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Paddle Steamer Ruby, PS Ruby, Wentworth, New South Wales

PS Ruby


Port of Wentworth, New South Wales

The PS Ruby was re-commissioned July 2004 - work continues on her steam engine.

In 2004 the Restoration Committee received a NSW State Award for Heritage Restoration.

Built in 1907

The Paddle Steamer Ruby was built at Morgan by David Milne in 1907 for Captain Hugh King. She was the forth riverboat of that name to be used on the Murray. Her owner had also 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 in October 1908 and used her to transport sheep and cattle.

Specifically designed with a shallow draught

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 carvel design. The depth of the hull was 6 feet, and she was of light draught drawing only between 2'6" and 3' when fully laden with around 85 tons. This enabled her to operate on much lower river levels when other steamers were tied up.

Ruby carried 30 passengers in style and comfort. She had three decks, the top deck featured the wheelhouse, chimney stack and Captain 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. The lower or cargo deck contained the Engineers cabin, gallery and crew quarters.

The Engines

It would seem that in her early days, the Ruby was plagued by engine weaknesses. The 20 n.h.p. engine of Robey and Co. Lincoln, that was put into her when she was launched did not prove altogether satisfactory.

In 1911, she was fitted with a narrow gauge locomotive boiler from SA Railways and the direct action engines 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 20 n.h.p. engine by Robey has been purchased. This engine completed in 1926 is of a much newer design and should be an ideal engine for Ruby.

The Gem Navigation Company

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 feet as any vessel on the river. The Gem (now at Swan Hill) the Marion (at Mannum) 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 here working life. She was a 'bottom ender' in every respect and never ventured further up the river because of her length.

Retirement and Rejuvenation

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 robins who also used her as a houseboat. By 1968 she had deteriorated substantially and through the foresight of a Wentworth Electrical Engineer Frank Fortherby, the Wentworth Rotary Club were encouraged to purchase here for $1600. She was towed to Wentworth and placed in a park opposite the wharf that she tied up to so many years before. She became a feature of the park for thirty years, until there began a rapid deterioration.

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 hull began. This has been the most challenging part of the restoration but is now close to completion. With the added enhancement of a working dry dock she was re-commissioned on 11th July 2004. We still depend mainly on donations and the availability of funding grants.


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