PADDLE VESSEL ROTHBURY
The Paddle Vessel Rothbury was built in 1881 at Gunbower, Victoria on the Murray River. Built as a large and powerful Tow Boat, employed in towing barges for the Wool and Logging Trade. She was well known even then, to be one of the fastest Tow Boats.
The Rothbury was brought to Mildura in 1909 by Permewan Wright & Company who had an extensive establishment in Mildura, sharing the trade to the district with the Chaffey owned company, the second River Murray Navigation Company.
In 1911 the Rothbury was bought by R.M. Anderson, the major sawmiller in Mildura. The Rothbury supplied the mill with logs from Redgum forests for extensive building construction at Mildura. Timber was also towed on barges by the Rothbury for "stock piles" along the river for various boilers and other passing steamers.
Andersons' Sawmill was located on the Victorian bank just downstream of the existing Chaffey Bridge, but was destroyed by fire and attempts to be rebuilt failed. Still existing on the NSW bank opposite is the original "Andersons" slipway, used for boat repairs since the early 1900's. (Now owned by A.E. & F.O. Pointon). The Rothbury was later used for towing Lock building materials. The Rothbury teamed with the "Derrick" Barge for construction along the river. The Derrick was fitted with a large crane and pile driving equipment, but had no power of its own. The Rothbury towed this barge to its destinations and also provided its power from the Rothbury's boiler. The most recent and significant construction of the Rothbury and the Derrick was that of Psyche Pumping Station in 1957/58. Thus the P.S. Rothbury was still working as she was originally built for until late 1950's, perhaps the last steamer to do this.
The Rothbury layed idle at Mildura moored at the above slipway for 10 years until she was purchased by Captain Alby Pointon in 1968 for restoration for the Tourism Trade. During restoration her 55HP Steam Engine and boiler combination was removed for a lower maintenance Gardner Diesel Engine (Hence Paddle Vessel [PV] now and not Paddlesteamer). However, the Rothbury retains her original wheelhouse and all top deck cabins are the original also. A Bar, Galley and dining facilities replaced the steam engine area.
The Rothbury is 88 feet long, 19 feet wide at the waterline with a width of 32 feet accross the top of the paddles, weighing 90 tons, is licensed to carry 175 passengers.
In 1896 the Rothbury was involved in a famous towing race against the P.S. South Australia on the Darling River at Wilcannia. The race was held over a measured distance with each boat towing another steamer with its paddles lashed, as well as two barges. The Rothbury was well ahead at half way, but ended up losing by only seconds due to a lack of steam caused by the engineer.
It was not until 1988 at Goolwa on Lake Alexandrina, that the Rothbury was to regain her honour in the Bicentennial Great Paddle boat Race, which was held in conjunction with the opening of the Signal Point complex by the Prince and Princess of Wales. A race was held over a straight 2 mile course between the Rothbury, Coonawarra, Impulse from Mildura and the Mayflower from Morgan and the Murray River Queen from Goolwa. After an even start it was apparent, the Rothbury with her sleek hull design was truly the "Greyhound of the Murray" and she went on to win convincingly.
The National Paddleboat Challenge Cup race has since been held in Mildura, as the Rothbury holds this honour, and has won the past four races with funds raised from the day going to the Mildura Base Hospital.