November 11 - 17, 2012: Issue 84 

 SS Phoenix

When folk weren’t venturing out into the ocean to get to Pittwater, or taking their chances on coaches that ran through, rather than over Narrabeen lakes, they were utilising that ‘Rhine’ of Australia, the Hawkesbury River and rail services. The Government of the day encouraged people to take trips down this river by providing connecting passages by rail, steamer and coach. Even before the advent of the rail this wonderful watercourse not only funnelled people on boats into Broken Bay in Pittwater, it was also a place to fish or visit relatives or visit the dearth of boatbuilders the Hawkesbury and Brisbane Waters and their incessant supply of vessels for all Australian ports and dream of your own new craft. Pittwater was a very busy estuary from early on with many vessels and many ferries coming from all directions. many of these arriving as picnickers, day trippers or those who came to dance at Newport from the mouth of the Hawkesbury (see bonus General Gordon, a paddlewheeler, below). This week SS Phoenix, a beautiful craft that managed to half live up to her name, in being destroyed on the 25th of May 1931 in Hawkesbury River by being burnt, begins to remerge so we can at least gaze at her once more.

The Phoenix was a wooden screw steamer of 46 tons, Length 68.2 ft or 20.7 metres. She was built  in 1903 at Newcastle by William Sangford and seems to be the only vessel registered as built by him on records at present. A screw steamer or screw steamship is powered by a steam engine, using one or more propellors, also known as ‘screws’, to propel it through the water. The term is usually used to differentiate these vessels from paddle steamers, an earlier form of steamship that was mostly superseded by the screw steamer. Her life in Pittwater and the Hawkesbury seems to begin at the end of World War I.

Phoenix at Brooklyn Railway

NOTICE. TO FRUITGROWLRS OF HAWKESBURY AND COLO RIVERS. We have just purchased s.s. Phoenix, to run passengers and cargo from SACKVILLE to BROOKLYN. The Phoenix is an up to date passenger and Cargo Boat, fitted with powerful electric light. JONES and HALL. Proprietors. Family Notices. (1918, November 29). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from

Messrs. Jones and Hall announce that their steamer, Phoenix, will run to Wiseman's Ferry hospital shorts on Boxing Day, leaving Page's wharf at 7.:30 ajm , Sackville at 8.and returning seme day. Messrs. Jones and Hall announce that their steamer, Phoenix, will run to Wiseman's Ferry hospital shorts on Boxing Day, leaving Page's wharf at 7.:30 a.m , Sackville at 8.and returning same day. Week to Week. (1918, December 13). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

The trim little river steamer Phoenix will run a two days' excursion from Sackville to Newport on Monday and Tuesday, February 17 and 18. The enterprising owners, Messrs. Hall and Jones, will spare no trouble to make the trip comfortable and enjoyable for all who undertake it.A dancing hall will be arranged for at Newport, and hot water will be provided free on the boat. The Phoenix leaves Sackville wharf at 8.30-a.m. on Monday,  February 17, returning next day. Further particulars are advertised in another column. Week to Week. (1919, January 31). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

The postponed excursion to Newport in Messrs. Hall and Jones' steamer Phoenix takes place on Monday and Tuesday next.The steamer leaves Sackville wharf at 8.30a.m. on Monday returning next day. A dancing hall has been arranged for at Newport. Full particulars are advertised inthis issue. Week to Week. (1919, March 14). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

The ladies of Ebenezer Red Cross Society entertained Private Marshall Brown at a river picnic in the s.s. Phoenix on Thursday of last week. Private Brown recently returned from the war, and is evidently a favorite with the ladies. About 50 picnickers went on the two days' excursion, to Newport in Messrs Hall and Jones' steamer Phoenix on Monday last, returning on Tuesday. It was voted the most enjoyable river excursion ever held, on the Hawkesbury. Messrs. Hall and Jones are promoting another trip to Newport for next month.Week to Week. (1919, March 21). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

EXCURSION TO NEWPORT.  s.s. PHOENIX WILL run a two days' excursion to Newport and back on FRIDAY and SATURDAYAPRIL 11 and 12 Leave Sackville 'Wharf 10 a.m., Friday, 11th April; Wiseman's Ferry, 12.30; arrive Newport about 5.30 p.m. Leave Newport Saturday, 12th April, 8.30a.m. Dancing hall will be arranged at Newport. RETURN FARE, 3/6. Hot water on board free. Don't miss the Fishing Excursion to Brooklyn. Leave Sackville 4.30 p.m. Easter Saturday (April 19), returning Easter Monday morning. HALL & JONES, Owners. Advertising. (1919, March 28). Windsor and Richmond Gazette(NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from

Messrs Hall and Jones' steamer Phoenix runs a fishing trip down, the river on Saturday, returning on Monday evening. Week to Week. (1919, April 18). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

Messrs. Hall and Jones' fine little steamer Phoenix took a party of holiday makers from Sackville to Brooklyn during the Easter holidays. At Brooklyn parties from the trains were taken outside the heads to the fishing grounds, and had good sport. Some 'nice bags of fish were caught. The Phoenix is a trim little craft, and looks really well as she ploughs through the waters of the Hawkesbury. The owners should be encouraged in their pleasure trips down the grand old river. Lots of Windsor people who have never seen the river below Sackville don't know what they are missing. Week to Week. (1919, April 25). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

STEAMER PHOENIX SOLD. Mr A J Ellerber shipbroker,  reports having sold the steamer Phoenix to Mr Izzard, of Brooklyn, who will place this handy little vessel in the Hawkesbury River trade The Phoenix is a vessel of 46 tons register, with a speed of 10 knots. She has accommodation for 300 passengers. She left for the Hawkesbury river yesterday afternoon. STEAMER PHOENIX SOLD. (1919, May 24).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved from

Messrs. Hall and Jones have discontinued trading on the river with the 'Phoenix,' . The trim little steamer has been purchased, by Mr. Joe Izzard, the Brooklyn boat-owner. LOWER PORTLAND. (1919, May 30). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from

Joseph Izzard was born in 1848 at Lower Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Australia. He was the son of William Izzard and Jane Hewett.

HAWKESBUBY-NEWPORT FERRY. Daily Excursions to Patonga Beach, Palm Beach and Newport. S.S. Phoenix leaves Hawkesbury Railway at 11 a.m. Special trips to Patonga, Thursday 4.30pm., 8.30 p.m., 10.15 p.m.: Good Friday, 9 a.m. 8 p.m.  A. J. SMITH.Advertising. (1925, April 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

Phoenix with Dangar Island in background

In recalling the days that are no more. A few there are who take delight n the round trip from Central Station via the Hawkesbury, back to the city, but not too many seem to know of this outing. Many a time have I made this trip for the sheer love of it, and have always noticed that with women it is more popular than with men. Perhaps because it is so cheap. The ticket for the whole trip costs nine shillings, and two steamers, a tram, a 'bus, and a train are the vehicles employed to take the traveler from Central Railway Station to Brooklyn, thence by the Phoenix to Palm Beach or Newport wharf, thence the motor bus to the Narrabeen tram terminus, and thence to Manly, and so home to the Quay by steamer, with the offchance of being a little seasick as the boat feels the ocean swell between the Heads...

Making the journey the reverse way gives more pleasure, because then one starts from Circular Quay and goes to Manly in the morning, always a more exhilarating experience than leaving Manly in the afternoon and steaming up the harbour into the setting sun…
Only the meek would smile pleasantly as they sit like St. Lawrence on a cold gridiron upon the hard, ungenial rails of the seats on the Phoenix. That sturdy little battler sidles up to Palm Beach wharf, and the few passengers, some with cameras, some with luncheon baskets, waiting to board her, have to walk a little narrow plank and drop in gracefully as may be on the deck. Then she casts off and makes for Broken Bay, which sometimes can be nasty, as yachtsmen know, but surely not so very Bay-of-Biscay like that the steamer needs such high screens forward. The Phoenix, a friendly craft, was built in the dim long ago, and apparently with the express object of hiding all the beauties of Lion Island, Pittwater, and the Hawkesbury mouth from the prying eyes of excursionists. Happy go-lucky was the spirit of the days when she was built, when If you did not like what you got you "did the other thing." By much screwing of heads and side glancing of eyes, the passenger who hails from Narrabri is enabled to see the calm stretch of Pittwater from West Head up, while the man who has been to the Solomon Islands tells how like it is to Manrovo Lagoon. The other objects of interest may be seen while twinges of torture from hard seats, which make themselves felt. The kindly thought which prompted the monument of old Sally Morris, at the Basin, Barrenjoey, is admired, and then the turn is made into the Hawkesbury.

Particular places are associated indissolubly with certain times of day or night. Culcairn is a land where it is always dawn. Seen from the river, the Hawkesbury bridge exists only in the late afternoon, when river mists shimmer, and, meeting the water, cause the bridge to float

A midway station given
For happy spirits to slight
Between the earth and heaven

That view of river, of bridge, and of dreaming hills is the climax of the day's outing. The long wait at Brooklyn for the always tardy train and the downward glide to Hornsby come as an aftertaste, a something too much. That and the rather archaic Phoenix are drawbacks to one of the pleasantest outings to be found near our much favoured city. WOMEN'S COLUMN. (1926, January 27). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from

Picture to right is of the Phoenix coming in to Palm Beach Wharf from Peter Verrills, Verrills Family Albums. On back of image: 'This old ferry is the 'Phoenix' which used to run from Brooklyn, Patonga and Pitwtater, it is just pulling into Palm Beach Wharf. Tibby Smith used to be the skipper. It used to also pick up fish from Jack Wilson or anyone else and put it on the rail at Brooklyn.

HAWKESBURY RIVER-NEWPORT FERRY.Daily Excursion to Patonga, Palm Beach, and Newport Delightful scenery. S.S. Phoenix leaves Hawkesbury River Railway at 11 a.m. Daily. A J Smith, Prop. Advertising. (1927, October 1). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

Phoenix at Patonga. Image 106160h, Courtesy State LIbrary of NSW.

PHOENIX BEACHED. OWING TO, LEAKAGE. Advice was received yesterday by the secretary 'of the State Deportment of Navigation (Mr. G H. Faulks) that the small ferry steamer Phoenix. which piles between Hawkesbury River ports, had- been beached at Brooklyn, a leak having developed in the vessel's planking. The leak, it is stated, was caused by a length of rope becoming entangled in the Phoenix’s propeller A "nut In the stern tube became loosened and finally unscrewed, so that the tube itself was pushed into the vessel's planking, causing a severe leak, which became so serious that at last the vessel had to be beached. The. Phoenix, which piles regularly between Brooklyn, Palm Beach, and Newport, is a small wooden steamer of 46 tons, owned by Mr. J. Izzard. A departmental surveyor will examine the vessel this morning. PHOENIX BEACHED. (1927, October 20). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from

SS Phoenix arriving at Clareville Wharf, circa 1920

STEAMER PHOENIX. Temporary repairs having been effected, the wooden ferry steamer Phoenix, which was beached at Brooklyn on Monday owing to leakage, has been refloated. She will be brought to Sydney this morning under convoy of the Hawkesbury S.S. Co.'s steamer Erringhi. STEAMER PHOENIX. (1927, October 21). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from

Ferry at Newport Whaf, 1925.

The Phoenix at Newport Wharf, from and courtesy of Peter Verrills, Family Album of pictures. 

 SS Phoenix at Brooklyn picking up passengers, 1920's; showing her route.

 General Gordon - Paddle Steamer

Above: Paddle steamer General Gordon on the Hawkesbury, circa 1898, built by Tom Davis at Terrigal in 1886.

New Stern-Wheel Steamer for the Hawkesbury. 

Passengers on the Bald-Rock' Ferry have had their curiosity aroused lately by the peculiar appearance of a new steamer lying off Pyrmont shore next the A. S. N. Co's works. By the courtesy of Ald. M'Credie of Leichhardt, a member of the engineering firm, Messrs. M'Credie & Sons, Pyrmont. who are constructing it, we were afforded an opportunity to inspect the craft, and as she differs entirely from any steamers hitherto built she is worthy of description. The boat is built for the Hawkesbury River trade, and lo meet the requirements of commodious passenger room, light draught of water and  convenience of handling, the propelling power, an immense paddle wheel, is placed at the stern, a common fashion in many of the smooth but shallow rivers of America. The vessel is 115 feet in length, 28 feet wide, and five feet deep. She has a main and upper deck, but with a load of 600 passengers her draft of water will be only 2 feet ! The propelling power is afforded by a 55 horse-power boiler from Messrs.  D. and W. Robertson's, Blackwattle Works, and a pair of high-pressure horizontal engines connected directly with the wheel. This latter which is the most prominent object at the stern is 16 feet 3 in. in diameter, 12 feet wide and has 16 floats. At the stern but in front of the wheel are the rudders, three in number; moving simultaneously. 'Three are necessary from the slight depth of water which they have to work on. Returning to the passenger accommodations the striking features are the space and arrangements for comfort and the general lightness and handsome appearanee of the double-decked structure. On the main deck nearly one-half the length is taken up by a handsome cabin, the whole width of the vessel, with sliding windows at the sides so that the whole, can be opened or enclosed. This cabin is broken only by the boiler space and a companion to the upper deck. The cabin will be furnished with upholstered seats along the sides. Back of this is the ladies cabin, 12 by 23 feet, which will be handsomely upholstered and curtained and is fitted with several conveniences, and at the rear is the engine-room. From the main cabin the easy companion steps lead to the upper deck which runs flush nearly the whole length of the vessel and is half-covered by an awning. On this - deck is the pilot-house, of the orthodox shape dear to all readers of Mark Twain with the usual connection by gong and speaking tube with the engine-room, and just astern of it the captain's cabin. All the arrangements are with a view to the greatest comfort, space and convenience and will make travelling on the Hawkesbury most delightful. The owner, Captain Murray, has had wide experience in America in this class of river-travel and his present, intention is to run her between Peat's Ferry (Hawkesbury bridge) and Windsor, thus affording, when the railway is opened to the bridge, a fine excursion and trip on the river. The hull of the vessel was built by Mr. Thomas; Davis, Terrigal, and the construction ofall the deck and cabin work has been done by Messrs, McCredie and Sons with a thoroughness and excellence highly, creditable to this well-known establishment, a slight inspection of which showed a complete set of machinery for all kinds of plain and complicated wood work mouldings etc. The new vessel is called the 'General -Gordon', and is likely to become a popular model for river traffic. New Stern-Wheel Steamer for the Hawkesbury. (1887, January 22). Balmain Observer and Western Suburbs Advertiser (NSW : 1884 - 1907), p. 2. Retrieved from 

Government Railways
CHEAP, COMBINED RAIL AND-RIVER EXCURSIONS., TO THE HAWKESBURY RIVER. IN CONNECTION WITH THE 'STEAMER' GENERAL GORDON. TO-DAY (FRIDAY) AND SATURDAY NEXT. COMBINED TRIPS TO HAWKESBURY AND NEWPORT, RETURNING via MANLY, and VICE VERSA. TO-MORROW (SATURDAY). Cheap Tickets, at 8s 6d First-class, will be issued at Central and Sydney Booking Offices, also at Strathfield and Milson's Point Stations, to include 'journey by rail to Hawkesbury, thence to Newport by steamer, from Newport to Manly by coach, and from Manly to Sydney by ferry. Passengers will travel by the 9.5 a.m. train from Sydney and 9.50 a.m. train from Milson's Point. Similar Tickets will be issued at the Manly Ferry Wharf, Circular Quay, by steamer leaving at 9.30 a. m and passengers will make the trip in the opposite direction to those travelling from Sydney. The steamer from Newport will arrive at Hawkesbury in time to connect with the 4.16 p.m. train for Sydney. The Tickets will be available for return for one week from date of issue. .
By order of the Commissioners,  H. McLACLAN, Secretary
. Advertising. (1906, December 7). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from

 Hawkesbury River [showing ferry at wharf, commuters and railway]. Ferry is General Gordon. Duke and Duchess of York (1901 visit) leave Hawkesbury for Sydney aboard the General Gordon - Hawkesbury, New South Wales, 25 May 1901, Pic. No. a116435. Courtesy State Library of NSW.