Steam Boat "Hercules"


A sad image of the steam paddle-propelled tug boat "Hercules" (in the foreground) tied up along the Melbourne Steamship Co.'s floating dock waiting to be scrapped in 1925. "Hercules" was one of a number of steam boats used by the Melbourne Harbour Trust to tow and push larger vessels in and out of Port Melbourne and the Docks.

"Hercules" was built in Dundee, Scotland around 1848 and commenced her work in Melbourne between 1850-1854 and was in use for around 75 years. "Hercules" was sunk in 1871 near Humbug Reach, at the junction of the Yarra and Saltwater (Maribyrnong) Rivers after a collision with S.S. Dandenong. She was completely refitted and overhauled in 1875, with repairs to her engines and boilers, with the old-fashioned paddle-wheels being replaced by more modern feathering floats which greatly increased her towing capacity.

She was used as a tug boat for 40 years, then converted to a water tanker for 30 years, before being scrapped in 1925.

This photograph is from 1925, showing "Hercules" in her final days as a water tanker. Her fellow tug boats behind her are from left to right, "Sprightly", "J.W. Alexander", and the famous "Tooronga".

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From the Williamstown Chronicle of 3rd January 1925 we read...

"The scrapping of what was previously the old wooden paddle-propelled tug, Hercules, and more recently used as a water-carrying hulk, which is proceeding at Williamstown, severs another link in the early history of Port Phillip. The Hercules arrived in Hobson's Bay 75 years ago [that would make it around 1850], and was engaged for a long time in towing vessels in and out of the port. Her owner was the late Capt. James Deane, one of the founders of the Melbourne Steamship Co., in those days known as the Melbourne Coal Co. The Hercules was lengthened in 1883; and later was dismantled and converted into a tank. Captain Williams, of Melbourne Road, who has served for 45 years in Port Phillip tugs, joined the Hercules, as cook, in 1877 when the tug was in command of Captain Collins. Captain Williams, who retired about four years ago, was for 39 years in the employ of Howard. Smith and Co., and served on six tugs; the Hercules (as cook); the Black Eagle (as deckhand); the Resolute (as mate), and later was captain of the Falcon, Sprightly and Alacrity."

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