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05 August 2003
11/2003
Commemorative Issue

150th Anniversary Murray River Shipping

Australia
The Murray River
The Murray River forms the border between New South Wales and Victoria and flows for 2530 km from the Australian Alps in eastern Australia to Encounter Bay, South Australia. Its major tributaries are the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Darling Rivers.

Early navigation
The first vessel to steam on the waters of the Murray was the Mary Ann. In March 1853 William Randell, keen to find a speedy, economic means of transporting his flour to the expanding markets of the Victorian gold fields, set out from near present-day Mannum for Swan Hill. He was forced to turn back, then set set out again several months later. He encountered Captain Francis Cadell in the Lady Agusta just three days from Swan Hill. Cadel was responding to a South Australian government initiative encouraging exploration of the river.

Both vessels arrived at Swan Hill on 17 September 1853. On their return journeys, they carried wool back to South Australia, and the use of the Murray for commercial shipping had begun.

The river trade
The river system quickly became a highway to the inland. Trade was varied. Steamers carried passengers, mail and supplies to the stations, and returned with station produce for coastal markets. By 1870 the Murray was the main channel bringing inland wealth to the coast.

River trade transformed inland pastoral industries. Station owners began to change from cattle, a good option when the only transport to market was overland, to sheep, because river transport of wool made sheep farming a better option. Towns in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales became, for a time, bustling inland ports. Eventually Goolwa (SA) and Echuca (VIC) became the key river ports with a strong rivalry growing between the two.

Ship building
With the river trade came a new era in boat building. Most boats were built to a simple utilitarian design with the shorter and more manoeuvrable side-wheelers (a paddle-wheel on each side of the vessel) eventually beating out the longer and more cumbersome stern-wheelers (American style with a paddle-wheel at the rear).

Apart from special passenger vessels, most steamers were simple cargo ships accompanied by one or two barges. Deck passengers travelled cheaply, finding a place among the cargo. Some barges were purpose-built for the wool trade and vessels conveying timber from the Barmah forest to the Echuca/Moama sawmills had special barges with outriggers to handle the logs.

Causes of decline
Despite being a great advance on the bullock team, river transport had its problems. There was no co-ordinated approach to development. Intercolonial customs tariffs meant time consuming and burdensome custom-house requirements. The river itself was unpredictable and conditions were often dangerous.

Rising costs, fierce competition and the expansion of the rail system contributed to the decline in river trade from its peak in the 1880s.

River trade continued at reduced levels until the 1930s. Passenger steamers continued longer. Indeed, steamers can still be seen on the Murray River. Many individuals and organisations have restored vessels or built new paddle steamers to cater to the love of heritage and the resurgent tourist industry.

PS Oscar W  

PS Oscar W

:

The Oscar W was built in 1908 for normal commercial work on the rivers. It changed hands and purpose several times before being sold and taken to Mildura for tourist day excursions. In 1964 the Oscar W was sold again and restored to a wood burner before being bought by Tourism SA and taken to Goolwa for complete restoration. The vessel is now maintained and operated by the Friends of the Oscar W as a working exhibit at Signal Point River Murray Interpretive Centre in Goolwa.

PS Marion  

PS Marion

:

Built in 1897, PS Marion was one of the first paddle steamers to run cruises on the Murray River, and it is now the only original wood-fired paddle steamer with overnight accommodation still operating. Like the Oscar W, Marion has been through changes of ownership and function

PS Ruby  

PS Ruby

:

The PS Ruby, built at Morgan in 1907, was the fourth riverboat of that name on the Murray. This Ruby started carrying passengers in style and comfort and had a second life as a houseboat. By 1968 it had deteriorated substantially. The vessel was purchased by the Wentworth Rotary Club for $1600, towed to Wentworth and placed in a park opposite the wharf. In 1996 Rotary placed the Ruby in the trusteeship of the Wentworth Shire Council. Under the guidance of shipwright Captain Leon Wagner the long work of restoration has begun.

PV Pyap  

PV Pyap

:

Built in 1896 at Mannum, the Pyap was a hawking vessel, set up as a shop with a counter, store section and separate drapery at the rear of the lower deck. The Pyap

PS Adelaide  

PS Adelaide

:

Built at Echuca in 1866 the Adelaide is the oldest wooden hulled paddle steamer still operating in the world. It was launched, and worked, as a logging boat for about 90 years, towing up to three barges at a time carrying red gum logs from nearby forests to a sawmill at Echuca. Its career ended in the mid-1950s when motor transport took over and the Adelaide lay idle, tied up near the mill until 1958 when it was sold to a sawmiller and taken to South Australia.

A community effort brought it back to Echuca in 1960. In 1963 the Adelaide was lifted from the water and placed in Echuca

Technical Information

Issue date....................... 5 August 2003
Denominations................ Five x 50c
Illustrator........................ Craig McGill, New South Wales
Stamp size...................... 37.5 x 26 mm
Printer (all)...................... SNP Sprint
Paper
Gummed.................... Tullis Russell
Self-adhesive booklets JAC B100
Self-adhesive rolls....... JAC B90
Perforations.................... 13.86 x 14.6
Special features ............. Decorative gutter
Sheet layout.................... Sheets of 50, in two panes of 25
National postmark .......... Swan Hill VIC 3585
copyright notice: This material has been reproduced with permission of the Australian Postal Corporation. The original work is held in the National Philatelic Collection.
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