TOOTING ALONG …. skipper Colin Cook sails the Murray River.
By JOHN DOOLEY
MENTION steam to a vintage train enthusiast and they quiver at the knees, nothing is more exhilarating in their minds, than the sight of a steam train in full-flight on a country railway track.
Although a rare sight in our part of the world these days, the love of steam extends to the Murray River where in Curlwaa, you’ll find the painstakingly restored boat named L’l Toot, peacefully moored.
The ‘Weekly recently met L’l Toot’s owner Colin Cook, who is custodian of the quaint steam powered launch, whose origins hark back to Holland!
How L’l Toot found its way to the Murray River at Curlwaa is a good question – Colin told us the story.
Powered by an American built, two cylinder 10 horsepower Semple steam engine, L’l Toot was built in Holland by the Bolnes company’s Hobby Group, who completed the job in 1976.
Bolnes was a major ship machinery manufacturer, who used L’l Toot or De Oude Tyd as it was called then, for promotional purposes, to demonstrate to their customers the company’s ability to provide ship machinery and equipment of all sizes, from the largest to the smallest.
Eventually, De Oude Tyd came onto the market, and was purchased by a Mr Keith Veenstra of the Captain Sturt Boatyard in Goolwa, South Australia in 1986, and was shipped to Australia aboard a container vessel.
After its arrival, the Dutch name of De Oude Tyd was translated into English, and the vessel was renamed L’l Toot.
It remained at Goolwa where it was used to promote steam-power, with the company also taking tourist agents on board their new paddle steamer Mundoo until 1989.
Today the paddle boat Mundoo operates out of the Port of Mildura and is now powered by a diesel engine and hydraulic motors.
L’l Toot would come onto the market again, and in 1989 was purchased by local David Parr who brought it to Mildura by river.
The little steam launch was then tied-up near the Lazaway houseboat moorings at Curlwaa, until the flood of 1992, caused her to break away.
Colin Cooke, who co-owned Lazaway houseboats, rescued L’l Toot, by towing her ashore with one of his houseboats and tied her to a tree and notified the owner.
L’l Toot would remain remain derilect until 2009, when the vessel was purchased by Colin and wife Neva, with the intention of it being lovingly bought back to life.
Lazaway houseboats, having one of the few slipways along the river, placed L’l Toot on the slip, where the arduous task of deciding what needed to be done and in what order, to bring L’l Toot back to life.
After an enormous restoration effort spanning several years, it was with much excitement that L’l Toot was lowered into the waters of the mighty Murray on May 28, 2010 and would be tethered to a Lazaway houseboat, possibly by the same boat that saved her more than 18 long years ago.
Today, L’l Toot proudly carries its name on the freshly painted bow, with Port of Wentworth displayed on its stern.
It looks like the proud little boat that lives on, will be around for sometime to come.