Half-ship model, SS 'Wallaby', wood, designed by Norman Selfe, made by W. Dunn, Berrys Bay, Australia, 1878
Since 1861, ferries have provided a faster and more reliable means of transport for residents along Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River, helping to play an important role in the growth and development of such suburbs as Manly, Mosman, Circular Quay and Balmain. This half-ship model of the SS 'Wallaby' represents the type of ferries that serviced Sydney Harbour and the North Shore, plying the waters around Milsons Point, North Sydney, Neutral Bay and Circular Quay.
The SS 'Wallaby' is especially important as it was the first double-ended screw ferry in Australia and the second in the world. The introduction of the double-ended ferry, made by Norman Selfe and perfected by Walter Reeks, meant ferries were no longer forced to turn around at the ports, making manoeuvrability easier and the ability to transfer cargo and passengers faster. The 1879 'Wallaby' marked the beginning of the mainstay of double-ended ferry designs, which still continues to the present day.
The 'Wallaby', however, also characterised a unique design in other ways. She had no outside seats on the bottom deck; her superstructure was carried right to the inner edges of the sponsons; she was the only ferry glazed-in at both ends (most other ferries had a glazed saloon only at one end for the ladies, while the other end was equipped with curtains which could be unrolled in bad weather) and the bottom deck was not weatherproof in choppy, harbour conditions. She was also the first Sydney ferry to have half-wheel and chains as part of its steering system.
Models such as this one would have been made for shipbuilders to assist in their full-scale construction, helping to provide the builder with an idea of the vessel's fittings, riggings and sail plans, as well as helping to show the ratio of length to beam, the fining of her entry, stern and so on. This particular model also acts as a legacy for the full-scale version which no longer survives. The SS 'Wallaby' was broken up in 1926.
Andrews, G., "A Pictorial History of Ferries - Sydney and Surrounding Waterways" (Sydney, 1982) pp.16, 28 & 115
Andrews, G., "Ferries of Sydney" (Sydney, 1994) pp.53-57
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, "Norman Selfe", http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060115b.htm (Downloaded 9/5/2007)
Park, M., "Taking the Ferry: Ferry Services and Travel on the North Side form the Days of the Watermen to the Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge" (North Sydney Council Heritage Leaflet Series, 2002)
This half-ship model of the SS 'Wallaby' was designed by Norman Selfe to the order of Thomas Summerbell and made by W. Dunn of Berrys Bay in Sydney, Australia in 1878.
Norman Selfe was a civil and mechanical engineer, inventor and teacher who was born in Teddington, Middlesex, England on December 9, 1839. In January 1855, Selfe arrived in Australia and one year later (at the age of 17) began work as an apprentice for P.N. Russell & Co where he later became chief draftsman. From 1865-1868, Selfe was in partnership with James Dunlop and was responsible for designing and building major installations for the Australasian Mineral Oil Company, the Western Kerosene Oil Company and the Australian Gaslight Company. In 1869, he became chief engineer and draftsman for Mort's Dock & Engineering Co, designing the machinery for the 500 tonne 'Governor Blackall'.
In 1876, Selfe set up private practice, designing over 50 steamships including 2 torpedo boats for the New South Wales Government and the first double-ended screw ferry, the 'Wallaby'. Selfe reputedly introduced the compound engine in Australian boats and was also an expert in dock design, building the first concrete quay wall in Sydney Harbour and most of the wharves for deep-sea vessels. Furthermore, Selfe was a strong advocate of a 'Circular City Railway' linking Sydney's outlying suburbs to the ferries and was also responsible for introducing ice-making machines and lifts into Australian society.
Selfe died on October 15, 1911 at Normanhurst, Sydney (the suburb which is aptly named after him) and is buried in the Gore Hill cemetery.
The SS 'Wallaby' was built for ownership and use by the North Shore Ferry Co Ltd.
The NSFC was formed in 1860 by a group of five businessmen: James Milson, Colin Firth, William Tucker, Francis Lord and Thomas Laurie for the purpose of running a regular service between Circular Quay and Milsons Point. In 1899 the company was liquidated and its stock purchased by Sydney Ferries Ltd. In 1900, Sydney Ferries Ltd acquired all the property of the Parramatta River Steamers and the Tramway Limited, also buying out the Balmain New Ferry Company and its stock 17 years later in 1917. In 1920, they also took over the Watsons Bay and South Shore Steam Ferry Company. In 1951 Sydney Ferries closed, selling its boats and works to the State Government. The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company were appointed managers until the State Government assumed direct control of ferry services in 1974.
The SS 'Wallaby' was the first double-end screw ferry in Australia (the second in the world). It was arguably meant to be called the 'Willoughby', after the Sydney suburb, but was believed to have been mispronounced by the ship's sponsor!
The 'Wallaby' operated alongside the 'St Leonards' (1881), 'Victoria' (1883), 'Waratah II' (1885) and 'Bunya Bunya' (1885). These were the 'heavy lift' ships of their time and the 'Wallaby' saw them come and go. The 'Wallaby' plied the waters of Sydney Harbour between ports like Milsons Point, Circular Quay and North Sydney.
Subsequent to the 'Wallaby' was the production of the 'Aleathea' in 1881 for the Parramatta River Ferries. While this vessel had a similar mechanical design, it was not an initial success. She made just 6.5 knots with both propellers working. After one fell off she went faster and not longer after this, was re-built as a single ender. Owing to the failure of the 'Aleathea', no more double-ended screw ferries were built until the North Shore Ferry Company's 'Kangaroo' of 1890.
The 'Wallaby' lasted a long time as a cargo lighter before her hull was broken up in about 1926.
This particular model was donated to the Museum by Norman Selfe in 1907. A second model of the"Wallaby"is in the collection--H7524