P.S. Ruby was re-commissioned in July 2004
In 2004 the Restoration Committee received a NSW State Award for Heritage Restoration!
The Paddle Steamer ‘Ruby’ was built at Morgan by David Milne in 1907 for Captain Hugh King. She was the fourth riverboat of that name to be used on the Murray. Her owner also had another vessel called ‘Ruby’, but of 1876 vintage. On acquiring the new steamer, he had the old ‘Ruby’ converted into a barge, renamed her ‘Radia’ and in October 1908, used her to transport sheep and cattle.
The new ‘Ruby’ was 205 tons gross, 132’9” in length and had a beam of 18’9”. ‘Ruby’ was built with a whaleboat stern, a straight stem and was of carvel design. The depth of the hull was 6” and she was a light draught, drawing only between 2’6” and 3’ when fully laden with around 85 tons of wood and supplies. This enabled her to operate on much lower river levels at times when other steamers were still tied up.
Ruby carried 30 passengers in style and comfort. She had three decks; the top deck featured the wheelhouse, chimney stack and Captain’s and Mate’s quarters (later in her career, female crew quarters and a music room were added). The second deck housed the passengers, saloon, and bathrooms and the lower or cargo deck contained the Engineers cabin, galley and crew quarters.
It would seem that in her early days, the ‘Ruby’ was plagued by engine weaknesses. The 20nhp Robey & Co, UK, engine that was put into her when she was launched, did not prove satisfactory. In 1911, she was fitted with a narrow gauge locomotive boiler from the SA Railways and the direct action engine from the P.S. Industry. Again, in 1918, these were removed and the engine and boiler from the P.S. Lancashire Lass were installed.
Under the present restoration, a 20nhp engine again by Robey & Co has been purchased. This engine, completed in 1926, is a much newer design and should be an ideal engine for Ruby.
In 1909, the ‘Ruby’ became one of the fleet of the newly formed Gem Navigation Company, (a union of the Ben Chaffey Steamboat Company and Captain King’s Gem Line of steamers), with headquarters in the Adelaide office of Messrs. A.H. Landseer Ltd. This Company was later to become the Murray Steamship Company. At this stage she was fitted with all modern conveniences for passenger traffic, including fly wire screens on windows and doors. Electric lights and fans were later fitted in the cabins. The ‘Federal Standard’, the Wentworth newspaper at the time, spoke of her in that year as “being as fast as any vessel on the river”. The Gem, (now at Swan Hill Vic), the Marion, (now at Mannum SA) and the Ruby, were all passenger/cargo steamers of the same fleet.
The ‘Ruby’ proved to be a valuable member of the fleet and she was transferred from one route to another depending on the water in the rivers. ‘Ruby’ travelled the Morgan to Swan Hill route for most of her working life. She was a ‘bottom ender’ in every respect and never ventured further up the river because of her length.
Ruby was taken off the run in the early thirties and tied up at her home port of Morgan until she was purchased in 1938 by Maurice Collins, who brought her to Mildura as a houseboat. Two years later, stripped of most of her superstructure, she was sold to Vic Robbins who also used her as a houseboat. By 1968 she had deteriorated substantially and through the foresight of Wentworth Electrical Engineer, Frank Fotherby, the Wentworth Rotary Club was encouraged to purchase her for $1600. She was towed to Wentworth and placed in a park opposite the wharf that she had tied up to so many times years before. Ruby became a feature of Fotherby Park for thirty years, but deterioration of her hull and superstructure was an ongoing problem.
In 1996, Rotary placed ‘Ruby’ in the trusteeship of the Wentworth Shire Council. A Committee, made up of local service groups and townspeople, was formed to commence full restoration work. Under the guidance of Captain Leon Wagner, the long work of completely restoring the boat began. With the added enhancement of a working dry dock she was re-commissioned on 11th July 2004. ‘Ruby’ is currently operated by the P.S. Ruby board and committee, which is overseen by the Wentworth Shire Council.
For more information please phone Wentworth Visitor Information Centre 03 5027 5080.
Our major sponsor throughout the restoration has been Merbein Sawmills, Yelta, Victoria.
Other major sponsorship came from: The Australian Government, NSW Government Heritage Grants, Wentworth Shire Council and Wentworth and District Community Bank.