Wednesday 10 January 2018

Riverboats on the Murrumbidgee

I have been asked about the paddlesteamer positioned in the picture at the end of my latest Blog post.   
Paddle steamers were once a common sight on the Murrumbidgee River in Wagga, although that was generally before the railway arrived.  According to Keith Swan’s book “A History of Wagga Wagga”,  the steamers “Corrong” and “Wagga Wagga” were employed to take railway construction material downstream to Narranderra (where the railway there was being built), and cut redgum timber back to Wagga in 1879, and 1880.  The transport of redgum sleepers from the Narranderra sawmill via the river continued  until 1914 according to Keith Swan.  Upstream activity to Mundarlo for limestone occurred occassionly.

Riverboat on the Murrumbidgee, believed at Wagga dock in the 1870s

PS Wagga Wagga at Brewery Flats, Narrandera

Wagga Wagga dock - approx 1900.  Note (In the background) Hampden Bridge was constructed in 1895, and was demolished around 2015, after being bypassed with a new bridge, and being too expensive for Wagga council to maintain. It had the largest (by area) deck per span of any timber truss bridge in Australia

A picture of a paddlesteamer on the Wagga Dock, with Hampton Bridge in the background. This is an image displayed at the Wagga Wagga Regional Museum

Another picture from the Wagga Wagga Regional museum, and a description.  Whilst snags were removed from the river for navigation, the rest of the narrative about the river is from my research, a little fanciful. Charles Sturt used a longboat in 1829 to explore the river, and I have not sighted any description of the water clarity in his diary entries 

The remains of PS Wagga can be seen during low flows of the Murrumbidgee at Narrandera

You can still ride a commercial sight seeing boat on the Murrumbidgee twice a week  Unfortunately, it is an oversided “Tinny” rather than a paddlesteamer. 

Paddlesteamers can still be found on the Murray River, where one can get an authentic feel.  And if Echuca is too far, then the PS Enterprise is in Canberra on Lake Burley Griffin.  So it is not too far fetched that a paddlesteamer may make it again to Wagga.

Pevensey at Echuca Dock. VR Railway shed on the Righthand side of the picture
Steaming on the Murray. Note the water colour

PS Adelaide at Echuca in the 2010 flood

I have had an interest in paddle steamers for many years. When LJ Models brought out their kits of PS Adelaide, and PS Pevensey in the 1990s, I bought both.  Instead of building the kits, I used the plans to construct versions in wood.   Both my models remain uncompleted.
My unfinished scratch built paddlesteamers, PS Pevensey, and PS Adelaide.

About 10 years later, came the sad news that Fred Gill MMR, had passed away.  Fred was very  influential in the hobby, and many of his scratch building articles and  tips in early AMRM magazines are still inspiring.  (hint: search for his name in the on-line AMRM Index)  The NMRA was asked to find homes for his models, and the lists included the PS Adelaide.  The start price was reasonable, and I was successful in my bid.  I expected it to be the LJ models kit version, so I was very surprised when it wasn’t.   The model is  is exquisite in the detail.  
Unfortunately, there was some postal damage to the wheelhouse, and the stay support post, but these were easy to fix.  

Fred Gill's, PS Adelaide - with some damage to the wheelhouse, and stay post

After repair, I thought I would see the differences.  My model is based on the LJ Models kit, and is close to the present  configuration, (which I photographed in 2010 - picture earlier in this blogpost)

After repair. There are some differences in the two models.  I do not know where Fred got his plans from, and I suspect this will remain a mystery.  The general size of the lower deck, and dimensions is quite similar.  From a technical viewpoint, how does the captain, and his dog  get into the wheelhouse, as there are no steps to get from the lower deck to the wheelhouse deck.?  

So, as my tribute to Fred, I will proudly display his model on my river.  I hope you will all allow me this indulgence


  1. Nice work Rob! I'm sure this goes beyond a simple lineside detail, but your paddle steamers are only going to enhance your trains, just as your trains will also enhance your riverside models. As for Fred Gill's model that you've shown above; I think its nice to incorporate some modelling history into your layout, just as its also nice to have something to use as a measuring stick against our own efforts.

  2. Thank you Phillip for your comments, totally agree with you. I will freely acknowledge that I have been inspired by many people in this great hobby, and whilst getting a model from Fred's estate was great, many of my designs, and construction ideas are borrowed from others.

  3. has anyone a photo of PS Waimponbolongo that sailed the murrumbidgee

  4. Since I wrote this post, I was provided with a link to a photo showing PS Wagga Wagga at Narranderra

    Unfortunately, I have not come across any details or photos of PS Waimponbolongo.

  5. I have added some additional pictures (remains of PS Wagga, and the Wagga Dock) to the front of this blogpost.