This August the Paddle Steamer Enterprise celebrates its 140th birthday with 30 years steaming on Lake Burley Griffin. The Enterprise started its life in 1878 on the Murray River in Echuca, towing barges laden with wool. It then became by turns a floating store, fishing boat, houseboat and is now one of the oldest steam-powered vessels afloat in the world.
Sights, sounds, smells
Visiting the Enterprise is a sensory experience. Standing on the deck you can feel the slight rocking of the boat under your feet, smell the smoky wood burning in the boiler and hear the paddlewheels churning through the water. If you are lucky there may even be the smell of cooking coming from the galley, perhaps a Murray stew or some baked scones. All of these sensory elements contribute to a feeling of travelling back in time to when steam ruled the Murray.
Living on the Enterprise was an adventure. The Creagers lived on the boat for 26 years, travelling up and down the Murray and Murrumbidgee. The river and the Enterprise provided all the family’s needs — fish, crayfish, ducks, no electricity bills and no rates. It was a near idyllic lifestyle while Australia struggled through the aftermath of the First World War, the Depression and the Second World War.
The next 140 years
The Enterprise will continue its life as a valuable working exhibit in the National Museum’s collection. It is maintained by our expert conservators and operated by a team of hardworking, enthusiastic volunteers.
On weekends during our steaming season (usually mid-September to May) it can be seen plying the waters of Lake Burley Griffin, whistle blasting, steam and smoke marking its passing. When the Enterprise is docked at the Museum, visitors are invited onboard to experience a bygone era. They can feel the heat from the boiler as it burns large hunks of timber, watch the majestic engine slowly turning over and hear the stories of this unique vessel as told by our volunteers.
The Enterprise is a living part of our history that will continue to fascinate and inspire future generations.