Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Steam Whistles on the Swan

Author/s R. Dickson

Year of publication 1993

Report Number: 70

While researching the history of the shipbuilders of Western Australia from 1829 onwards I became increasingly aware of the beginnings of steam transport on the Swan River.

From reading other accounts of this part of our history I decided to make this part of my study a separate entity, confining myself to the first twenty years 1839 to 1859, as this is the period during which proposals were formulated,companies formed and to the actual introduction of steam powered vessels plying on the Swan.

It follows through those first tempestuous years when our pioneers designed and built not only the hulls but the machinery as well. From boilers made of waggon wheels and hand forged and turned parts, Thomas William Mews and Solomon Cook produced our first river steamboat. That it was a failure may have perplexed and upset them, but, in the face of adversity and a supercilious press they returned to the boat shed and blacksmith shop and started again, and again.

Without men like them our Maritime Heritage would have been so much the poorer.

Interwoven in this story is the history of a little steamer named 'Les Trois Amis which was built on the river Thames at Northfleet,Kent,England, which steamed halfway round the world to take her place in our history as a river steamer and coaster.