In accordance with the specifications for the construction of the Wimmera by the Greenock shipbuilders’ Caird & Co., the builders also made a half-model of the ship for Huddart Parker & Co.
The model, which was to be “neatly finished” and supplied in a polished case fitted with mirrors on its back and ends, was to be “submitted for the owner’s or their representative’s approval” before formally commencing construction of the ship.
The model and case were probably transported to Australia aboard the Wimmera herself on her maiden voyage to Australia. After her arrival in Melbourne in November 1904 the model and case would have been unloaded from the vessel at her wharf on the Yarra River and then transported to Huddart Parker & Co’s offices in Collins Street where it would have been placed on public display.
In 1906, Huddart Parker & Co., together with other shipping companies serving New Zealand, provided displays at the International Exhibition in Christchurch. Amongst the items transported to New Zealand for their exhibit was the model of the Wimmera in its case, together with models of the Riverina and the Hygeia. All appear to have been transported from Melbourne to Lyttelton aboard the Wimmera herself in October 1906.
From the Official Record of the Exhibition, the following section relating to the maritime displays is reproduced:
Here and there throughout the Exhibition there were scattered handsome little Maritime exhibits, consisting chiefly of models of steamships, made by the various shipping companies engaged in the New Zealand trade. There was, too, the splendid naval display in the British Government Section, but that is referred to specially in the description of the British Court. The companies exhibiting in various parts of the Main Building were the New Zealand Shipping Company, the Federal-Houlder-Shire Line, the Oceanic Steamship Company of San Francisco, the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, the Huddart-Parker Company, the Northern Steamship Company of Auckland, and the North German Lloyd.
The New Zealand Shipping Company had fitted up a full-sized model of a first saloon cabin on one of its fine passenger-steamers, with inviting-looking bunks, soft carpets, curtains, lockers, and all the appurtenances of a luxurious state-cabin. This company also exemplified its methods of dealing with the immense quantities of frozen meat and other New Zealand produce carried in the refrigerating-chambers by means of a working model showing the way in which carcasses of mutton, &c., were discharged from the vessels.
The Federal-Houlder-Shire Line of steamships engaged in the trade between New Zealand and the United Kingdom had an exhibit of particularly effective design, and one that attracted a good deal of attention, adjoining as it did the Main Avenue near the eastern end. Besides a number of handsome models of various steamers of the amalgamated corporations’ fleet, including the “Ayeshsire,” “Dorset,” “Drayton Grange,” and “Elderslie,” there were full-sized models of first- and third-class passenger-cabins fitted up exactly like those on the steamships. The floor-space devoted to the models and other exhibits was enclosed to represent the promenade deck of a steamer, and life-buoys, and paintings and photographs of steamships of the fleet decorated an exceedingly well-arranged little court.
The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, the premier shipping concern in the Southern Hemisphere, showed a beautiful collection of models of the finest steamers in its fleet, now more than sixty strong. The company also had fitted up a model state-room, an exact replica of one of the s.s. “Manuka’s” first-class cabins, and it was not unusual to see some tired Exhibition-tourist resting a while in this cool curtain-shaded retreat with its suggestions of comfortable sea-travel. The feature of the exhibit that attracted most attention, however, was the large table-chart, on which were shown by means of movable models the actual positions from day to day of the steamers of the company’s fleet, in whatever part of the Pacific they happened to be. The company’s little court was well adorned with paintings and photographs of its steamers and of various interesting places to which they trade.
The Huddart-Parker Proprietary’s exhibit was another eye-pleasing marine display, consisting of beautifully finished models of the company’s steamers “Wimmera,” “Riverina,” and Hygeia,” besides a collection of shipping photographs. The Oceanic Steamship Company, which until lately ran the mail-steamers between San Francisco and Auckland, made an appeal to visitors with its information bureau, a cosy apartment off the Main Corridor, furnished with steamer-lounges and deck-chairs, and beautified with pictures. Besides these there were steamer-pictures sent by the North German Lloyd Company, and a model of the Orient Company’s Royal Mail steamer “Omrah.”
In some of the provincial courts there were shipping exhibits, which are referred to in the descriptions of the various courts. The principal of these was the exhibit of models sent by the Northern Steamship Company, whose fine fleet of steamers serves the Auckland coast from the North Cape to the Bay of Plenty on the east and as far as Taranaki on the west coast. There were several relief models of New Zealand harbour-works. One, in the South Canterbury Court, showed the Timaru harbour and foreshore; another, in North Canterbury, depicted the Lyttelton Harbour works and the possible extensions, and also the suggested ship-canal to Christchurch City.
Official Record of the New Zealand International Exhibition of Arts and Industries Held at Christchurch, 1906-7 : a Descriptive and Historical Account / by J. Cowan. Govt. Printer, 1910, pp300-02
The Official Record also records that, under Class 18 – Works of Art, Subdivision 5–SHIPS’ MODELS, amongst others, the exhibit of Huddart Parker & Co.’s half-model of s.s. Wimmera” was awarded a Gold medal.
Following the exhibition, the models are believed to have been transported back to Melbourne and returned to the offices of Huddart Parker for further public display and advertising of the Company’s fleet.
Many decades later, in the 1960s, after Huddart Parker was taken over by Bitumen and Oil Refineries (Aust.) Limited, assets of no use to the new owners, including the company’s fleet of ships, were disposed of. The sale of assets also appears to have included the models of Huddart Parker’s fleet.
A local Melbourne man and a former member of the Royal Australian Navy, Bob Charlesworth, often passed by the Company’s offices in Collins Street and saw the model on display. After the offices were closed and its contents were put up for sale or tender, Bob appears to have taken the opportunity to purchase the model in which he had taken a great interest. It remained in his possession until his death at the age of 99 years in early 2021.
The model of the Wimmera still remains in the safe-keeping of his family.