P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot is so named after the former owner of the Arbuthnot Sawmills at Koondrook - Alexander (“Squire”) James Cooke Arbuthnot. His father, Alexander (“Sandy”) Arbuthnot was the founder of the Sawmills.
The hull of P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot was built in Koondrook by shipwright Charles Felshaw and in 1916 she began life as a barge. It wasn’t until 1923 when she was commissioned and then towed to Echuca for the fitting of engine, boiler and superstructure that she commenced her new job as a working steamer and for many years she towed barges laden with redgum logs from the nearby forests for the Arbuthnot Sawmills.
Her normal schedule was to tow two outrigger barges upstream from the mill, with two men to each barge. She would drop them off at a landing where the barges would be loaded with logs and then floated, unaided by the steamer, downstream back to the mill. Meanwhile, P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot would return to the mill, collect another barge and ply downstream to Campbell’s Island where she would await the loading of the barge and tow it back. Each barge was capable of transporting about 300 tons for redgum logs.
P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot worked at the mill until the 1940s. She was replaced by the P.S. Hero and onsold to charcoal producers at Barmah who used her to bring bagged charcoal to the Echuca Wharf during World War II. In 1947, after the war ended, she became redundant and eventually sank. A group of volunteers from Shepparton raised her in 1972 for use at the International Village Theme Park but in 1989, P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot was bought by the Echuca City Council for further restoration by the Port of Echuca. She was recommissioned in December 1994 and became the youngest boat to join fleet at the Port of Echuca.
Today, P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot cruises daily at the Port of Echuca. She can carry up to 47 passengers and has over 25,000 visitors a year.
P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot (or “AA” as she is affectionally known) is special because she is the last paddlesteamer to be built as a working boat on the Murray River during the riverboat trade era.