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History Of The Manly Beach Steamer Baragoola



Baragoola Departing from Wharf 3 Circular Quay 


Baragoola Departing from Wharf 3 Circular Quay circa 1960s. Photograph by John Darroch.

Built by Morts Dock and Engineering Co. Ltd. in Balmain N.S.W., for the Port Jackson and Manly Steam Ship Company, S.S. Baragoola was launched on 14th February 1922, handed over on 31st August, and entered service on 3rd September 1922.

Baragoola was convered from a steam ship to a motor vessel between December 1958 and December 1960. It had a long operational life of just over 60 years service, before retirement on 8th January 1983. After passing through a number of private owners, the ship was purchased by the Baragoola Preservation Association on 1st April 2010. It is afloat in static condition.

Background to Baragoola's Construction

The full history of the Baragoola is intertwined with the history and development of Manly as a day-excursion destination, seaside resort and residential suburb, and also with the inter-related long term history of the Manly ferry service.

Henry Gilbert Smith is known as "the father of Manly". After buying a large area of land in the area in 1853 he provided some important infrastructure (like hotel, school, church, street layout and wharf) needed to create a village and then subdivided the land into smaller blocks, which he put up for sale. Smith was one of the three government directors of the Sydney Railway Company and he organised and even participated in the initial provision of regular steamer services to Manly. He clearly realised the transport connection between Manly and Sydney was a key factor in the success of Manly and his speculative property venture.

Regular steamer services to Manly Beach started with the opening of Henry Gilbert Smith's wharf in the middle of Manly Cove Beach in early October 1855. Thus the Manly Beach steamer service was long established; well before the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932 and before the first Spit Bridge was opened in 1924. In 1920 the alternative road journey between Manly and Sydney was longer and slower than the direct route by water, for both passengers and goods.

On the 7th of October 1920, F. J. Doran, the manager of the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company wrote to the manager of Mort's Dock & Engineering Company :-

Dear Sir,
I am instructed by my Board to acknowledge your letter of the 30th ultimo offering to construct a double-ended screw steamer of the Barrenjoey type, length 199 ft, breadth 34 ft and depth 14 ft 4 inches, and all other particulars as per your letter. My Board will accept your offer to build the vessel for the sum of seventy two thousand pounds under the conditions mentioned in your letter, the time to finalise the work to be 18 months from the landing of the material.

In 1920 the P.J.& M.S.S. Co.'s passenger steamer fleet consisted of :-

    Manly(II) entered service 7 November 1896, carried up to 820 passengers, reached a trial speed of 14.5 knots
    Kuring-Gai entered service 11 May 1901, carried up to 1221 passengers, reached a trial speed of 15.66 knots
    Binngarra entered service 29 October 1905, carried up to 1372 passengers reached a trial speed of 14 knots
    Burra Bra entered service 1st November 1908, carried up to 1437 passengers, reached a trial speed of 13.5 knots
    Bellubera entered service 9th September 1910, carried up to 1490 passengers, reached a trial speed of 15 knots
    Balgowlah entered service 28 November 1912, carried up to 1517 passengers, reached a trial speed of 16 knots
    Barrenjoey entered service 20 September 1913, carried up to 1509 passengers, reached a trial speed of 15 knots

In Tuesday 26th April 1921 an announcement of the new ship was made to the press, and the Sydney Morning Herald carried a short article on page 6 :-

Consequent upon the greatly increased traffic between Sydney and Manly, the Port Jackson and Manly S.S. Company, Ltd., has decided to place a new steamer in their service. Negotiations are now proceeding for the construction of this vessel. It will, it is understood, be built locally, of steel, on a pattern similar to the latest of the company's steamers, though somewhat larger.

Description of Baragoola's Design

Baragoola just prior to launching on 11th February 1922 


Baragoola ready for launching on 11th February 1922 at the Morts Dock Balmain yard. Photographer unknown.

The Baragoola was designed by Captain Andrew Christie of Morts Dock. It was built very similarly to the five previous Manly B-class ships constructed by this firm. However the hull was made slightly shorter and wider than the previously built "Barrenjoey type" and Baragoola's sun deck was given distinctive rounded ends. The ship has a double-ended steel hull, with wooden superstructure, decks and wheelhouses. It has the following principal dimensions :-

    length 199.5ft (60.85 m),
    beam 34.1ft (10.4 m),
    depth 14ft (4.27m) with maximum draught of 12.3ft (3.75m)
    Note these figures are from A. Prescott's thesis, but the ship's dimensions vary slightly depending on the source quoted.

The steel hull has a rudder and propeller at each end and is divided by five watertight bulkheads into six compartments. From the bow of the ship (the end with the anchors) as-built these were :-

  • forward collision void and chain locker,
  • forward hold and deckhands' quarters,
  • boiler room,
  • (steam) engine room,
  • aft hold and master's and engineer's quarters, and
  • aft collision void.

The lowest passenger deck is the main deck and as built the layout from the bow was :-

  • gentlemens' lavatories (under forecastle)
  • gentlemens' smoking saloon
  • forward stairway
  • main passenger saloon (open to the top of the steam engine behind the funnel casing)
  • aft (rear) stairway
  • ladies saloon with ladies lavatory at rear.

The deck above the main deck is the promenade deck and as-built was originally open, other than wind break partitions. Passengers can move between the main and promenade decks by either the foward or aft staircases. There were two lifeboats mounted on the rear of this deck (on aftcastle).

The deck above the promenade deck is the sun deck, which is the highest deck of the ship and was not normally accessible by passengers. The two wheelhouses were mounted at the ends of this deck with each probably originally containing Alley and McLennan steam stearing gear. Also as-built on this deck were the horn-shaped ventilation cowls for the boilers and engine room air intakes and the tall steamer funnel which was stabilised with four guy-wires.

The ship's original fair weather capacity was 1512 passengers. The original design for loading and unloading was by means of three gangways from the wharf to the main deck and three to the promenade deck above on each side of the ship. All saloon passenger access was by sliding doors.

The vessel was rated at 490.03 gross tons (note this is a calculated carrying capacity not to be confused with its actual displacement mass)

While Baragoola was locally built at the Morts Dock shipyard at Balmain, much of the material, including the frames (and probably hull plating) and specialist equipment was imported from well-renowned British shipbuilding suppliers. For example, like the infamous RMS Titanic, the Baragoola's steelwork was supplied by Dalzell Steel Works and the engine order telegraphs were from Chadburn's Telegraph Co.

Baragoola's Steam Engine and Operating Speed

Baragoola On Speed Trials on 11 August 1922  


Baragoola during speed trials on 11th August 1922 near Fort Denison. The then new steam ship achieved an average speed on 14.7 knots. Photograph by Sam Hood.

Baragoola was originally built as a coal-fired triple-expansion engined steamship.

Steam was supplied by two "navy type" (locomotive) marine horizontal tubed boilers built by Morts Dock. Each boiler had three furnaces and a maximum steam pressure of 180 psi.

Baragoola was fitted with a steam powered dynamo (DC generater) to provide electric lighting throughout the vessel.

The main steam engine was also built by Morts Dock at Balmain and had three cylinders: The high pressure cylinder was 18 inches (457.2mm) diameter; the intermediate was 28 inches (711.2mm) and the low pressure was 47.5 inches (1206.5mm) diameter. The engine had a 27 inch (698.5mm) stroke. The steam engine was rated as 1300 indicated horsepower (lossless theorectical output figure) and 112 nominal horsepower (swept volumetric engine comparision figure).

Allowing for 10% friction power loss within the steam engine, the shaft output (brake horse power) would therefore been around 870 kiloWatts. Baragoola's measured average maximum acceptance trial (new) speed was 14.7 knots (27.2 km/h). This exceeded the contracted 14 knot minimum speed but Baragoola was slower than its two preceding sisterships; Balgowlah and Barrenjoey.

Inexplicably the Baragoola was equipped with a less powerful engine than the design used on these two previous ships. In comparison to Baragoola, the 10.5 foot longer but 1.92 foot narrower Balgowlah, with its 1400 indicated horsepower rated engine, reached 16 knots on its acceptance trial.

When it entered service Baragoola was faster than Binngarra and Burra Bra - the two oldest and slowest ships in the B-class fleet. However with the arrival of the faster Dee Why, Curl Curl and South Steyne, and the consequent retirement of all ships built before the Bellubera, Baragoola as a steam ship became the slowest ship in the Manly fleet.

Like all the Manly screw steam ships, the steam engine was permanently connected by shafting to both single propellers at each end of the ship. The simultaneous turning of the fore and aft propellors by the steam engine would have reduced the transmitted propulsive power by up to 20 percent.

Baragoola's Design Modifications

Baragoola At Circular Quay In The 1950s 


Baragoola at at Circular Quay in the 1950s. This photograph clearly shows the added 1930 promenade deck deckhouse, the 1948 replacement wheelhouses and other minor changes such a the bevel top added to the funnel. Photographer unknown.

Over its service life the Baragoola received a number of modifications which changed its appearence to varying degrees.

  • Enclosure of the Promenade Deck
  • One of the most significant early changes was the enclosure of most of Baragoola's promenade deck by a deck-house, which was reported to be commenced in September 1930. This followed the arrival of SS Dee Why and Curl Curl in 1928, both built with a new feature of a sheltered promenade deck - which proved a success. The Sydney Morning Herald noted on the 28th August 1930 that the P.J & M.S.S.Co. had completed works on the Barrenjoey to similarly enclose its promenade deck with the overhaul costing £4000, and it was indicated that similar works on Baragoola would be commenced two weeks later. The number of gangways on the promenade deck was increased to four on each side as part of these works.

  • Changes in Boiler Fuel
  • On the 26th January 1931 the Maitland Daily Mercury reported that the Manly steamer Baragoola had been modified to burn pulverised coal as a trial.

    Another innovation introduced by the Dee Why and Curl Curl was the ability to burn either coal or oil to fuel their boilers. The North Shore Gas Co. used coal to make town gas at its harbourside Oyster Bay (Waverton) and Little Manly Point gasworks. A by-product of this gas-making process was the production of coal-tar, for which there was little demand, and thus it was available at low cost. The advantage of oil firing was a that the boiler furnaces no longer needed to be manually stoked. On 8th March 1939 modifications were commenced to enable Baragoola to burn a tar-oil blend under natural draft and these were completed on 3rd August. At same time more efficient propellers were installed to improve the speed of the ship.

    However the conversion to use coal-tar proved to be a case of poor timing. On the 1st September 1939 the Second World War started and as a result of navy needs coal-tar became harder to obtain and so for a period Baragoola was reverted to burning coal.

  • Replacement of Wheelhouses and Steering Gear
  • In 1948 both wheelhouses were removed and replaced with a new design providing better crew accomodation on the sun deck behind the wheelhouse cabin. The master and engineer were provided with accomodation in the rear of one wheelhouse and the deckhands were similarly housed in the other. The goal of this modification was to remove all crew accomodation from the more poorly ventiated spaces originally provided for them beneath the main deck.

    In 1948 Baragoola's original wheelhouse mounted steam stearing gear was also replaced with Brown Bros. electro-hydraulic telemotor controlled steering. This resulted in a movement of the heavy steering machinery from the sun deck down to the extreme ends of the main deck - over each rudder. The movement of the steering machinery to lower down in the ship would have assisted offsetting the increased weight of the enlarged wheelhouses as regards maintaining the stability of the Baragoola.

    The works carried out in 1948 provided the first indication that the P.J. & M.S.S.Co intended to defer ordering any new ships to replace its older vessels. Thus these works indicated Baragoola's service-life was to be extended beyond the usual 25-35 years of previous Manly steamers.

  • Conversion to Diesel Propulsion
  • In 1958 the decision was taken to convert The Baragoola from a steamship to diesel-electric propulsion. Due to heavy decline in patronage in the 1950s the financial capacity of the P.J. & M.S.S.Co. had become fairly limited, so for the Baragoola's conversion the minimum works were undertaken. Unlike the Barrenjoey to North Head transformation, the conversion did not include extensive restyling of the ship to a more modern appearence.

    Baragoola last ran as a steamship on 9th September 1958. The conversion works commenced on the 1st December and as far as practicable they were carried-out at the company's Neutral Bay base to minimise the cost.

    The main works were removing the redundant boilers and steam engine and all the auxiliary steam equipment and replacing them with four English Electric Co. Ltd. 7SKM type four-stroke cycle single-acting supercharged diesel engines, four British Thomson-Houston (BTH) generator sets and two sets of twin 500kw BTH electric motors with 4.7:1 reduction gearbox at each end of the machinery space, and new switchboard and electric auxiliary equipment.

    The major work on the hull was providing extra frames and beds to mount the replacement equipment in the hull. Some replating was also carried out. The works also include replacing the tall funnel with a shorter motor ship style funnel. New electric powered forced ventilation was provided to the engine room (previously the boiler room) and the ship's lighting installation was upgraded.

    The English Electric diesel engines had been bought by the P.J. & M.S.S.Co. in 1949 to convert three ships to diesel-electric power, to reduce operating costs. The stockpiled engines had previously been used for the conversion of Barrenjoey and re-equipment of the previously diesel powered Bellubera. The third set was originally intended for Balgowlah, but due to the poor state of the company's finances in the early 1950s this ship was disposed of instead of being converted.

    The Baragoola's four new diesel engines produced a total of 2000 brake horsepower (1491.4kW). The conversion also allowed each propeller to be separately driven at different speeds (90%/10%) as required to maximise propulsion efficiency. The conversion works were completed for trials to be commenced on 26 December 1960. Following the conversion the operating speed of the Baragoola increased to 16 knots.

    The conversion of the ship from steam to diesel power allowed the crew of eleven to be reduced to seven. The reported estimate for the conversion works was £65,000. The Baragoola returned to service on 9 January 1961.

    Brambles and State Government Takeovers

    In April 1972 Brambles Industries Limited made a successful second takeover bid for the Port Jackson & Manly Steam Ship Company and took control of their operation. It quickly emerged Brambles were only after the profitable parts of the business and they did not wish to continue to run the then loss making Manly ferry service.

    In late 1973 Brambles decided to withdraw of the Bellubera from service, with its last day of service being 29th November 1973. The Baragoola gained media attention when it was announced on 9th January that this ship would similarly be withdrawn on the 7th February 1974. This announcement, which would disrupt the regular Manly timetable, forced the Askin Liberal State government to offer a subsidy to keep Brambles running the Manly service until the government's Public Transport Commission officially took it over on the 1st December 1974.

    Generally a three ship Manly service was continued though the first half on 1974 with the Baragoola, North Head (ex-Barrenjoey) and South Steyne remaining in operation. In early 1974 the State Government announced the modification of the two Lady class ferries on order so these could be used temporarily on the Manly run. The first new ship was named Lady Wakehurst and was launched on the 6th July. Between the withdrawal of the spare ship Bellubera and the arrival of the new Lady class, the Manly service would be disrupted if one of the other ships needed major maintenance or suffered an accident. This eventually happened on the 25th August 1974 when a fire broke out on the South Steyne while the ship was temporarily withdrawn from service for assessment by the State Government.

    Due to prompt arrival of the fire brigade the damage was mostly confined to the interior of South Steyne's promenade deck but the fire made the ship unusable and it ensured the Askin Government would not purchase it. With the first modified Lady class not yet ready, the Manly service was reduced to a two ship timetable from the 27th August 1974. The Lady Wakehurst was placed into service on the Manly run on the 14th October 1974.

    However Lady Wakehurst's entry to service was used to firstly send the Baragoola and then North Head away for overhaul, rather than initially restore the three ship timetable. Again somewhat strangely, the Lady Wakehust was loaned to Hobart for three years in the same month the second ship named Lady Northcott entered service on 31 January 1975. The result was the three ship Manly timetable was only resumed after the Lady Wakehurst was returned from Hobart, overhauled and again placed on the Manly service on 9th January 1978.

    Between 1974 and 1982 the Manly service was operated with the Baragoola, the North Head, the Lady Wakehurst and Lady Northcott. Due to the Lady Wakehurst and Lady Northcott proving to be too slow and too small for the Manly service, it was clear new specially designed Manly ferries were required. However this resulted in the Baragoola and North Head being maintained in service until these were delivered in the 1980s.

    Withdrawal from Service

    The entry to service of the Freshwater on 18th December 1982 resulted in the Baragoola being retired. The Baragoola was given a very well-attended public send off on her last trip from Manly on Saturday the 8th January 1983. For the last trip all decks of the ship were open to passengers and the ship was turned around on departure from Manly wharf so it ran bow (anchor end) first on its last trip to Circular Quay. The ship's retirement also received ABC television news coverage that night.



    ABC TV evening news except from 8th January 1983 on Manly Ferry MV Baragoola's last day in service. Features interview with Captain Ron Hart. Runs for 1 minute 35 seconds. (First few seconds are missing.)
    (Fresh conversion from master DV tape.)

    To Be Completed