By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell 

Gregory Blaxell* traces the beginnings of ferry services to Parramatta. Last month’s article ended with the frustrating first scheduled run by Surprise in 1831 – the year Gregory Blaxland walked off Brush Farm. In spite of the fact that Surprise was able to make better time on future trips, the venture was uneconomical and the vessel was sold. In January 1832, rigged as a sailing ship, it departed Sydney for Hobart where it was sold to Dr Alexander Thompson for £4,000. 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  The Experiment was the next vessel to tackle the Parramatta run. It was built at Clarence Town on the Williams River, near Newcastle, and sailed to Sydney arriving on 9 September 1832. On 5 October 1832, it made its first run to Parramatta.
  For the river run, Experiment was fitted with paddle wheels driven by two or four horses. The Sydney Herald at that time hailed Experiment as a major innovation. But, the horse-powered vessel soon failed and its owner and operator, Benjamin Singleton, sold the ship at a great financial loss.
  The new owner was John Edye Manning of the Australian Steam Conveyance Company. He had the horses removed and a 12hp steam engine installed. 
  By 31 May 1834, Experiment had undergone trials with her new steam engine and returned to the Parramatta run. In 1833, Manning had already commissioned a steam-driven paddle steamer from the Williams River shipyard. This ship, originally to be called Oliver, had its name changed to Australiaand started services to Parramatta in 1835. 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  Other ferries were added to the run. The double-ended, iron-hulled Rapid, fitted with a 20hp steam engine, began to operate around 1841. It had arrived in Australia in knockdown form on 19 June 1837 and was then re-assembled in Sydney and the engine fitted. The ship was initially owned and operated by John Lord before it was sold to Edye Manning. The double-ended hull design was excellent for manoeuvrability especially in the shallow waters of the upper Parramatta River.
  The Kangaroo was also introduced into the service in 1841. The Kangaroo, a wooden ship built at Raymond Terrace in 1840 for Edye Manning, was a considerably bigger vessel than Australia
  In 1844, John Edye Manning formed the Parramatta River Steamboat Company. The fleet consisted of Emu, Native, Star, Pelican, Adelaide (renamed Swan), Black Swan, Pearl, Nautilus, Peri. These were all paddlewheelers. A most significant event occurred on 26 September 1855. It was the opening of the Sydney to Parramattarailway line. The Sydney station was near Redfern while the Parramatta terminus was closer to the present day Granville Railway Station. Although the line did not service the properties along the river, once the railway was a reality, it threatened the monopoly of river transport. 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  In 1866, Charles Edward Jeanneret became a shareholder in Manning’s company, now called the Parramatta and River Steam Ship Company. Jeanneret became the company’s Manager in 1869. At that time also, there was another ferry company operating on the Parramatta River. It was owned by the Didier and Jules Joubert, well-known residents of Hunters Hill. The two companies merged to form the Parramatta and River Steamers’ Company. In 1875, Jeanneret bought the company from Manning. The Jouberts were left with running the Hunters Hill and Lane Cove Ferry Company. 
  With competition from the railway, the changes in propulsion technology (from paddle wheel to screw propeller) and the silting up of the river beyond Duck River, Jeanneret decided to build a deep-water wharf at Redbank – just west of the present Silverwater Bridge. The Redbank complex offered deepwater wharves and Jeanneret proposed to connect these to Parramatta by a steam-driven tramway.
  The Redbank wharves were more than five kilometres from the centre of Parramatta. His company first gained the approval from the Parramatta Borough Council for this bold plan and in August 1881, the New South Wales Parliament passed the Jeanneret Tramway Act that authorised the construction and maintenance of a tramway from the Domain Gates at Parramatta to Redbank. 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  The Jeanneret tramway was the first private tramway built in New South Wales. The first steam tram ran in October 1884.
  The Redbank Terminus comprised two wharves, one for passengers and one for freight. There was a station, a waiting shed, and two additional sheds; one for locomotives and passenger carsand the other for goods. Nearby was a crane to handle the freight. The terminus was situated on land leased from the Macarthur family. 
  In 1916, the Municipality of Granville constructed a new road, Grand Avenue, that ran west from near the terminus to Camellia. The tramline ran along Grand Avenue, Grand Avenue North, Noller Avenue and into George Street until it reached the Domain Gates. 
  On the block bordered by Macquarie, O’Connell and George Streets was situated Meggitts Limited who were manufacturers of linseed oil and associated products used as lubricants, as a base for paint and in the manufacture of linoleum. Meggitts used the tramway to transport its products to and from the Redbank wharf. 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  Although there were no ferry passengers from 1928, the tramway continued to operate until 1943. During that time, it carried workers to Hardies, Wunderlich, Goodyear Tyre and Rubber and the Sandown Meatworks and provided a cargo service for Meggitts. 
  Jeanneret sold the company in 1888 to Philip Walker who lost it to the Union Bank.
  The new company was called the Sydney and Parramatta Wharves, Steamers and Tramway Company. It was in turn taken over by Sydney Ferries Limited in 1917 and this period is when the ferry services reached their peak. Some of the famous ferries were Bronzewing (1899), Pheasant (1889), Halcyon (1884) and Alaethea (1881). They were larger and propeller-driven with Bronzewing the largest being 110ft (33.5m) in length, displacing 150 tonnes with an operating speed of 12 knots. 
  The Bronzewing was capable of carrying in excess of 500 passengers. The ferries stopped operating form Redbank in 1928. 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  In 1896, this is how the Parramatta River ferry service was described in a booklet The Water-Way to Parramatta. “To the left the tall chimneys of Morts Dock works in Waterview Bay [now Mort Bay] divide the attention with Goat Island on the other side... We are now fast to the wharf atCockatoo an island known to history as not one of the pleasantest memories of the old penal system …
  “From Cockatoo ... across to Pulpit Point ... we pass Spectacle Island, the Imperial magazine and depot for the stores of war … Pulpit Point is the goal for Fern Bay excursionists, being the popular place of amusement... From Drummoyne … to the wharf at Hunters Hill … [then] to Chiswick … and Blandville [Henley]. Before reaching Blandville we pass within a short distance of ... the broken column erected on a rock in the river to thememory of Searle, the champion and unbeaten sculler of the world ...
  “On one side of the Abbotsford landing are the traces of the old punt that once carried traffic across the river at this point before the Gladesville Bridge was built … Leaving Gladesville … to Cabarita which is also the landing for Correys Gardens … Ryde, as seen from the river, is a decidedly pretty spot with a peaceful, contented, oldfashioned sort of air about it that speaks of solid, even slow, progress … 
By Ferry to Paramatta by Gregory Blaxell  “[From Ryde] to Newington [and from there] we cross the left-handbranch of the Parramatta River, known as Duck River, and on which was erected the first windmill in the colony in the year 1797, and in a few minutes time are landed at the Tramway Reserve at the junction of the two rivers. The trip by water is now over.
  “We have covered about 13 miles [21.6 km] and including all stoppages, have only been a trifle over an hour and a quarter about it in the fast and comfortable Pheasant, the latest addition to the Company’s fleet. Between the last landing place and our destination there is yet a distance of three miles [5 km] to travel, and this is comfortably done in the steam tram, which is also run by the Company.”
  Sydney Ferries Limited was taken over by the State Government in 1951 but no attempt was made to reintroduce a ferry service to Parramatta.
  In 1969, Stannard Brothers Launch Services P/L offered a river service between Meadowbank and Circular Quay. However, the service became unprofitable and in 1973 was discontinued.
  A successful attempt was made using the Fleet Class ferries. The first two of this class, Sirius and Supply wereintroduced into Sydney Harbour in 1984 but it was some time after this date that they appeared on the Parramatta River run plying between Circular Quay and Meadowbank. In 1988, the Government agreed to dredge between the Duck River and Parramatta. The Parramatta and Rydalmere wharves were subsequently constructed, navigation markers installed and ferry captains trained to deal with the special conditions applying on the narrow upper reaches of the river.
  The first ferry service to operate on the newly dredged river was in June 1993 when the Marlene Mathews made the journey from Rydalmere to Circular Quay. In July of that year, the Charles Street Wharf at Parramatta was completed and the first service to Parramatta began in December 1993.