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Published November 25th 2014
Be Amazed by these Marvellous Models
Rodney Hobbs is craftsman. He's been making paddle steamer models for over 40 years. We happened upon Riverboat Rod's Model Paddle Steamer Display as we strolled down Darling Street in Wentworth, a small town where the Murray and Darling Rivers merge around 30kms from Mildura.
Some of the models and memorabilia at Riverboat Rod's Model Paddle Steamer Display
Entry is by gold coin donation to help fund the paddle steamer fact sheets provided free to visitors. Trestle tables line the shop and upon them are the 26 paddle steamer models. They are the size you would carry in your arms rather than pick up in your hands. This is a wonderland and it is hard to know where to start.
There are five models of the Paddle Steamer (PS) Marion, each depicting a different time in her history. On the deck of one, meticulously stitched hessian bales represent her cargo of wool bales. On others are passenger cabins. The real PS Marion has been fully restored and cruises the Murray from Mannum in South Australia.
Models of the Paddle Steamer Marion and different stages in her history.
Behind the displays are paddle steamer memorabilia, posters and paintings, photos and plans, signs and advertisements. There is a framed collection of souvenir tea towels featuring paddle steamers - Early Pioneers, Old River Boats, River Murray, and Mildura.
On another table are models of the Emma, the Mooglewanke and the Oscar W. The Mooglewanke is piled high with a wool bale cargo, more of the stitched hessian bales and with carefully chosen sticks cut as logs for the boilers. We cannot help but admire Rod's skill and patience.
It is a cold day. We linger near the back of the shop chatting with Rod. He treats us to a look in the back room, where on an old kitchen table he is working on a model of the Ruby, a 1907 side-wheeled paddle steamer. This is of particular interest as we have just come from looking over the PS Ruby where she is being renovated by volunteers at nearby Fotherby Park. I buy a book about her and can't wait to read it. (Rod has since completed this model, which after 649 hours of work he presented to the Wentworth Shire Council.)
On a mantle is a model of the PS Mary Ann, the first paddle steamer to be launched on the Murray River in 1853. Unlike the other models on display, the Mary Ann has sails.
There is a model of PS Pevensey. Today the Pevensey is a tourist boat at the Port of Echuca. She is also somewhat of a celebrity, having starred as the Philadelphia in the TV mini-series, 'All the Rivers Run'.
Much time could be spent at Riverboat Rod's Model Paddle Steamer Display. The boats and their history are as captivating as the models themselves.
Rod's display is at 29 Darling Street, Wentworth, NSW, around 30kms or 20 minutes from Mildura on the Silver City Highway. It is open from 10am to 4pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Rodney Hobbs can be contacted on 0429 370 239. For details go to the Visit Wentworth website and for more information and a map go to www.wentworthjunction.com/rbr/