1938: The Launch of a Renowned Steam Ferry

April 1, 1938

On the southeastern coast of Scotland, the steam ferry SS South Steyne was launched in Leith by the shipbuilding company Henry Robb, Ltd.  This vessel was built for Australia’s Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company and its ferries operations in Sydney. (The South Steyne owes her name to a section of Manly Beach, which is situated in one of Sydney’s northern coastal suburbs.) 

During the summer after her launch, the South Steyne set sail unescorted for a 64-day journey to Sydney and en route successfully weathered a sandstorm, a monsoon, and several gales. The South Steyne then began what amounted to 36 years of ferry runs in that part of the world. 

This vessel regularly made crossings on Sydney Harbour between the neighborhood of Circular Quay and the suburb of Manly, logging more than 100,000 trips and transporting at least 92 million passengers. The South Steyne became one of the harbor’s most popular ferries and also played a key role in strengthening the tourism industry and economic development in Sydney. 

Measuring 220.6 feet (67.2 meters) in length, the South Steyne was the world’s largest operational steam ferry. Since the double-ended, double-screw vessel had been built to deep-sea standards, she was also used on a regular basis for short ocean cruises to Broken Bay (north of Sydney) and to follow the Boxing Day yacht races.

The South Steyne was retired from ferry service in 1974. A subsequent fire severely damaged the ship, but she was restored in 1987. This vessel has since seen service as a royal yacht for Queen Elizabeth II during her 1988 visit to Australia; a floating restaurant; and an information center for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

(The above photo of the South Steyne was taken at the wharf in Manly in 1952.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the SS South Steyne, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_South_Steyne

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