The South Steyne – The World’s Largest and Fastest Ferry Steamer of it’s type – Part 1


On the second of April 1938 the Edinburgh Evening News and The Scottish Daily Express printed pictures of the launch of the South Steyne.

Built for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company of Sydney Australia, she was named by Henry Robb senior’s wife and my Great Auntie Mary, daughter of Henry Robb senior pressed the button to send her down the ways. She was described as the “ship that never turns” as she had two bows, two rudders, and two propellers.

A brochure which has been passed down the generations in my family tells about her early service, undertaking 5 hour cruises over a distance of 60 miles from Sydney Harbour along Sydney’s northern surf beaches to Broken Bay and into the Hawkesbury River.

Fares were 17/6 for adults and 5/- for children, those values in decimal coinage being 87.5p and 25p!

Order number 267 was won against six competing tenders. The order book notes that the dimensions specified for this double ended passenger ferry were 220 x 38 x 15.9 with a deadweight of 297 and to achieve a speed of 17 knots.

The keel was laid on 14th October 1937, she was launched on 1st April 1938, on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the yard (hence the director’s family’s involvement in the launch, at the request of the owners), and she sailed on 7th July 1938.

She is still a record breaker today as, according to the register of historic places and objects, she is the largest surviving operating example of a reciprocating steam engine-powered ferry. Currently a floating restaurant in Port Jackson, some would question whether her status still counts as operating. That aside, it is good to know that another Robb’s ship is still afloat!

I will be doing another post with more details about this particular ship. In the meantime, I found the following You-tube video of her returning to Sydney for her first public cruise in 1991 which I hope readers will enjoy. As well as showing her from the dockside there are also scenes inside and below-decks towards the end of the video as well as some interesting footage of other ships and sights in the harbour at the time. Enjoy!

Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2011

About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
This entry was posted in Australia, British Shipbuilding, Henry Robb, Leith, Robb's Ships, Shipbuilding and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The South Steyne – The World’s Largest and Fastest Ferry Steamer of it’s type – Part 1

  1. Pingback: The Desecration of the Cutty Sark | Henry Robb's Shipyard

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