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Gippsland lakes and rivers [Australia]

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Roderick Smith:
I was consulting Peter Synan The lakes; highways of water yesterday for information on SS Dargo and SS Omeo.
The book was published by Landmark Press in 1989, isbn 0 949449 64 4 (0 949449 72 5 paperback).
The book is very much an economics treatise: trade and traffic and investment in worthwhile and white-elephant projects.
I thought that I had extracted a list of paddlesteamers from it, but I hadn't.  Searching on Gippsland (my search button is top right) brings up five Paddleducks references: I have placed a map of the lakes, and a reference to paddlesteamers today (the PS Curlip replica project).

Gippsland (eastern Victoria) was settled from the 1840s, but roads to this part of the state suffered from hills and heavy rain, and were much harder to traverse.  Coastal and lake shipping were important until the railway reached Sale (late 1870s), Bairnsdale (late 1880s) and Orbost (1916).  Coastal shipping was mainly by paddlesteamer until c1880, when screw took over.  Lake shipping continued to use paddlesteamers until c1890, when again screw took over.  Coastal shipping suffered from a treacherous coast with little shelter en route, and a treacherous entrance to the lakes.  Much of the book covers the politics of creating a new entrance: still as treacherous today as the earlier (natural) one.  The main lakes for navigation were Lake King, Lake Victoria and (linked by a channel) Lake Wellington.  The immediate shores were cattle country; the rivers gave access to timber-milling areas, and to packhorse trails to mining areas in the mountains.  The major rivers were the Tambo (to Mossiface), Nicholson, Mitchell (to Bairnsdale), Avon (to Clydebank & Redbank), and La Trobe / Thomson (to Sale).  Port of Sale was given a very expensive makeover a decade after the railway arrived, too late to be of economic benefit.  The river was straightened and widened and extended as a canal via a creek bed into the heart of the town.  A railway siding was used for bringing supplies from Melbourne to be taken by boat to lakeside properties.
East of the main lakes system, Lake Tyers was rarely open to the sea.
Further east, Orbost was built on Snowy River.  The original PS Curlip worked there, connecting with coastal steamers at the river mouth (supplies in; produce out).
The book is not set up as a boat/ship history; they aren't in the index.  I am skimming the whole book to find the references.  The Gippsland lakes had their own style of boat, more in the European manner than were Murray Darling boats: a sheer bow, counter stern, minimal sponsons and lightly-raked funnel.  There was minimum superstructure, leaving the fore and aft decks clear for cargo.  I have found a hint that Avon was coal fired; perhaps all were (or at least, all coastal ones were).

p8: Photo of two paddlesteamers at Bairnsdale, probably 1880s.  I suspect that one must be PS Tanjil (there were two boats with this name).
p14: First sizeable vessel to enter the lakes, schooner Georgina Smith.
p15: An 1878 painting, showing a small paddlesteamer on the sea side of the entrance.
p16: Steamer Enterprise (propulsion not mentioned) built at Sale 1857-58.  Blocked by a bridge downsteam, it took advantage of a flood to steam out over the obstruction.  Lengthened 1860; sold away from the lakes 1863.  p27 reports a trip into Lake Tyers.
p18: Lady Darling: built locally, but completed as a schooner.
p19: Black Swan, no description.
p19: PS Lady of the Lake (with a watercolour painting on p21)
p21: schooners Ella and Albert.
p27: schooner Emily Ellen.

Tues.6.5: skimming chapter 2
Gippsland Lakes Navigation Company, evolving to Gippsland Steam Navigation Company (GSN), which played a substantial role in an era of expansion, notably in the Melbourne to lakes trade.
p28: Schooners Tambo, Apollo, Jane, Lady Darling.
p28: Steamers Tommy Norton, PS Charles Edwards.
p29: Steamers Kerra and SS Ant. [The use of SS instead of PS proves nothing, as the company used the term SS for vessels which were certainly PS].
p28: Steamers Lady of the Lake and Trio with rival companies.  GSN adds steamers PS Murray and Samson. Photo of a coastal steamer (screw, not paddle) at the rival Port Albert.
p34: PS Murray was designed specifically for the lakes trade with reversible paddles specially for crossing the notorious bar.  Samson was second hand from Sydney (a hint that it was screw).
p36: In 1867 GSN had PS Gippsland built on the Clyde, 100 ft long.  It didn't enter the trade: the customs duty for the import was so high that the company transferred it elsewhere.
p36: In 1868 had PS Avon built (imported in sections and assembled in Melbourne), 3 ft 3 in [1 m] draft.
p36: Charles Edward, then also Samson, sold.
p38: An excellent photo of PS Avon.  The company ran the larger vessel (Murray) between Melbourne and Port Albert, and the smaller one (Avon) from there into to the lakes.  Tommy Norton seems to be a general lakes tender vessel.
p40: a water colour of PS Murray on the lakes.
p42: four schooners obtained for carrying materials for railway construction: Eleanor Johnstone, Warhawk, Nowra, Little Angelina.  Avon damaged and sold.  Replaced by new twin-screw Rosedale, 144 ft long, built in Dundee, in service 1877 (but unsuitable, and sold in 1880 to the NSW coastal trade).
p43: Tommy Norton destroyed in a grounding; replaced with small steamer Ariel and purchase of rival Lady of the Lake.  Rival Napier on the Melbourne trade.
p44: Charter of steamer Pretty Jane while Murray was under repair from a grounding.
1882: GSN wound up.
Behind all of this there is coverage of the traffics conveyed and the development of the economy.
This was a very interesting chapter to read: brave men, difficult times, but a vision for the future.  The roads must have been frightful for the hazardous through journey by water to be so dominant, despite the need to tranship en route.  However, the bar was often impassable (bullock drays connected from Port Albert), and considerable dredging was needed in the lakes system.

7.5, chapter 3
Nothing on paddleboats as such.  This chapter is on the linking of Sale to Melbourne by rail from 1877 (suburban Oakleigh), continuing into the heart of the city from 1879.  The passenger traffic shifted to rail: safer, faster and more comfortable.  Much goods traffic shifted to rail, with the lakes boats changing role to a feeder connection, not a through voyage via sea.  New traffics developed: fishing fleets, and tourism.  The 1880s decade was a boom one Victoria: vast expansion in Melbourne (requiring building materials), a huge expansion in the railway network, and some major improvements on the lakes.  The biggest was the provision of a swingbridge at Longford and the creation of a canal and dock, bringing lakes boats right into the heart of Sale, with a railway serving the wharf.  The railway was extended to Bairnsdale, with a link to the wharf their.  Elsewhere, I have notes on the provision of a swingbridge at Bairnsdale.  It was unsuccessful, apparently opened only once in its life.  The main wharf was below the bridge anyhow, and navigation further upstream served little benefit.  There was also a twin bascule bridge over Tambo River at Swan Reach.  It did serve a useful purpose.  IIRC, it survived until the 1920s, and was replaced with a fixed-span bridge.

Aha: I have found an earlier, more condensed, version of my Synan research: in Research /APAM Director's Cut, p10.
There was also information from other posters.
A quicker way into that thread should be

I'll leave this coverage for now, as it seems that the topic is covered.

When work resumes, I will edit this post rather than add more posts, so call back from time to time.  When I reach the conclusion, I will set up a bookmark post.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Have you seen the book Ships that sailed the Gippsland Lakes by Elizabeth de Quincey? It has a bit about the Dargo in it. It was published by the Gippsland Heritage House in 1994. ISBN 0 646 21422 5.

The items on the Dargo.

Roderick Smith:
That was an interesting contribution to this Gippsland lakes portfolio (just remember readers that Dargo was part of the screw fleet, not paddle).  I don't own that book.

The author erred in her description of the Longford bridge as unique: it may have been the first (unlikely), but was certainly not the only one.  Even today, there are three others which open.
Queensland: one at Townsville, last opened in the 1920s, preserved as a pedestrian bridge.
NSW: At least four in Sydney, one of which is preserved in working order at touristy Darling Harbour; possibly one near McLean (it opened, but I would have to check the style).
Victoria: three (Bairnsdale, Sale and Melbourne).
Tasmania: three or four.  The current one at Dunally replaced an older one; I would have to check the mechanism for the one on the north coast.  There is also one in Hobart.
SA: about three.  The major one (Jervois Bridge) carried trains and trams too; there were two small ones in the Port Adelaide docks area.
WA: none.
Australia had a lot of movable-span bridges, but bascule or vertical-lift outnumbered swing.

Roderick B Smith
Rail News Victoria Editor

Some more from the above book. The boat on the cover was the Tanjil of 1885.


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