PADDLE STEAMER MELBOURNE
The Paddle Steamer (PS) Melbourne was launched at Koondrook on the River Murray in 1912. 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. The Melbourne was used for any public works along the Murray River, assisting with bridge, weir and lock construction.
Later the PS Melbourne was bought by Evans Brothers Timber Mills at Echuca and was used for logging until road transport became more viable. She was then left permanently moored against the river bank and to the elements, until 1965 when she was purchased by Captain Alby Pointon and his wife Freda.
After extensive boiler and hull repairs, the Melbourne's boiler was again relit for the first time in 23 years, in preparation for her long voyage from Echuca to Mildura.
Once at Mildura, Captain Pointon began the arduous task of a carefully restoring the key elements of the PS Melbourne while converting the old work boat into a passenger carrying tour boat. The PS Melbourne departed Mildura Wharf on her maiden voyage carrying passengers on the 1st January 1966.
The PS Melbourne is licensed to carry 300 passengers, and is 98 feet long, 21 feet wide at the waterline and 40 feet across the top of the paddles. Like all other Paddlesteamers, she has almost a flat bottom and therefore a very shallow draught. The bow only draws 2 feet, 6 inches whilst the stern 3 feet. So the Melbourne could safely float and operate fully laden in less than 4 feet of water.
The old steam engine was originally built by the Marshall engineering Company in England. The boiler is referred to as a Loco type with a maximum steam pressure of 150lbs and is still fired by wood. This in turn drives a twin cylinder compound engine, which at normal cruising speed turns at about 60 turns per minute or 130 rpm at her maximum speed of 11 miles per hour.
Of the 250 Paddle steamers built and used on the River Murray, the PS Melbourne is one of the only original paddle steamers left cruising daily on the river for passengers that is still driven by her original steam engine.
As Australia's most famous Paddlesteamer, the Melbourne has attracted passengers from all over the world. Cruises depart twice daily from Mildura Wharf. A unique feature of most cruises is travelling downstream through Lock 11, which was built to bypass the weir across the river.
Passengers can experience the workings of a lock as the Melbourne is lowered to the downstream level and raised again on the return journey. An informative and comprehensive live commentary of the river and its history, fauna and flora is conducted throughout the cruise involving the public in the current beauty and history of the river and its vessels. Passengers can see the engineer fire the boiler and enjoy the magic of the old engine as it drives the massive gears of the paddlewheels, resounding the times of the "Old Paddle steamer Days".
The PS Melbourne has operated continuously in Mildura for the past 40 years, and in 1990 was the Victorian Tourism Award Winner for Excellence. Still owned and operated by the Pointon family, the Melbourne, along with the Rothbury and Mundoo, operate together to provide visitors with professional and personalised cruises along the expansive and scenic Murray River at Mildura.