Paddle Steamer Decoy

The Paddle Steamer Decoy

The West Australian built Paddle Steamer Decoy (Decoy) is an unique entertainment venue operating on the Swan River for over 31 years.

The Paddle Steamer Decoy located at Mends Street Jetty in South Perth was built in Fremantle by Australian Shipbuilding Industries in 1986 and is a duplicate of the PS DECOY built by B Henderson & Co in Renfrew Scotland in 1878. The Scottish built PS Decoy was constructed in such a way that she could be taken apart again and shipped out in crates, all clearly marked ready for reassembly on the Yarra River.

After being reassembled in Melbourne, the Scottish PS DECOY was sailed from Port Phillip Bay to the Murray River mouth where she arrived in 1879. She then began her career as a tow boat for barges on that river system’s trades. Between 1902 and 1905 she was employed about the South Australian gulf ports towing wheat barges.

In 1905 the DECOY was purchased by a Western Australian syndicate and was steamed under her own power from the Murray River to Fremantle via ports along the Great Australian Bight. She carried some 90 miners bound for the West Australian goldfields. Upon her arrival in Fremantle her single deck appearance was altered with the addition of a second deck to carry passengers for the excursion river trade.

Eventually in 1909 she was towed back to the Murray River where she continued to operate until 1932. She is still on the Murray River near Mannum in South Australia.

The West Australian built PS Decoy is licensed to carry 220 passengers, is 24.9 m long, has a steel hull and is panelled throughout with Jarrah and Ironbark wood. The Vessel is powered by steam using a Ransome Sims & Jefferies twin cylinder steam engine #17150 built in 1905 and is the only ocean going paddle steamer in the southern hemisphere (only one other known in the northern hemisphere). The engine was originally a portable steam engine employed in the sawmilling industry in and around Pemberton.

Used for “spot milling”, the engine was mounted on the boiler and the whole unit was on wheels. It was not able to power itself along but was dragged by a team of bullocks. It would be set up near a stream so there was a plentiful supply of water for the boiler. The flywheel was connected by a belt to a bench saw. The bark and off cuts were set aside to dry and were used as fuel.

The 1905 Pemberton based steam engine was refurbished prior to its installation into the PS Decoy located in South Perth. Designed to generate steam from wood, the PS Decoy’s steam engine is driven by steam created from the 8 solar water heaters located on the top of the Vessel and the combustion of oil in the firebox so as to avoid nuisance smoke in the city environs.

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