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Above : Newcastle's ultimate paddle steamer, PS Newcastle, built in Scotland in 1884 by J Key of Kinghorn in Fife
Acknowledgement : Photo in the public domain courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum's William J Hall collection
Formed in 1891 by the merger of the Newcastle Steamship Company (of 1875) and the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company (1852)* and commencing operations under the new flag on January 1st, 1892, it brought together two competitors and an opportunity arose to consolidate and rationalise services in the area, i.e. a regular passenger and cargo service between Sydney and Newcastle and a separate cargo service from Sydney to Morpeth and the Hunter River.
The main Sydney to Newcastle service was to be operated by the vessels Newcastle and Namoi and the rationale for restriction to that route was that potential delays in the river cargo service would no longer affect reliability on this service. Passenger steamers Sydney and Maitland would be used to deputise ase required
Newcastle (1884) and Namoi (1883) were both paddle steamers supplied by J Key of Kinghorn, Fife in the UK, the former for the Newcastle Company, the latter for the Hunter River Company and were of roughly similar size, but were not sisters. They were the last paddlers built for either company (although between 1888 and 1891, the Newcastle company used the Brisbane-built small stern-wheel paddler Canaipa of 1884 on the Hunter River.
The cargo service on the Hunter River was to be undertaken by the screw steamships Gwydir and Lubra, with Boomerang as the reserve. Smaller shallow-draught vessels, usually stern-wheel paddlers (known as droghers) would service smaller stations along the river and tranship cargoes at Morpeth.
The company continued operations until 1956 but paddle steamer operations ended with the hulking of PS Newcastle in 1928. Both she and Namoi, which had been withdrawn in 1925, were scuttled off Sydney in 1933
Despite the importance of handling cargoes, including coal, there appears to have been, throughout the years, substantial excursion business, especially out of Sydney and up to Pittwater and the entrance to the Hawkesbury River, an area of attractive bays and ocean inlets and major steamers such as Newcastle and Namoi were regular visitors to the area. Smaller vessels were used to get close in to the estuary areas where water depths were often very low and conditions could render the area treacherous.*Note : The Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company was separate to the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company of 1839, which became the Australasian Steam Navigation Company in 1850. The latter sold its Hunter River fleet to the Newcastle Steamship Company, which later merged with the "New" Hunter River Company. The Australasian company purchased the Queensland Steam Navigation Company of 1860 in 1868, but a new Queensland Steam Ship Company formed in 1881 and in 1887 merged with the Australasian Company to form the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company.
Side-Wheel Paddle Steamers
Hunter River CompanyHunter (1854 - 1887, hulked, scrapped 1904)