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Murray Bridge was one of the largest ports in the Basin
Port Mobilong took the bulk of the trade from Mannum and became the terminal for shipping downstream of Morgan. Grain, fruit, fish and wool from upriver were transferred by rail to Adelaide or Melbourne. In return general goods and hardware were off-loaded and delivered by the steamers. In 1919 over 35,000 tones of freight was transshipped across the wharf, with up to 16 trains departing daily. During the 1920s and 1930s more wheat was moved across the Murray Bridge wharf than at any other South Australian regional port.
As the cargo trade waned, Murray Bridge developed as a popular holiday destination. The combined rail and river link enabled large tourist vessels such as the Marion, Gem and Ruby to be based at the port.
Wharf and Crane
Once the railway came to Mobilong, the timer wharf became one of the busiest along the river and continued to be actively used until the 1930s. The two-level structure was a total of 355 metres long and serviced by two railway lines along its entire length. More than six cranes were used for the transfer of freight and, in 1913 when the ware was lit by electricity, the wharf was only equipped with two rail-mounted electric cranes. Today the wharf if only one quarter of its original length and one crane remans. A railway loading platform and a section of the line are still on site.
The wharf and cast iron crane, one of the earliest manufacture in South Australia (1887), is a significant State Heritage Place protected by the Heritage Places Act 1993.
From 1891 to 1913 the Church of England provided a floating mission for the isolated settlers and communities along the River Murray.
The first mission boat was a steam launch. It was replaced in 1899 by a paddle steamer with chapel and checkhouse, built at Milang. Both vessels were named Etona, for Eton College, which had provided financial support.
The Etona was based in Murray Bridge. With priest William Bussell at the helm, it travelled between Goolwa and the Victorian border, provided pastoral care at stations, farms and woodcutters camps, as well as to fisherman, river boat families and small settlements. Bussell also brought material help to these isolated communities and received wood for the steam engines and accordingly vegetables and fish.
By 1897 the launch was travelling 1600 kilometres every six weeks, calling at approximately 40 places, including the Aboriginal settlement at Port McLeay. Bussell steered and cooked while the engineer stoked and tender the engine; both men loaded the tons of firewood needed to keep the vessel steaming.
Services were held on board or in a variety of settings. People living away from the river were visited in borrowed buggies, on horseback, by bicycle or on foot.
GPS: Zone 54 E 0343629 N 6112294
Panel in front of the Riverscape Restaurant at Sturt Reserve
Interpretive panels are located at:
Please do not interfere in any way with ship-wrecks and land based heritage sites
Published with permission of Government of South Australia
Department for Environment and Heritage
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