the river. Emily Jane had a team of dressmakers on board. Customers were measured for clothes when the vessel stopped on her way upstream and the items delivered when she returned.

At the time Border Customs between that States was still in place. The Emily Jane being owned and registered in New South Wales could trade along the Darling River without hindrance. She could also trade in any town on the northern side of the Murray, but when she moved into Mildura for some mechanical work the Victorian Customs office sealed her shop and stores to prohibit any illegal sale of items that had not paid a Victorian tax. The Emily Jane was burnt to the waterline on December 24, 1899 at Avoca Cutting, near Wentworth.

PS Glimpse

The Glimpse was launched as a hull in 1882 and completed in 1883. Bervin Robert Wilson of Koondrook was both builder and owner of the vessel. Although just a small vessel the river reports show that she was kept busy carrying produce like wheat, hides and skins, chaff and wool.

A New Boat

June 20, 1882 - Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette
The dull routine of Koondrook was somewhat varied on Wednesday last by the launch of Mr Wilson’s new boat. Quite a number of people from Koondrook and the surrounding district assembled to witness the launch, and wish success to the boat and the enterprising proprietor. About 3 o’clock, all being in readiness, the ropes were cut away, and away she glided down the well greased ways. The proverbial bottle of wine was broken and the boat christened the “Glimpse”.Mr Wilson may congratulate himself on having one of the prettiest models on the river; a boat that reflects great credit on her builder. After the launch Mr Wilson invited all assembled to drink success to his new venture, an invitation which was willingly responded to.

Story of Glimpse Steamer
From River Boats by T. Mudie
Bervin and Clarence Wilson were the sons of an old Eureka Stockade man who had been one of the first to discover gold at Buninyong (Ballarat) and who became landlord of Hopwood’s Bridge Hotel at Echuca. Bervin built the Glimpse on the bank of the Murray, near the hotel he was running at Koondrook; he then gave up pub-keeping and went on the river in partnership with his brother. Although both the Wilsons became skippers later on, neither of them had a ticket when they launched the Glimpse in 1883, so they took C.P. Johnson on as their skipper. One of their first voyages was up to Yarrawonga. On the way down, on Sept 14th, eight miles above Boomanoomano, the Glimpse stuck hard on a snag that was hidden two feet below the surface, the ripples it created being hidden by those raised by a high wind. The accident happened in mid-stream. Clarrie Wilson, who was mate, grabbed a blanket and rushed to try and stop the hole, but he couldn’t find it. By then there were two feet of water in the stokehole, so her nose was run on a sand bank, where she went down, leaving her bows above water. Sheerlegs were erected, and next morning they hove the vessel up. The two foot hole was patched, the hull baled out, and the Glimpse went on down to Tocumwal to load wool. Bervin Wilson is said to have written a number of songs of life on the rivers, but none of them survived.

A Murray steamer destroyed.
January 25, 1886 - Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette
The steamer Glimpse, owned by Mr. B.R. Wilson was destroyed by fire on Monday night. While the steamer was passing up the river a few days ago with a barge load of wheat, the paddle shaft broke, disabling the vessel and rendering it necessary to put her into the river bank. The Rothbury, afterwards took the boat and barge in tow with the intention of taking them on to Koondrook, but during the voyage the shaft of the former vessel also broke, the final catastrophe by which the Glimpse was totally lost occurred a few miles below Koondrook during the absence of the owner who had left for Sandhurst to arrange for the necessary repairs. The mate it seems, who was in charge, had occasion to go ashore, leaving the boat apparently quite safe, but on his return, she was ablaze and after burning to the water’s edge, sank. The Officer succeeded in saving the cash box, but everything else was lost.

PS Glimpse

The paddle steamer Glimpse was built by B.R. Wilson at Koondrook in 1886, following a fire which earlier that year destroyed his first paddle steamer, also called Glimpse. The first Glimpse was raised from 20 feet of water and slipped at Koondrook for rebuild on 24 June 1886. The second Glimpse was rebuilt using the first Glimpse hull and was lengthened and relaunched 25 January 1887. The steamer was eventually owned by Arbuthnot and Sons and for many years towed barges along the river to the mill. When its service ended the engine was placed in the steamer Alexander Arbuthnot.

The Steamer Glimpse

January 25, 1887 (Extract provided by Bruce Colyer)
Twelve months ago today many of our readers will recollect that the steamer Glimpse, owned by Messrs Wilson Bros. was destroyed by fire at Koondrook. The vessel fortunately was insured, and the company having settled affairs, the owners decided to build another steamer to replace the one destroyed by fire, and accordingly plans were prepared and the building of the hull commenced, which was completed a few weeks since. The steamer burnt was 48ft from stem to stern, but the new vessel is 60ft in length. The timber was carefully selected and well seasoned before being used, some of the bilge planking having been cut 10 years ago for the construction of the steamer Goldsborough. The beam is 13ft 6in and depth of hold 4ft. The floors are of redgum, 4 x 3in, 2in angle iron frames being bolted on to these, thereby securing strength as well as lightness of draught. The bottom and top sides planking are of 2in redgum, the bilge being 21/2in. The decks fore and aft are of Kauri pine, and the vessel is fitted with two iron bulk heads fore and aft of the boiler. The machinery is powerful, being 8 hp with an 81/2in cylinder having a stroke of 12in. The fittings of the vessel are of the lightest description, and when fully laden the draught of the boat is under 2ft. The owners are now able to compete against any of the light draught boats on the river, and their steamer and barge Impulse is as serviceable a plant as any on the river.

Shipping Intelligence
(Newspaper extracts provided by Bruce Colyer)

September 9, 1916
The provision of additional facilities at the Koondrook wharf, on the Murray River, including a steam crane, has been the means of considerably increasing the traffic. On August 26, the steamer Glimpse arrived from Woorooma East Station, on the Murrumbidgee, with 170 bales of wool and 37 bales of sheepskins, which with 41 bags of barley shipped at Swan Hill, were loaded into (railway) trucks in four hours. The wool was received in Melbourne within a week, having been carried 300 miles by river and 193 miles by rail.

June 23, 1923 Extract from Barham Bridge by a writer from the Swan Hill Guardian.
At the present time the old mill, or Arbuthbot’s, as it is so generally known by, are building a new timber freighter (Alexander Arbuthnot). This is being made and fashioned on the pattern of the old Glimpse, its predecessor, which, after thirty-six years last November, quietly settled down to rest just at the landing, where it had generally been rested every week-end for over thirty-six years.
She brought the timber down from the forest for all that time, and according to the number of her trips up and down the river, she must have travelled over 130,000 miles on the Murray. Many an ocean liner has not had the record of usefulness of that old tug the Glimpse. She bore down to the slips millions of feet of the finest timber that Victoria is only fully realising has great commercial worth. In fact, the freight bill of her work would astound as much as the value of the timber freighter. It would be a mild estimate to say that she has carried timber in her time up to the value of over one quarter of a million pounds sterling. How many vessels in the trading courses of the world are there which have been able to boast such an amount as that of the old Glimpse, which tugged the huge limbs and lengths of the Murray? Besides at times she served as a trader in the early balmy days. And the same old engines, the heart of her, are going into her successor to carry on their toil. Such is the romantic story of the tug the Glimpse, that so many of the old settlers, axemen, and workers have known in their earlier days.

PS Canally

The Canally was built by R.W. Beer at Koondrook in 1907 as a barge. In 1912 Tommy Freeman converted it to a paddle steamer fitting the superstructure and steam engine. The Canally was nicknamed ‘The Greyhound of the River’. The owner, Captain Tommy Freeman, gained speed by fitting a railway locomotive boiler and somewhat over-powered engine that had previously been dismantled from a locomotive owned by the Kerang-Koondrook Tramway. The Canally was converted back to a barge in 1941 and was used until the 1950s. In 1957 the barge was left tied at a landing in Boundary Bend and eventually sank. Forty years later, in 1997, restoration began and the Canally was restored as a paddle steamer based at Morgan, South Australia.


August 9, 1913 - Balranald Recorder
A correspondent says:
I thought it might be of interest to your many readers to get a graphic description of a steamboat race, a battle royal for supremacy, between the two greyhounds of the river, viz., the well-known Canally and the much talked of new steamer Arbuthnot.
There has been a great diversity of opinion amongst the public as to which vessel was the faster, as both vessels are equipped with barge and powerful engines of 100 h.p. Well, it happened last Saturday that both these vessels met at Echuca, and very few knew that there was to be a battle royal as to which was entitled to the blue ribbon. Both steamers finished loading on Saturday at 5 p.m., and were ready to start away, when one of the Canally’s crew left, which necessitated getting another man. This delay seemed to irritate the crew of the Arbuthnot when someone on board of her suggested that they go a mile down stream to the park and wait for the Canally, as they imagined that that vessel was delaying too long. However, a start was made at 8.p.m., the Arbuthnot leaving the wharf about 15 minutes before the Canally. Then the battle commenced. It would have done your eyesight good to see these two steamers fighting it out to a finish, and the way the banks and trees flew by. The Canally quickly gained on her adversary, but the wash from the paddle wheel of the Arbuthnot told severely against the progress of the Canally. However, after a desperate race of 18 miles, and reaching a favourable part of the river, the engineer, who had been nursing a few notches up his sleeve, gave her full speed, and the much-talked of Arbuthnot met her Waterloo. It will give you an idea of the Canally’s pace when I tell you that the distance from Echuca to Perricoota station is 39 measured miles, and the Canally ran the distance in three hours ten minutes, and had the pleasure of seeing her rival pass later on while discharging cargo.

PS Arbuthnot

The paddle steamer Arbuthnot was launched as a hull in 1911 and completed in 1912 by Jas Burkett from the design by Mr A.J. Inches. With the construction only taking 15 weeks. In 1913, A. Arbuthnot and Sons, proprietors, Koondrook, advertised that P.S. Arbuthnot is now engaged in the conveyance of general cargo, wool etc. on the Edwards, Wakool, and Murray River. The steamer was destroyed by fire October 25, 1913 on the Wakool River. Left derelict the Arbuthnot was re-floated and in 1917, rebuilt at Mannum then renamed the J.G. Arnold.

Launching of a New Boat

September 30, 1911 - Bridge Newspaper
A large crowd of people assembled on the bank of the Murray River at the Koondrook Sawmills on Saturday last, to witness the launching of the new 300 ton steamer built to the order of Mr A. Arbuthnot. Punctually at 4.30 the appointed time, everything was in readiness, and on the word of command from the shipwright, the ropes were severed, and the boat shot down the greased planks into the river, amidst cheers. Miss Alison Arbuthnot performed the christening ceremony, naming the boat “Arbuthnot”.
The design of the boat was prepared by Mr A.J. Inches. The boat is 104ft in length, 20ft beam and 6ft 6in in depth in the hold. The planking on the bilge with double angle iron frame. The machinery is now being put in place and is expected to be completed at an early date, when the boat will make her maiden trip up the river. It is the intention of Mr Arbuthnot to construct a large barge to act as a consort to the Arbuthnot and the work will commence immediately. The barge will have a carrying capacity of 400 tons, 120 feet in length, 24ft beam and 7ft in depth.

January 4, 1913 - Barham Bridge
Mr A. Arbuthnot’s steam boat, the Arbuthnot, and the barge Koondrook, made their maiden voyage last week as cargo carriers, when they took to Echuca what is considered the record load of wheat. Quoting from the Echuca Advertiser says, The powerful river steamer Arbuthnot and the splendid barge Koondrook which were built for Mr Arbuthnot during the last winter at Koondrook, have been attracting much attention at the wharf during the last few days. The steamer and barge on Monday night, brought to Echuca, a record load of wheat no less than 5,300 bags, weighing 480 tons, having been brought up the river against the current at a speed of nearly 5 miles an hour. The unloading of the large cargo occupied the wharf hands for more than a day, and the bags of grain which were then consigned to Melbourne filled no fewer than 60 railway trucks.

Steamer Rivalry

September 3, 1913 – Riverina Recorder
The Barham Bridge says that much rivalry exists between the connection of the Arbuthnot and the Canally as to which is the fastest boat and in a speed trial recently the owners of the latter claimed their vessel was superior in this direction. The engineer of the Arbuthnot could not develop the speed which he knew his boat to be possessed of, and on examination of the smoke box it was discovered that some individual (presumably a rival) had dropped a brick down the funnel. The draught from the furnaces being considerably interfered with the consequence. Given a fair trial the crew of the Arbuthnot reckon they can beat anything on the river.

Steamer on fire - Arbuthnot destroyed

November 6, 1913 - Riverina Recorder
At midnight on Monday, at the Wakool bridge, the steamer Arbuthnot caught fire and was burned to the water’s edge, afterwards sinking. The Arbuthnot sailed from Echuca on Saturday with a general cargo of about 40 tons for Balranald, and arriving at Wakool between 11 and 12 o'clock on Monday night, mooring near Mr Pope's boarding house.
The crew had not been in their bunks long when they were awakened by a roaring blaze, which was so intense that they were compelled to abandon the vessel without waiting to collect their clothes. It is said that several of the crew narrowly escaped the flames by plunging into the river. As the cargo comprised 300 tins of naphtha, the fire made rapid progress and before long the surrounding country was brilliantly illuminated by the resultant glare and the sight was a magnificent one. After burning for about 4 or 5 hours, the hull and funnel were all that remained and the water entered, completing the damage, and what was left of the boat disappeared under the Edward, the top of the funnel being all that was visible. It was thought that the new bridge would be destroyed as the burning naphtha was floating on the surface of the water close by. The bulk of the cargo was consigned to Boynton & Dawes who will sustain a heavy loss, as it is feared that the goods were not covered by insurance. The Arbuthnot was the property of Arbuthnot & Sons of Koondrook, who will also probably be losers, though the extent of their insurance is not so far known. We understand that the whole of the cargo was destroyed.

The Arbuthnot Fire

December 3, 1913 Riverina Recorder
Further particulars to hand of the fire on the Arbuthnot state that Captain Johnson and the crew scuttled the steamer when it was seen that other means of quenching the fire were hopeless. Several of the crew were badly burnt, the engineer's injuries necessitating hospital treatment. The submerged vessel is well constructed with steel frame and when the river becomes a few feet lower the owners intend to raise and reconstruct her. It is not yet known to what extent the boat has been damaged but Mr A. Arbuthnot estimates roughly that it will probably take about £2,500 to restore her to her original condition. The boat was a new one and built at a cost of £4,000. Our sources of information do not agree as to the extent of insurance on the steamer, one account stating £1,300 and another £1,600. The cargo however, was totally uninsured and Messrs Boynton and Dawes loss is a heavy one. The Arbuthnot's clients will not be at all inconvenienced by the fire, as the proprietors have chartered another steamer to cope with the traffic. The origin of the fire is unknown, but if the rumour that a number of the tins of petrol were leaking is correct, it is not difficult to surmise the contributing and indirect cause.

PS Murrabit

The paddle steamer Murrabit was built in 1913 for A. Arbuthnot and Sons, of Koondrook. It was built to replace the ill-fated Arbuthnot which was destroyed by fire in October 1913. Two weeks after the launch of the Murrabit residents of Koondrook and district received the news that Mr. Alexander Arbuthnot had died suddenly. Beginning as a cargo vessel pulling a barge the Murrabit transported wool, wheat, wood and general cargo trade on the Murray and Darling Rivers. The paddle steamer was still working in the 1950’s carting material for building and repairs of weirs and locks. The Murrabit was abandoned in 1962 and dismantled in Mildura.

Murray Steamer Launched

June 1, 1914 - Riverine Herald
The ceremony of launching the new steamer, built to order of Messrs. A. Arbuthnot and Sons of Koondrook was performed on Wednesday at the ship building yards in the presence of a large crowd of people, including visitors from Kerang, and also representatives of the Shire Council.
The christening ceremony was performed by Miss Alison Arbuthnot (daughter of the owner) and the vessel was called the Murrabit. The vessel measured 112 ft. in length with a width of 23 ft., and a depth of 6 ft. 9 in. The new vessel is of the round bilge type, and was designed by Mr. A.J. Inches of Melbourne. She is being driven with a 30 h.p. portable engine. The new steamer is to take up the running of the Arbuthnot, which was destroyed by fire at the latter end of last season. The work of construction was carried out by local artisans and the time occupied was about four months. This reflects great credit on the workmen, and also on the firm. Mr. Arbuthnot was the recipient of many congratulations during the afternoon on his successful venture.

‘Murder Bit’ Extract from Redgums and Paddlewheels by Peter J. Philips
Along the rivers, the Murrabit was often called the ‘Murder Bit’. In December 1921, the Murrabit was at Mannum. At that time she was owned by Landseer and Co., but had been chartered to Francis and Tinks of Morgan. Her job was to tow the barge Koondrook upstream to Lake Victoria with a load of crushed granite for the lock construction in that area. It seems that one of the crew of the barge, a man called Albert Smith, nursed a grudge against the bargemaster, Olsen. He had threatened to get Olsen, but none of the crew took him seriously – not even when he went and bought an axe, and was later seen sharpening it on the deck of the barge. One night, after Olsen came back to the barge drunk and collapsed into his bunk in the fore cabin, Smith followed him. He struck again and again at Olsen’s head and neck with the axe, and was standing watching as Captain Price, disturbed by the noise, burst into the cabin. There was a brief, fierce struggle, and then Smith was marched off to the police station. In the subsequent trial, it was revealed that Smith had suffered shell shock on the slaughter fields of the Somme, and was prone to periodic fits of insanity. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after a public outcry, and he was released after fifteen years. Although rivermen were hard-headed and not superstitious, they all seemed to find very good excuses never again to sleep in the fo’c’s’le cabin of the Koondrook barge. This sort of violence was rare on the river.

Extract From River Boats by Ian Mudie
Frank Weaver, who was skippering the Murrabit, stone-carting for the building of the locks, looked out from his wheelhouse one day in the twenties (1920s) and saw Bailey (Walter Francis Bailey renowned for his disregard of rules, who’s nicknames were Wild Man Bailey and Never-Sleep Bailey) coming downstream in the Success, towing the Croupier barge. Weaver remembered occasions in the past when Bailey had failed to move out of his road, so although, as his was the upstream boat, it was his duty to give way – he decided that this time he wouldn’t pull over. Bailey – being Bailey – didn’t swing his wheel and inch. The two boats steamed straight at each other, each holding to her course, until it seemed too late to avoid a head-on collision. In the end they missed each other by inches. The Success managed to swing away from the barge of the Murrabit, but a collision between the Murrabit and the Croupier was obviously inevitable. And as men tell the story they laugh as they describe how Frank Bailey, who was engineer of the Success, watched helplessly as the steamer and the barge rushed, head-on, towards each other. “Good-bye, Croupier, old girl,” he called mournfully, “good-bye, old girl”. His farewells, however, were unnecessary. The Murrabit merely crawled up on the Croupier by one paddle-wheel, waddled almost the full length of her deck, and then slid into the river again, leaving the barge almost undamaged.

Wool Traffic Returns To Murray River
August 4, 1949 - The Advertiser
The paddle steamer Murrabit beside the landing at Morgan, where she arrived with the largest wool cargo brought down the river for years. The largest wool cargo brought down the River Murray by paddle steamer for some years is being discharged from the Murrabit at Morgan. The Murrabit reached Morgan on Tuesday with a consignment of 540 bales of wool from Avoca Para station, about 30 miles above Wentworth on the Darling. Mr. Peter Arnold, of the River Navigation Co. which operates the vessel under charter from Mr. L. H. Landseer, said yesterday that the Murrabit, built In 1914, was the only cargo steamer still working on the Murray. She was reconditioned last September after being idle for 10 years. Because of present-day rail and road transport difficulties, the firm felt that there was growing scope for a resumption of river traffic. The Murrabit, he said, had made six trips between Mildura and Morgan since reconditioning. On the last voyage upriver she had carried a cargo of bitumen to Mildura. Down river cargoes had been chiefly wool and dried fruits. At present a return trip was made every three weeks, but as cargoes improved the schedule would be speeded up. Mr. Arnold said wharf facilities for unloading at Morgan were inefficient and obsolete. Discharging of the Murrabit’s cargo had been delayed for two days because the crane engine on the wharf had broken down. Because of the many years of inactivity on the river experienced crews were difficult to find. The Murrabit was at present being worked by a crew of nine under Captain L. McLean.

PS Melbourne

The paddle steamer Melbourne was built for the Victorian Government in 1912 and commissioned in 1914. The steel components of the vessel were fabricated at the Government Dockyard at Williamstown and transported to Koondrook by train. The final construction was completed at the Koondrook ship-building yards. Built for the Victorian Government as a work boat, the Melbourne was fitted with a huge winch which was used for hauling fallen trees and snags from the river, keeping the main channel open for navigation for other paddle steamers. In December 1964, Melbourne was purchased by Captain A.E. Pointon and rebuilt into a tourist vessel; currently operating at Mildura.

Steamer Launched at Koondrook

July 19, 1913 - The Bridge
The steamer Melbourne, which is in course of construction at the Koondrook shipbuilding yards for the Victorian Government, was successfully launched on Thursday morning last. There was a large crowd present, including a number of the fair sex. The school children, with their teachers, were also in attendance, and Mr A. Arbuthnot, not forgetting his employees, allowed the men to drop their tools in order to witness the function. The boat, which was decorated with flags, presented a brilliant spectacle as she left the skids and glided down into the river. At about 10.30 everything was in readiness for the launching of the vessel, and Mr A.J. Inches (under whose supervision the work is being carried out), accompanied by Mr McLean, engineer of ports and harbors, and Miss Allison Arbuthnot, mounted the staging, which had been specially placed into position for the occasion. Mr Inches, in a brief speech, explained the object of the gathering and then called upon Mr McLean to give the word of command to sever the ropes which held the vessel in position. Mr McLean said he had much pleasure in attending the launching of the vessel, and he congratulated Mr Inches on the advancement of the work. He then gave the signal to “get ready” and the men, with axes raised, waited for the word of command, and with two hits the vessel left the skids and shot into the stream. Miss Arbuthnot breaking the bottle of champagne, and christening the steamer Melbourne, which was followed by three cheers.

Description of the Vessel
The steamer is of a composite build, and the length of overall 100ft, and breadth 20ft 6in, with an overall breadth of 36ft 6in; depth of midship 5ft. The frame is of steel and the vessel is steel plaited to light water line, and the bottom is sheathed with 3in. red gum timber. The engine to be placed in the vessel is a Marshall compound one, with a driving capacity of 20 horse power, and the boiler is of 25 horse power. The bridge will be the full width of the paddle boxes, and the railing will be placed right around the decks. A steam winch, provided by the Government, will be placed on the fore-deck for the purpose of carrying out snagging operations. The cabins will consist of quarters for the officers and crew, a dining saloon, bath room, store room and all the other necessary conveniences. The vessel will cost the Government about £5,400, is expected to be ready for her official trial trip in about six weeks’ time. The work of erecting the cabins will be proceeded with at once by Mr Jos. Kerr, of Koondrook. The whole of the work of construction is being done by local artisans, with Mr J. Brosche at the head of the wood work department, and reflects credit on all concerned.

PS Alexander Arbuthnot

The paddle steamer Alexander Arbuthnot was built at Koondrook in 1923 by shipwright Charles Felshow, and was the last traditional working paddle steamer to be built on the Murray-Darling system. The Alexander Arbuthnot was built to take the place of the Glimpse which had been in service for over a quarter of a century, towing barges loaded with logs to the sawmill. In 1942 it was sold to Barmah Charcoals and carried charcoal from the forests at Yielma and Barmah to Echuca. In 1943 one of the firm’s partners George Newman bought the vessel. In 1947 it sank at its moorings when the river rose rapidly. It remained submerged for many years and the deckhouse was destroyed. In 1972 a salvage operation was begun and it was re-floated on 31 December 1972. The hull was stripped and towed to Barmah. It then went by truck to Shepparton where a group of dedicated volunteers restored it to its original design. With a completely overhauled engine the PS Alexander Arbuthnot was then used to run excursions in a moat around the Shepparton International Village. In 1989 more substantial repairs were needed and the vessel was purchased by the City of Echuca. It was transported by road and underwent extensive restoration including new hull planking, a new deckhouse and deck planking and was fully restored to operation. She was recommissioned in December 1994.

Note: In 1989 Alexander Arbuthnot was purchased by Echuca Council for $127,000 and, after further restoration work at Echuca, she commenced working as a tourist vessel from the Port of Echuca in 1994. (Paddleship Parade – Steve McNicol)

Watch Alexander Arbuthnot Rounding up on a fast flowing Murray River 29/09/22 (Craig Vale)

Launch of the Alexander Arbuthnot
June 2, 1923 - The Bridge
'“Alexander Arbuthnot” This is the name of the new boat being built at the Koondrook Saw Mill to take the place of the ‘Glimpse,’ which for many years towed barges along the river to the mill. On Wednesday last, in the presence of a fair number of spectators, the new freighter was launched. The operation, which was watched with great interest, was successful, the boat, when the ropes were cut, gliding very quickly into the stream. The engine has yet to be placed in the boat, and it should not be many weeks before the “Alexander Arbuthnot” will be busily engaged in the timber industry.'

P.S Alexander Arbuthnot. Launch did not go as smoothly as planned (River Boats by Ian Mudie)
The launching of the Alexander Arbuthnot at Koondrook in 1923 did not go as smoothly as had been planned. As the hull had been built side-on to the river, it was decided that it was to be launched by having two old-time riverhands let her go by chopping through the ropes, one at each end, that held it on the ways. When the time came, one of the old men cut his rope cleanly; the other missed, his axe sticking so firmly in the wood that he could not pull it out. Had the ship-wright not grabbed another axe and cut the rope, one end of the hull would have hit the water before the other, and probably the hull would have sunk.

June 30, 1923 - The Bridge Newspaper
'“Alexander Arbuthnot” This fine new steamer, which has just been built at Koondrook for the local sawmill, made its first trip on the Murray on Monday last. The boat, which was in charge of one of the proprietors of the mill (Mr S Reid), put up a record in bringing down a load of logs, of which the company was short for a day or two on account of the bad roads. Further supplies have since been brought down, and the mill is now working at top pressure. The freighter is a fine, roomy one, and fitted up with every convenience for the crew, some of whom spent a number of years on the company’s “Glimpse”, a boat which ran on the river for over a quarter of a century until last year, when it was put out of action.

Extract from Murray Darling Paddleboats by Peter Plowman
The Alexander Arbuthnot usually would tow a pair of outrigger barges upstream from Koondrook to the timber cutting area, leaving them there to be loaded with about 300 tons of logs. The steamer would go back empty to Koondrook, while the barges would float down on the river current. In 1942, Alexander Arbuthnot was sold to Barmah Redgum Charcoals, and used to carry charcoal from forests at Yielima and Barmah to Echuca. During 1943 the Victorian Forestry Commission decided to use steamers to transport firewood to Echuca, from where it was sent by train to Melbourne, and the Alexander Arbuthnot carried the first load. Numerous other cargoes were also carried during this time, including on one trip two prize bulls from the floodbound Yielima Homestead. One night in 1947 the river rose rapidly, and Alexander Arbuthnot sank. Several attempts at refloating were unsuccessful, and over the years the deckhouse was destroyed, with only the paddleboxes remaining intact.

White Rose

The barge White Rose was built in Koondrook in 1884 and used for general haulage. The White Rose was converted to a paddle steamer, renamed Barwon and listed as a registered paddleboat in 1886.

Launching of the White Rose
March 21, 1884 - Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette
Koondrook last Wednesday witnessed the launching of Mr. E. Dodgson’s new steamer. The ceremony of christening was performed by two young ladies, Miss May Singleton and Miss M. McDonald, which was rather a novelty in its way, the act of nomination being done by one saying “white” and the other “rose”, “White Rose”. At a given signal the ropes were cut, the inevitable bottle dashed o’r her prow and the iron ribbed reached her native element in safety amidst hearty cheering. The vessel reflects the greatest credit on the contractors Messrs. Drysdale and Martinson being faithfully built according to the lines of the model and finished so as to leave nothing for even the most captious critic to demure at.

The Steam Navigation Board
October - December 1884 - Extracts from Riverine Herald
The Steam Navigation Board held an enquiry to consider the matter of the sinking of the barge in the Murrumbidgee river in 1884, finding that proper preventive means were not taken by the master, as the steamer did not slacken when coming round the bend, and there was not a proper watch kept. The Board warned all parties concerned. Before the hearing concluded it was reported that efforts to raise the White Rose barge, were progressing satisfactorily, and it was expected that all the wool would be recovered, so that the loss owing to the mishap will not be great.

Sarah Francis

The barge Sarah Francis was built at Koondrook in 1885 and owned by R. Blaikie. The Sarah Francis was used for general haulage on the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers. Shipping intelligence Echuca records show that in 1886 the light draught steamer Emma with her consort, the barge Sarah Francis, arrived from Balranald and other Murrumbidgee ports.

February 4, 1887 - Newspaper extract provided by Bruce Colyer
Captain Bowers has also purchased the barge Sarah Francis and after (being) thoroughly overhauled, will at once engage in the river trade.

May 18, 1896 - Newspaper extract provided by Bruce Colyer
An inquest concerning the fire which occurred on board the barge Sarah Francis early on Thursday morning last will be held at the Court House at 11 o’clock today. About eight witnesses will be examined.


The barge Impulse was built by owner, Mr. C.J. Wilson at Koondrook in 1885. Impulse was used for general cargo and transporting logs by Mr Wilson until 1888. Later, the barge was used by Evans Bros. Sawmill of Echuca to transport saw logs, before sinking at its moorings in December 1950.


The barge Alison was built in Koondrook in 1907 and named by Alexander (Sandy) Arbuthnot after his daughter Alison. The Alison was owned by Evans Bros. Sawmills of Echuca for several years prior to 1958, the last year red gum logs were brought to that mill by river. The barge has been restored and is a tourist attraction at the Echuca Wharf precinct.

Outrigger Barges (Godson Collection – State Library South Australia)
Outrigger barges had large slender logs laid across them, extending over the side 2 - 3 metres and it was from these outriggers that the mill logs were suspended in the water, the water taking quite a lot of the weight of the logs, the outriggers taking some of the weight and holding the logs alongside the barge. The barges were then drifted downstream to the mill, to be taken in tow and moved to near the mill when they arrived. Two or three men manned the outrigger barges, armed with long poles to push off snags and the like. The barges dragged heavy chains to keep them in the main channel of the river. They had no rudders.

Watch Transport of Red Gum Sawlogs on Murray River.


The barge Edna was built at Mr. Arbuthnot’s Koondrook shipyard in 1908, and named after his granddaughter, Edna. The PS Glimpse towing 2 outrigger barges, Alison and Edna, was a common sight on the Murray River, working to maintain the supply of logs to the Koondrook sawmill.

Launching of the Edna
November 10, 1908 - Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette
The vicinity of Mr Arbuthnot’s saw mill at Koondrook is usually the scene of stir and bustle. The large number of hands employed, the great stacks of sawn timber ready for despatch, and the piles of big trees awaiting their turn to perform a more useful office for man than the adornment of the banks of the river Murray, to say nothing of the whizz of the circular and the whirr of other portions of the complete machinery, and go to make up a scene of life in what would otherwise be a very quiet township. But nature has given the forests of useful redgum, and also the grand river by which the big trees may be conveniently conveyed to their transformation depot. For this later purpose the “barge” is availed of, and on the 30th ult. the scene of Mr Arbuthnot’s mill was more than ever one of life, for there many of the residents present and visitors from a distance to witness the launching of another of these useful boats. It was but eight weeks previous to the launching that the ship builders laid the first timbers of the craft, and it was remarkable how rapidly it grew. Of course everything was at hand. A trolley to the complete timber yard made the communication to the necessities easy and quick, and the men employed on the work made good use of their time.
One was impressed with the strength of the vessel. Every “stick” in it gave the idea of stability, and at the same time the lines were neatly drawn, so that it was “a thing of beauty,” which it is said “is a joy for ever.” If the Edna does not however last quite so long, everyone hopes that the spirited millowner (and the little grandchild after whom the boat is named) will at least see it gracing the lovely Murray waters for a great many years to come, and that the timbers she brings to the depot will afford comfort and pleasure to many thousands of persons.

The vessel is not of the largest size, but one naturally remembers the saying about the Welsh man’s cow, “little and good;” but nevertheless the craft will bear a burden of 100 tons easily. The dimensions are – 82 feet long, 16.4 feet beam, 5.4 feet deep. The launching was splendidly arranged. The skid on which the beam was laid was itself laid on three large squared timbers laid to the water’s edge. Every precaution against accident was taken, so that when the word was given three trusty men with axes cut away the rope stays that were temporarily holding the boat back after those in front had been removed. Then a tap or two from the bar sent the vessel gracefully down with the skid and kissed the waters of the Murray for the first time, and then it was proved how evenly the boat had been built. She floated as gracefully as a Swan, and builders and owners had good reason to be well pleased. Among those who viewed the ceremony were many ladies and the children of the Koondrook State school, who had been given a few minutes’ grace by the thoughtfulness of the teacher. The need for another barge in addition to the fleet of the Koondrook mill marks progress, an extension of business and perhaps is an indication at to what the future of this part may be when the waters of the Murray will be always “running a banker,” that is, when the long-delayed locking will be au fait accompli.

September 16, 1908 - Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette
Referring to the Edna.
...nearby, on the stocks, a log barge was in the process of construction. This, the proprietor explained was to replace one sunk in the river. Instead of going to the expense of a diver, Mr. Arbuthnot decided to put the money into a new barge and recover the old one at low water next summer.


The Koondrook barge was built in 1912 at the shipyards in Koondrook. Reported to be the largest ever built for the Murray, it had a carrying capacity of 200 tons. The barge was owned by Arbuthnot and Sons until 1919. The barge was finally abandoned on the river bank south of Goolwa.

January 4, 1913 - Bridge Newspaper
Mr A. Arbuthnot’s steam boat, the Arbuthnot, and the barge Koondrook, made their maiden voyage last week as cargo carriers, when they took to Echuca what is considered the record load of wheat weighing 480 tons.

Biographical Note (National Library of Australia – Papers of Wilson Horace Budarick – MS 6290)
Wilson Horace Budarick was born at Inglewood, S.A. Budarick and his brothers Charles and Frederick George operated a company Budarick Bros. at Murray Bridge, South Australia. The brothers owned two paddle steamers, Lancashire Lass and Murrabit and three barges, Koondrook, Nelson, and Horace which ran on the Murray-Darling Rivers carrying wool, wheat, wood and general cargo. In 1921 the Budarick brothers sold their business and W.H. Budarick established a business, General Service Garage in Murray Bridge.