Port of Echuca
Built in 1865 by the Victorian Railways, the Port of Echuca Wharf was crucial to Echuca’s development and at its peak in 1890 it turned over 240 paddlesteamers and handled goods valued at 2, 256,435 pounds. During its lifetime the wharf was extended three times and steam driven cranes were added to hasten the job of load handling.
For many years the Port of Echuca was the main ship building centre for the river transport industry. As this industry grew, so to did the demand for red gum as timber for building materials, wharf piles and railway sleepers, and for a time the two industries supported each other.
The rail link, which had been a factor in the wharf’s development, was also responsible for it’s decline, as rail and road transport became more economically viable than the outmoded and sometimes unreliable river transport. As population declined the CBD of Echuca moved away from the river area and the wharf fell into disrepair.
During World War 2, Melbourne suffered a shortage of firewood and the wharf was demolished by two thirds of it’s length to what we see today. Victoria Railways continued to do basic maintenance to the wharf until the early 1950’s when that responsibility was passed to the City of Echuca. The wharf at that time was surrounded by near derelict buildings. Fortunately the local historical society initiated action to prevent further deterioration and in 1971 the Port Restoration Committee was established to begin resotoration of the wharf and surrounding buildings.
In 1974 the Port of Echuca opened for business, charging 20 cents entry to the wharf and bond store. Since then much more of the area has been restored and now the Port of Echuca wharf is a genuine working steam port where the atmosphere and environment of the 1860’s to 1900’s has been preserved.
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