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Australia : Historical

Newcastle and Hunter River Steam Navigation Company       (Passenger ferry and Freight services in NSW, Australia)

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 as a "drogher". 

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 Both she and Namoi, which had been withdrawn in 1925, were scuttled off Sydney in 1933 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.  

More details at Flotilla Australia :

More about the steamers from Pittwater on-line news ;  

and here 

and here 

*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 Compnay formed in 1881 and in 1887 merged with the Australasian Company to form the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company.



Above : PS Newcastle - built by John Key & Sons, Kinghorn, Fife, UK for the Newcastle Steamship Company. Her compound oscillating engines were by the builder. She was in service from 1884 to 1928. Photo shows her serving as flagship for the Pittwater Regatta in the early 1920s

Paddle Steamers

Hunter River Company

Hunter (1854 - 1887, hulked, scrapped 1904)
Paterson (1854 - 1871, sold and later wrecked in New Zealand, 1874)
Williams (1854 - 1872, sold and survived in the tourist trade in Port Philip Bay until 1894)
Fenella (built 1846, acquired 1856 - 1859, sold and eventually went to China)
City of Newcastle (1859 - 1878 when wrecked near Newcastle)
Morpeth (1861 - 1888, sold and hulked)
Maitland (1870 - 1898, lost at Maitland Bay with 27 lives lost)
Lady Bowen (built 1864, acquired 1882 - 1888, sold, converted to rigged schooner and wrecked near Cardwell in 1894)
Namoi (1883 - 1925, hulked, scuttled 1933)


Anna Maria (1863 - 1933)
Water Lily (built 1880, acquired 1884 - 1885 sold, scrapped 1908  

Newcastle Steamship Company

Kembla (built 1860, acquired 1876 - 1890, sold and hulked in 1917)
Collaroy (built 1853, acquired 1879 - 1881, ran aground and sold, refloated 1884, converted to sailing ship and wrecked in California in 1889)
City of Brisbane, later Sydney (built 1863, acquired 1880 - 1911, sold, hulked and scuttled 1925)
Coonabarra (built 1862, acquired 1880 - 1894, sold and scrapped in 1914)
Newcastle (1884 - 1928, hulled, scuttled 1933)


Bolwarra (built 1863, acquired 1880 - ? )
Canaipa (built 1884, acquired 1888 - 1891, sold and scrapped in 1909)

Vessel Details

Hunter : 159 ft 1 inch  x  20' 5" x 11'8", 252 gross tons, by Scott & Co, Greenock, Scotland. 
Paterson : 155' x 20'8" x 10'2", 326 GT, by Scott & Co, Greenock
Williams :  155' x 20'8" x 11', 270 GT, by Scott & Co, Greenock
Fenella : 159'4" x 19'3" x 11'1", 261 GT, built in Liverpool. England
City of Newcastle : 192'5" x 23'3" x 11'6", 393 GT, by Scott & Co, Greenock
Morpeth : 212'9" x 25'4" x 12'8", 527 GT, by Mitchell & Co, Newcastle, England
Maitland : 231'5" x 27'1" x 19'5", 880 GT, by McCulloch, Paterson & Co, Port Glasgow, Scotland
Lady Bowen : 210'5" x 25'7" x 11'5", 527 GT, by A&J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow
Namoi : 245'2" x 32'6" x 21'7", 1416 GT by J Key & Sons, Kinghorn, Scotland

Kembla : 185'1" x 22'1" x 11'5", 325 GT, by J Reid & Co, Glasgow, Scotland
Collaroy : 158'6" x 22'2" x 11'3", 330 GT, by J Laird, Birkenhead, England, later lengthened to 180'9", 356 GT
City of Brisbane / Sydney : 230'8" x 27'3" x 12'9", 633 GT, by A&J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow
Coonabarra :: 223'2" x 27'2" x 12'7", 900 GT, by C J Mare & Co, Blackwall, London, England
Newcastle :  264'6" x 32'9" x 15'9", 1251 GT, by J Key and Sons, Kinghorn

Above : The ill-fated Maitland, one of only six ships built by  McCulloch, Paterson & Co at Port Glasgow, left  Sydney at 11 pm on 5th May 1898 on a regular run to Newcastle, but soon hit wild weather and sea. Waves damaged the ship and she began to flood and headed for Broken Bay for shelter, but around 6 am the following morning she was driven on to rocks at Bouddi Point. 27 people out of  68 (36 passengers and 32 crew) died - many during numerous attempts to secure the ship toi the shore with a rope, others washed overboard. The ship had been carrying a cargo of alcohol which attracted numerous looters - and by reports, much drunkenness on the beach alongside the remains of the vessel. That part of the coast was renamed Maitland Bay.
Photo : From the State Library of New South Wales - out of copyright and in the public domain by virtue of age.

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