SS Balgowlah

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Name: Balgowlah
Namesake: Balgowlah
Owner: Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company
Operator: Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company
Port of registry: Sydney
Route: Manly
Builder: Mort's Dock, Balmain
Cost: £26,000
Yard number: 38
Laid down: 1911
Launched: 18 June 1912
In service: 28 November 1912
Out of service: 27 February 1951
Identification: O/N 131538
Fate: Scuttled
General characteristics
Class & 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: 1,517

SS Balgowlah was a ferry operated by the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company on the Manly service from 1912 until 1951.


Balgowlah was built by Mort's Dock, Woolwich for the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. Launched in 1912, it was the fourth of six Binngarra type vessels, the others being Binngarra, Burra Bra, Bellubera, Barrenjoey and Baragoola.[1][2][3]

Design and construction[edit]

It was nearly identical to the Bellubera and Barrenjoey and ultimately was the last coal burner in the fleet. It was capable of carrying 1,517 passengers in the summer and 982 in the winter (highest capacity of this class)[4] and made over 110,000 return trips to Manly.[3][5]

It was the fastest of this class of vessel, making the normally 30 minute run in just 25 minutes

Operational history[edit]

Unlike some of its sister ships, it had a relatively uneventful life - shortly after going into service in 1912, it tangled with the collier Five Islands and caught itself in that ship's anchor chain. Fortunately, no damage was done. In 1927, it collided with Sydney Ferries Limited's Kanimbla at Bennelong Point. Balgowlah came off with very minor damage, while Kanimbla had a huge gash torn in one side and came close to sinking. In 1929, it collided with the collier Birchrove Park, only minimal damage was done to both ships.[2]

It scraped into the Sydney Ferries Limited's Kangaroo in 1913. Also in 1927, it collided with the Union Steamship Company's Manuka, losing around 10 feet (3.0 m) of its sponson.[6] The only other noteworthy event was in 1939 when it overshot the wharf at Circular Quay and went aground in soft mud. Although it ripped through the buffer stop, no damage was done. It took two tugs to pull it free.[2]

During the 1930s, much of the upper deck was enclosed and the wheelhouses extended. In 1946, it was decided that Balgowlah and Barrenjoey would be converted to diesel power. 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 it could not afford the cost of reconditioning the hull. The engines purchased for the conversion were later placed in the Baragoola. It made its last trip on the 08:05 to Manly on 27 February 1951 and was then laid up.[2]


After being laid up since 1951, it was sold to Sylvester Stride, Leichhardt in 1953 for breaking up. The hull was cut down and converted to a lighter, and used in the demolition of the old Iron Cove Bridge after which it was allegedly scuttled nearby.[2][3][5]


  1. ^ New Manly Steamer Sydney Morning Herald 19 June 1912 page 21
  2. ^ a b c d e SS Balgowlah Ferries of Sydney
  3. ^ a b c Manly Ferries Balgowlah, Barrenjoey & Baragoola History Works December 2007
  4. ^ Prescott, Anthony (1984). Sydney Ferry Fleets. Ronald H Parsons. ISBN 978-0-909418-30-4. 
  5. ^ a b Mead, Tom (1988). Manly Ferries of Sydney Harbour. Brookvale: Child & Associates. p. 164. ISBN 0 86777 091 0. 
  6. ^ Collision in Harbour Sydney Morning Herald 26 April 1921 page 6