Saturday, 1 May 2010


Ship No 267
This fantastic photograph is by courtesy of Nick Pellier (Ferries of Sydney)

South Steyne was one of the most famous ships to be designed and built by the shipyard of Henry Robb. She was ordered from the Port Jackson Ferry Company in Sydney Australia. She was to become the most well known of all the ferries working out of Circular Quay in Sydney and served the populace of this great city for many, many years.

She is now used as a floating restaurant in Darling Harbour and who knows what the future will bring for this iconic vessel.

She was 1203 tons, with a length overall of 220 feet and a beam of 38 feet.

She was launched from slipway No 4 at the Leith shipyard of Henry Robb on 1st April 1938.

Launch of the "South Steyne" (Ship No 267)
Note the side paddle tug. Ready to take her in tow.

Some Notes:-
30th June 2008, 9:15am. World's largest operational steam ferry returns to Darling Harbour. Quote from the Manly Daily: "The South Steyne was the grandest Manly ferry ever to grace Sydney's waterways and was everyone's favourite as she plied her trade from 1938-1974, crossing the Heads more than 100,000 times." She was also the only ferry licenced to sail outside the Heads and from 1953 until 1973 made regular trips to Broken Bay each Sunday giving many Sydneysiders their first experience of an ocean cruise. Designed by J Ashcroft; built by Henry Robb and Company of Leith, Scotland.
Statistics: 1,203 tons gross/536 tons nett; 67m long with a beam of 11m maximum passenger capacity of 1871. Traditional Manly Ferry style with two passenger decks, built of timber, iron and steel, powered by a magnificent Harland & Wolff four cylinder triple expansion steam engine, boilers could use coal or other fuels. She could exceed 17 knots. Fitted with radion in 1953 and later radar. Upper deck damaged by fire in 1974. 1988 refitted as restaurant/cruising vessel. Also once used as a Royal Yacht for the Queen.

South Steyne arrives in Sydney 1938.

Statement from NSW government inventory about South Steyne

The South Steyne was the best known of the Manly ferry line which played a major role in the suburbanisation of Sydney and in the development of its recreational patterns. It is a very high quality example of naval architecture and an outstanding example of the plating (having no flat plates) for which Henry Robb of Leith was famous. It is the finest example of the most significant Australian contribution to sea navigation technology - the development of high speed, double-ended operation in deep sea conditions. It has an intact operating example of propulsion by steam reciprocating engine. It epitomised the Manly ferry as part of Sydney's image and its popular urban culture; and remains, like the Harbour Bridge, a powerful piece of Sydney imagery. It is held in high esteem by the local community and remains in the collective memory of the nation. It provides a working example of the propulsion and auxilary functions of marine steam power. (Heritage Office 1992)

Date Significance Updated: 18 Feb 99

Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Branch intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Physical Description 1988

South Steyne is a double-ended, double-screw steamship powered by a 3,250 IHP triple expansion steam engine (manufactured by Harland & Wolff, Belfast). It was the largest ferry to operate on Sydney Harbour, designed and constructed to ocean-going ship standards. 1203 gross tonnes, 67 metres in length and with a beam of 11 metres. It has a double-ended riveted steel hull, steel superstructure to sun deck level, steel bulwarks, teak decks and wheelhouses, 8 watertight bulk-heads, bar keel, double bottom under engine only. Two funnels (one dummy containing water tank).

Historical Notes.

The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co. Ltd. was the best known of the Sydney ferry operators and was famous for the large and comfortable steamers which it ran to the seaside suburb and resort of Manly. The ferry service played a significant role in opening up settlement in that region from the 1850s. Patronage was growing steadily in the 1930s and the need to increase fleet capacity and the need for faster vessels led the Port Jackson Co. to order a new ferry boat.

In December 1936 the General Manager of the Port Jackson Co., Walter Leslie Dendy went to Britain to study sea transportation, propulsion techniques and to order a new ferry. By March 1937, seven shipbuilders had submitted tenders. The contract was awarded to the Scottish shipbuilder Henry Robb Ltd. for a steam reciprocating ship. The engine was built by Harland & Wolff Ltd., Belfast. The keel of the vessel was laid at Robb's Leith Yard in October 1937 and launching took place in April 1938. The name of the vessel came from the promenade behind the ocean beach at Manly.

Pedder and Mylchreest Ltd. of London was entrusted the task of delivering the ship 12,000 miles to Sydney. Captain R. M. Beedie was the master for the sixty-four day voyage. During the voyage, the South Steyne performed well and found no difficulty in the monsoonal conditions.
The South Steyne arrived in Sydney on 9 September 1938 and for the next 36 years gave faithful service on the Manly ferry run. The ferry had a justified reputation as a fine sea-going boat. For some 20 years it also ran Sunday ocean cruises to Broken Bay, north of Sydney and followed the Boxing Day yacht races to sea. South Steyne was withdrawn from service in 1974 amid uncertainty about the future of the service. At that time it was the last steam ferry operating in Sydney. About a week after the last run a fire broke out in the fan engine room and severely damaged that area and the promenade deckhouse above.

The South Steyne passed through a number of ownerships with intermittent conservation and restoration work being undertaken. In 1988 it was refitted as a cruising vessel/function centre and entered service in Melbourne, its first function was as 'Royal Yacht' for the Queen in April 1988. In 1991 it was sold to a Newcastle owner and was returned to NSW, initially to Newcastle, then to Sydney, where it is now moored in Darling Harbour. (Heritage Office 1992)

Two great Sydney Icons.
South Steyne passing Sydney Opera House being built.

Some more notes of interest.
S.S. South Steyne

The S.S. South Steyne is a 224' (70 metre) long steamship making it the world's largest operational steam ferry. Built in Leith, Scotland for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company, the South Steyne was launched on April 1st, 1938 and on July 7th 1938, it steamed the 22,000 kilometres to Australia arriving on September 19th the same year.

The South Steyne has been an icon of Sydney since 1938. As the famous Manly ferry, it crossed between Circular Quay and Manly over 100,000 times over its 36 years, carrying well in excess of 92 million passengers.

Her career finished on August 25th, 1974 when she caught fire at her Balmain berth and was withdrawn from service as a commuter ferry.

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