The paddle steamer Oscar W was built in 1908 by
Franz Oscar Wallin (commonly known as Charlie Wallin) at Echuca. He named
the vessel after his son Oscar whom he no doubt hoped would continue his
shipping business but young Oscar was killed in action in World War I.
At the time Oscar W was built, Wallin already
owned the steamers Australien and Julia and the barges Adam, Federal and
Impulse, he later went on to own a number of other vessels.
On completion the Oscar W did her trials in the
, and was then put into service on the
Charlie found the Oscar W a difficult vessel to
handle and in 1914 sold her to Permewan Wright. By 1919 the falling off of
the river trade was taking effect and the Murray Shipping Company was
formed out of the amalgamation of the shipping interests of a number of
companies including Permewan Wright. Oscar W was one of the vessels that
went to the new company. Charlie Wallin did not join Murray Shipping but
continued to trade in his own right until his death in 1934.
By 1942 Murray Shipping had turned to the tourist
passenger trade to survive and the old work boats were sold off.
Oscar W was sold to George Ritchie of Goolwa.
Ritchie came from a shipping background, the Ritchies being among the
crews that bought the earliest steamers out to
Ritchie planned to turn Oscar W into a tourist
vessel, but wartime shortages of materials and manpower meant that this
was not possible so in 1943 he sold the vessel on to another Goolwa
syndicate who very quickly found the same problem. They sold the Oscar W
later in 1943 to the South Australian Government Highways Department where
she was used to service the ferries along the river. The Department
converted her to oil burning in 1945, because of the lack of cut wood
along the river. By 1959 a new vessel was needed to carry out this work
and Oscar W was replaced, and in 1960 sold to Paddy Hogg for £50.
Paddy took the vessel to Mildura where he used
her as a tourist vessel and also in any general work that could be found.
Probably the best known task for the Oscar W was the towing of the old
steamer Gem from Mildura to Swan Hill in 1963. The Gem was to be used as
part of the historical village being built there and it was expected that
the voyage would take about two weeks.
The trip was straightforward although the river
beyond Wakool Junction is quite narrow and can be treacherous and there is
a notorious reef, the Bitch and Pups a few miles in from the Junction. The
voyage went well until this point was reached and low water stopped them
here. It was almost eight months before enough water came down to allow
the vessels to cross the reef and continue to Swan Hill.
In 1964 Paddy Hogg sold The Oscar W to Allan
Moritz and she then headed back to the bottom end of the river.
Allan started the long process of restoring the
vessel and in due course she was slipped for major hull repairs.
Unfortunately Allan Moritz died before this work was completed and no
funding was available to assist, so Oscar W was sold in 1985 to the SA
Tourist Commission who were involved in the establishment of an
interpretive exhibition at Goolwa.
Funding was made available and the Oscar W was
put back into river worthy condition and steamed to Goolwa arriving on 31
The Oscar W is maintained at Goolwa as a working
exhibit and is used to demonstrate how the vessels were worked on the
rivers. The Barge Dart forms part of the "plant" to demonstrate this.
Since returning to Goolwa the Oscar W has taken
part in many events along the river, the most notable one being the return
to Echuca in 1991 on a 7 week voyage. During this trip, the vessel also
ventured into the Murrumbidgee River for 25 miles, the first vessel to do
so since at least the 1956 flood and possibly earlier. We also took her up
the Darling River for 38 miles, and while at Echuca went up the
, now the limit of navigation on the Goulburn and
1083 river miles from Goolwa.
trip was a record breaking run to Wentworth in 4 days 23 hours towing the
barge. This trip was a 24 hour a day run done in four hour shifts.
1994 we took part in the Centenary celebrations for Waikerie and on return
the Oscar W was taken out of commission because of the condition of the
boiler. We investigated the possibility of rebuilding the boiler, but due
to age and the possibility of a limited life we decided to have a new
meant a huge amount of work and fund raising and with the help of funding
from the Tourism Commission, Council and our own funds we were able to
contract Forbes Engineering to build the new boiler in 1996. The boiler
was installed in February 1997 with just 2 weeks to go before the Wooden
Boat Festival, and all of the plumbing work still had to be done. This was
achieved and the Oscar W was in steam for the Festival weekend.
then work has continued on general maintenance and working towards having
the vessel in survey as a trading vessel.
frames have been replaced and the hull has been re-planked. Remaining work
involves the installation of automatic bilge pumping and fire fighting equipment along with a bit more work on the steel upper hull depending on
the availability of funding. The decks have all been replaced or repaired
and the forward hatch cover re-planked.
this a lot of smaller tasks mainly to do with safety are required to bring
the vessel up to survey.
The Centenary of the Oscar W occurred in 2008 and there
were extensive celebrations along the river.
Photo courtesy of Rod White
OLD SKIPPERS OF RIVER MURRAY PADDLESTEAMERS
From left to right: Paddy Hogg, Rex Sheehan, Phil White, Pearl
Wallace and Ray Rhodes
Photographed after receiving life membership of the
Captains' Association in May of 1990