Alexander Arbuthnot (paddle steamer)

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PS Alexander Arbuthnot (2021).jpg
PS Alexander Arbuthnot
Murray River Flag (Combined).svgAustralia
NameAlexander Arbuthnot
NamesakeAlexander Arbuthnot
OperatorEchuca Paddlesteamers
Port of registryMelbourne, Victoria[1]
BuilderC Felshaw[3]
LaunchedMay 31, 1923[2]
In service1923
Out of service1947
HomeportEchuca, Victoria
Nickname(s)The A.A., The Arbuthnot
StatusTourist vessel
General characteristics
TypeFerry boat
Displacement46 long tons (47 t)
Length76 ft (23 m)
Beam15 ft 3 in (4.65 m)
Draught2 ft 3 in (0.69 m)
PropulsionWood-fuelled Ruston & Hornsby steam engine, 10 hp (7 kW)
Speed6 mph (9.7 km/h)
Capacity47 passengers

The Alexander Arbuthnot is the last paddle steamer built as a working boat during the riverboat trade era on the Murray River, Australia.[4]

Vessel history[edit]

PS Alexander Arbuthnot was used to supply logs the company sawmill at Koondrook. Source State Library of South Australia. Circa 1930.

The ship was built by the Arbuthnot Sawmill at Koondrook in 1916, as a barge, and named after the sawmill's founder. She was fitted with an engine and superstructure in 1923. The engine was built by Ruston & Hornsby of England and was once used in an earlier boat called The Glimpse. The ship towed empty barges to the nearby forest to collect logs; then back to the mill where the logs were cut up into lengths of timber. Barges towed upstream could be left for loading then floated back on the current while the steamer returned to the mill and took another barge downstream. The boat worked at the mill until the 1940s.

In 1942, the Alexander Arbuthnot was replaced by the PS Hero and sold to Barmah Charcoals of Barmah.[5] There it transported charcoal from the forests at Yielima and Barmah to Echuca. In July 1942, it was reported that the Arbuthnot returned from Picola to unload 700 bags (over 15 tons) of coal to a railway truck at the Echuca wharf - an activity that hadn't been seen in several years.[6] In early September 1942, it was recorded as delivering 946 bags of charcoal from Yielima.[7] The vessel was then bought by George Newman, a partner of the company, in 1943. The A.A. sunk at its mooring in 1947, when the river began to rise rapidly.[3]

The paddle steamer remained partially submerged for an extended period of time, and as a result the deckhouse was destroyed. A salvage operation began in 1972, and the vessel was refloated on December 31, 1972. The hull was stripped and transported to Barmah, following which it was taken to Shepparton and restored to its original design. It was used at the International Village theme park in Shepparton, running excursions around a 100 ft wide man-made moat.[8] In 1989 the Alexander Arbuthnot was bought by the Echuca City Council for further restoration by the Port of Echuca. It was restored at Echuca in 1991 by local shipwright Kevin Hutchison,[9] including new hull decking and planking, a new deckhouse, and a new boiler. Currently the Alexander Arbuthnot carries 47 passengers per trip, and is the youngest boat of the Port of Echuca's fleet. On average, she carries over 25,000 visitors a year.[4]

By 2010, the original Ruston Hornby engine had been reconditioned, and continues to power the boat.[3] In 2015, the Shire of Campaspe approved an additional $65,000 for deck repairs of the Alexander Arbuthnot. Including these funds, the total council contribution to the restoration of the vessel in this period totalled at $492,621.[10]


  1. ^ "Alexander Arbuthnot". State Library of South Australia. 24 February 2001. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  2. ^ "New Steamer". The Riverine Herald. Echuca: Trove. 2 June 1923. p. 2. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "PS Alexander Arbuthnot". Australian National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b "PS Alexander Arbuthnot". Echuca Paddlesteamers. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  5. ^ "The Arbuthnot, workhorse, steamer, abandoned, sunk — and still going". The Riverine Herald. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  6. ^ "Activity at Wharf". The Riverine Herald. Echuca: Trove. 29 July 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  7. ^ "River Traffic". The Riverine Herald. Echuca: Trove. 8 September 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Invite to Shepparton". The Australian Jewish News. Melbourne: Trove. 15 November 1974. p. 26. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Photograph, Alexander Arbuthnot on slip, April 1995". Victorian Collections. 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  10. ^ "Historic paddle steamer overhall". Bendigo Advertiser. 22 July 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2022.