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100-year old piece of pioneer history hits the road

100-year old piece of pioneer history hits the road

More than 40 people, a 26-metre long and 8.7 metre wide trailer, 700-horsepower prime mover, police escort and nerves of steel were needed to lift a 100-year old paddlewheeler out of the Murray River in Victoria and transport it on a mega trailer more than 1700km to its new home in Longreach by road.

The massive undertaking to remove the 100 tonne Pride of the Murray from the river in Echuca in Victoria has been completed with the road trip north set to get underway soon.

Undertaking the first ever mega marine move in Australia of this scale, with a boat this age is Queensland grazier, lover of outback history, tourism entrepreneur, Richard Kinnon of the Longreach-based Outback Pioneers.

Richard Kinnon looking into the camera, standing in front of the Pride of the Murray as it is loaded onto a vehicle

“This is believed to be the largest haulage of a marine vessel this old ever undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere,” Mr Kinnon said.

“Everyone thinks I’m mad. To build a purpose-built boat from scratch would have been a significantly cheaper option but it didn’t meet my own brief which is for our Longreach-based tourism operation to remain true to history.

“When I found out the Pride of the Murray was looking for a new home, I knew I’d found a genuine outback pioneering artefact we just had to preserve.

“The only problem – this perfect piece of Australian history is giant and 1,750 kilometres from Longreach.”

Another hurdle for the Outback Pioneer’s haulage team is the age and construction of the vessel means it can only be out of the water for a maximum of seven days, before the timber begins to shrink, so timing is crucial.

Pride of the Murray paddlewheeler on the back of a low-loader trailer. Richard Kinnon leaning next to the trailer.

Warrick Corney of Freightlancer has been tasked with co-ordinating the logistics of the move and it’s something that has kept him awake at night for the past four months.

“It might sound easy but it is a massive undertaking,” he said.

“This is not a move that has ever been attempted before in Australia. 

“However, the Kinnon’s have that true pioneering spirit in spades and are so dedicated to history conservation we’re going to make the impossible, possible.

“It’s an extremely delicate operation.  It’s a 100-year-old boat we are lifting out of the water and putting it on top of a trailer before we drive it from Victoria to Queensland.  The route we have specifically chosen because it’s quite straight and had less obstructions for a mega road train.”

Before the boat was winched from the water the wheelhouse was removed because of height restrictions and placed on a separate truck to be transported to Longreach.

Aerial view of the Pride of the Murray on the back of a low loader departing Echuca Victoria

The remainder of the boat was then winched out of the water and laid across large inflatable bags before being placed on stands with the 26 metre trailer than backed in underneath it and the boat gently lowered down.

“The trailer itself is massive,” Mr Corney said.

“To give you a visual of the size of it, the trailer alone is rated at 192 tonne and the entire rig has 106 tyres under it to soften the pressure on the road.”

The giant trailer is 8.7 metres wide and some bridges it will travel over are not that wide, it will need to be lifted higher for parts of the journey to ensure it does not hit guard rails.

“It’s big machinery but a delicate operation, so the maximum speed of travel is 80km/hour, it will also be tall, so we negotiated to have crews from each electrical company travel with us along the way to lift up power lines as we come through areas where they are low,” Mr Corney said.

The whole convoy will be supported on its journey by police and pilot vehicles and can only travel during daylight hours, so it will stop overnight in regional towns along the way.

Low-loader truck travelling over bridge carrying 100-tonne paddlewheeler

Mr Corney said because it’s an old wooden boat it needs to be kept wet during the trip and be back in the water within seven days at the most.

“We have a limited amount of time it can be out of the water, so we are hoping the drive only takes three days,” he said.

“Before it came out of the water, we used old techniques and lined the inside of the hull with wet hessian sacks.”

The most difficult part of the entire trip is in fact negotiating the last roundabout as they enter Longreach.

Mr Kinnon admits it will be a stressful journey but worth it in the end.

“We are putting a 100-old-year vessel like Noah’s Ark on a truck and bringing it to the outback of Australia,” he said. 

“We’re passionate about educating people about Australia’s proud pioneering history and once the paddlewheeler is recommissioned, 100 people a day will get to relive an authentic river experience.”

The vessel will be restored in Longreach over the coming months and it is hoped it will be operational in June.

“The incentive for me and the Kinnon family is millions of tourists will get to enjoy riding the Pride of the Murray on the Thomson River for another 100 years,” Mr Kinnon said.


Pride of the Murray transport route from Moama, Victoria to Longreach, Queensland