Balgowlah (ferry)

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Name: Balgowlah
Owner: 1912—1951: The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company Limited
Operator: 1912—1951: The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company Limited
Port of registry: 1912-1951: Sydney,  Australia
Route: 1912—1951: Circular Quay-Manly
Ordered: 1911
Builder: Mort's Dockyard and Engineering Company Limited, Balmain, New South Wales
Cost: Twenty Six Thousand pounds
Yard number: 38
Laid down: 1911
Launched: 1912
Christened: 18 June 1912
Completed: 1912
Maiden voyage: 1912
In service: 1912
Out of service: 1951
Identification: O/N 131538
Fate: Retired
Status: Scuttled
General characteristics
Class and type: Binngarra class ferry
Tonnage: 499 GT
Length: 64.00 m (210 ft 0 in)
Beam: 10.00 m (33 ft)
Draught: 3.75 m (12 ft 4 in)
Decks: 2
Speed: 15 kn (27.78 km/h) maximum speed
Capacity: 1517 passengers

Balgowlah was a ferry constructed for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company Ltd, and launched by Mort's Dock and Engineering Company at Woolwich Dock at 9:45am on the 18th of June 1912[1] for the Sydney to Manly run.[2] She was one of the six 'Binngarra Class' ferries consisting of the Binngarra, Burra Bra, Bellubera, Barrenjoey and Baragoola.

Design and construction[edit]

She was an identical sister ship to Barrenjoey (later North Head) and ultimately she was the last coal burner in the fleet. She cost 29,000 pounds to be built and was capable of carrying 1,517 passengers in the summer and 982 in the winter (highest capacity of this class)[3] and made over 110,000 return trips to Manly during her career.[4] She was the fastest of this class of vessel, making the normally 30 minute run in just 25 minutes. This class of ship came to epitomize the classic Manly ferry and they were among the largest ships built in Australia at this time.

Operational history[edit]

Unlike some of her sister ships, she had a relatively uneventful life - shortly after going into service in 1912, she tangled with the collier Five Islands and caught herself in that ship's anchor chain. Fortunately, no damage was done. In 1927, she collided with the Sydney Ferries vessel Kanimbla at Bennelong Point. Balgowlah came off with very minor damage, while Kanimbla had a huge gash torn in her side and came close to sinking. In 1929, she collided with the collier Birchrove Park, only minimal damage was done to both ships.

She scraped into the Sydney Ferries vessel Kangaroo in 1913 (ironically, Kangaroo would rescue Kanimbla’s passengers in 1927). Also in 1927, she collided with the Union Steamship Company's Manuka, losing around 10 feet (3.0 m) of her sponson.[5] The only other noteworthy event was in 1939 when she overshot the wharf at Circular Quay and went aground in soft mud. Although she ripped through the buffer stop, no damage was done to her. It took two tugs to pull her free.

During the 1930s, the top deck of the Balgowlah was glassed in and the wheelhouse extended for crew accommodation. In 1946 it was decided that Balgowlah and Barrenjoey would be converted to diesel. Barrenjoey was first, and re-emerged in 1951 as North Head. However, Balgowlah was never converted; the cost of converting North Head had left the company in grave financial circumstances and they could not afford the cost of reconditioning her hull. She made her last trip at 8:05 am to Manly on 27 February 1951 and was then laid up.


After being laid up since 1951, she was sold to Sylvester Stride, Leichhardt in 1953 for breaking up. Originally it was intended that she be converted to diesel (like Barrenjoey) but the cost of that vessels conversion had driven the owning company to near bankruptcy. Instead the machinery intended for her was later used (in 1958) for Baragoola. Her hull was cut down and converted to a lighter, and used in the demolition of the old Iron Cove Bridge. She was allegedly scuttled nearby.[4]

Surviving examples[edit]

Of this class, only Baragoola remains on the harbour, tied up at Balls Head. North Head is in Cairns.


  1. ^ "Balgowlah". Lance Lyon. 2010. Retrieved 2012-06-16. 
  2. ^ "New Manly Steamer". The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 19 June 1912 p.21. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Prescott, Anthony (1984). Sydney Ferry Fleets. Ronald H Parsons. ISBN 978-0-909418-30-4. 
  4. ^ a b Mead, Tom (1988). Manly Ferries of Sydney Harbour. Sydney Child & Associates. ISBN 978-0-86777-091-9. 
  5. ^ "Collision in Harbor". The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 26 April 1921 p.6. Retrieved 31 March 2011.