"Water Baby"

The 19th Century Yandilla Station Steam Launch 

We believe Water Baby is our most historically significant item in the Millmerran Museum.  We are very proud of its restoration and display in a purpose-built shed, along with information relating to Life on the Condamine Flood Plain.   Also, Water Baby has now become a significant object of national importance, since its registration on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels.  

 

The Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) is managed by the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney in association with the Sydney Heritage Fleet. A vessel is registered as historic after a rigorous and comprehensive process investigating its contribution to Australia's social history, and its particular significance to the nation's maritime heritage. Water Baby was registered in 2019 and given the identification number HV000768. At this point in time 600 vessels have been added to the Register including coastal and inland vessels. The Australian Register of Historic Vessels can be viewed at https://www.sea.museum/discover/arhv   

A recent addition to our exhibition are images and history of the Yandilla Washpool.  See Water Baby History 

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Grant Uebergang being interviewed by the ABC about the Millmerran Museum's star exhibit.  Grant, historian and author, wrote "Water Baby - The Yandilla Station Steam Launch - A history of a remarkable feat in nineteenth century inland marine engineering"  which is available for purchase at the Museum.

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History

Water Baby was constructed in the blacksmith at Yandilla head station in the period 1876-1878 by Frances Gore, the then manager of Yandilla, and his shipwright John Patrick Purcell.  It was built to assist in the rescuing of valuable stud sheep during floods as Yandilla was situated on the confluence of Grasstree Creek with the Condamine River.  The vessel was not designed to carry the sheep but was used to tow one or more other boats loaded with sheep to give stability against the fast flowing current.  This was the only vessel of its type built on the Darling Downs in the nineteenth century.

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Restoration

Restoration work commenced on the hull in January 1987 after it had been moved to the Museum and housed in the Ron Houston Collection shed.  After 15 months of voluntary labour restoration of the hull was completed with principal participants being Tom Lawler, Lloyd Weedon and John Twidale.  Valuable assistance was also rendered by Ron Twidale, Ron Houston, Ron and Kelvin Scragglier, Andy Plunkett and Grant Uebergang. The hull was made of wrought iron and iron bark timber originally, and the metal frame showed very little corrosion at the time of being retrieved.  All timber for the 

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Image Gallery

The earliest known photo we have of Water Baby was taken in 1898 along with other boats on a flooded Grasstree Creek, Yandilla head station, in January 1898.  Francis Arthur Gore, architect of Water Baby, was also a photographer and the image is attributed to him. In the gallery you'll see Water Baby in various roles and states of disrepair.

She takes a 150 year old journey from a productive life-saving vessel, to abandonment, rescue and finally restoration.  Water Baby was finally opened to the public when the Life on the Condamine Flood Plain exhibit was opened on 1 May 2021.  

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