Still steaming along

The last of the great Aus­tralian river­boats

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - SI­MON GRIF­FITHS

Step on board a steam­boat and you are step­ping back in time ... the pol­ished brass, the smell of the oiled en­gine, the hiss of steam, the spin­ning wheels and pis­tons and the shrill sound of the steam whis­tle.


Built in Ho­bart in 1896 for Wil­liam Gib­son, SY Preana fer­ried the businessman and MP across the Der­went River from his home to his flour mill in Ho­bart. She fell into dis­re­pair af­ter his death and was con­verted into a fish­ing boat, her steam en­gine re­moved. When Jim But­ter­worth found her in 1992, she was hauled up on the mud of Prince of Wales Bay — a real wreck. But­ter­worth set up the Preana Trust, which was to be the be­gin­ning of 16 years of prob­lems. One of th­ese was the fact that But­ter­worth could not find a Simp­son Strick­land triple steam en­gine to repli­cate the orig­i­nal, al­though he did even­tu­ally lo­cate a 40-horse­power US Navy type-E com­pound en­gine that was the right size. The en­gine is truly a work of well-oiled, steel and bronze art; the cen­tury-old com­pound steam en­gine works away, qui­etly pro­pel­ling the el­e­gant boat across the Der­went. SY Preana was re­launched in 2005 and is avail­able for cruises and din­ner par­ties. At 55ft long, her beam is 13ft and her draught 4ft 6in. She weighs 13 tonnes. More:


There is some­thing about the smell of the river on a hot day mixed with the scent of tow­er­ing river red gums, the steam and oil, and the deaf­en­ing sound of the steam whis­tle as PS Em­my­lou leaves dock. The port of Echuca on the NSW-Vic­to­ria border is home for PS Em­my­lou, a steel-hulled, tim­ber-decked pad­dle steamer driven by a re­stored 1906 steam en­gine. She was built lo­cally in 1980-82 in the style of a 19th-cen­tury river­boat, and fits in with the orig­i­nal pad­dle boats on the river. Cap­tain Dar­ren Mann steers her down the Mur­ray River on this hot, lazy sum­mer’s day. The decks are full of pas­sen­gers; ex­cited chil­dren rush about as the en­gi­neer oils the en­gine and stokes up the fire­box with red-gum logs. Lots of peo­ple are hav­ing morn­ing tea aboard as we slowly make our way down the river to the gen­tle sound of the pad­dles hit­ting the wa­ter, pro­pel­ling us along. The PS Em­my­lou is 90ft long and her beam is 30ft. More: mur­rayriver­pad­dlesteam­


Bruce Jes­sup is the proud owner of SL Huon, a replica of an 1875 carvel steam launch used on in­land wa­ter­ways in the US, all smartly pol­ished brass with lots of de­tail in the tim­ber­work. A carved bird with a fish in its claws perches above the brass steam gauges while two steam whis­tles sit atop the fun­nel. Built in Launce­s­ton, Tas­ma­nia, she was launched in 2006. She is made from Huon pine over cel­ery-top pine, fit­ted out with bird’s-eye Huon pine and Fid­dle­back black­wood. With a bronze pro­pel­ler, she is 24ft long. The boiler, which was de­signed by Strath Steam of Goolwa in South Aus­tralia, is pow­ered by brown coal. The en­gine is a York Com­pound, en­gi­neered by Charles Sin­gle­ton of Westbury, Tas­ma­nia.


Prom­i­nent Ade­laide businessman and MP Ge­orge Swan Fowler com­mis­sioned PS Mar­ion in 1896 from Mi­lang ship­builder AH Land­seer. Un­for­tu­nately, Fowler died soon af­ter build­ing be­gan, so his trus­tees de­cided to com­plete the hull and sell her as a barge. She floated in 1897. In 1900, Wil­liam Bowring bought her. He built a su­per­struc­ture and im­ported a Mar­shall, Sons & Co of Gains­bor­ough en­gine. She is still pow­ered by that en­gine. Over the years, her use changed, from ship­ping cargo to pas­sen­gers. As a pas­sen­ger steamer,

SY Preana, top; PS Mar­ion, above; SL Huon, above left

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