Canoe Trips Down the Murray; The Alexander Arbuthnot

Thanks to Neil Cook, I have recently received a number of photographs taken by Ray Bean in 1947. Ray went for a canoe trip down the Murray River and during his trip he took a number of photographs of Steamboats on the Murray River. Many of them have an interesting story.

At least two of Steamboats that Ray photographed were partially sunk. In the 1940’s a lot of these boats were no longer seen as useful but had not yet become valuable as historical artefacts and examples of our past. So they were just left to rot. However, over recent years a number of these boats have been raised and fixed up and have a new life.

In 1947 just prior to Ray Bean’s trip down the Murray a letter was published in the Adelaide Advertiser. It mentioned “the good old barges strung together at Morgan just rotting”. At that stage, according to the Newspaper there seemed to be some film being made about the barges. The quote was “I hope Lt-Col. Tolley will make his moving, pictures available for the public to see.” I don’t know if he ever did make his moving pictures available but there are certainly some lovely youtube video’s out there about some of the steamboats that Ray Bean photographed.

One of the steamboats that Ray photographed was the Alexander Arbuthnot.

Alexander Arbuthnot. Photographed by R. Bean 1947. From private collection of Neil Cook 2016.

Alexander Arbuthnot. Photographed by R. Bean 1947. From private collection of Neil Cook 2016.

The Alexander Arbuthnot had sunk earlier that year when the river had risen and the Steamboat had been tied too tightly. This had meant that it had not been able to rise, with the tide, high enough to stop water from coming in over its bows. The Alexander Arbuthnot was built by Arbuthnot Sawmill at Koondrook, in 1916, as a barge, and named after the sawmill’s founder. In 1923 the barge was converted by the addition of an engine and superstructure. She then became a steamer and for many years towed barges laden with red-gum logs from the nearby forests for the Arbuthnot Sawmills.

During WW2 the Alexander Arbuthnot was sold to charcoal producers at Barmah who used her to bring bagged charcoal to the Echuca Wharf. However, eventually she was neglected and then sank in 1947. Today the Alexander Arbuthnot is used as a working boat out of the Euchuca wharf where she carries tourists and passengers. The Alexander Arbuthnot was the  last paddlesteamer to be built as a working boat on the Murray River during the riverboat trade era.

There is a lovely video of the Alexander Arbuthnot as she is today on youtube.

1947 ‘OUT AMONG THE PEOPLE’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), 16 January, p. 8. , viewed 02 Apr 2016,

Euchuca Paddlesteamers; PS Alexander Arbuthnot. Euchuca Paddlesteamers

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