North Shore Steam Ferry Company


Few people lived north of the harbour, so it was an adventurous entrepreneur who set up the North Shore Ferry Company in 1861, when there were far fewer than 1,000 people living in the area. Manly was, from the 1850s, being opened up for subdivision and urban settlement, as well as being promoted as a ‘resort’ for Sydney’s burgeoning middle classes. The ferry service helped develop Manly, with its population growing from about 500 in 1871, to 1300 in 1881, to 3000 in 1889, 5000 in 1896, and 8000 in 1906.

Competition and economies of scale saw further changes to the scene. In 1878, the old company was restructured and renamed the North Shore Steam Ferry Company, and by 1899, following a series of mergers, most of the ferry services were absorbed into a new major company, Sydney Ferries Limited. Then, in 1907, the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company was formed. Patronage of the city’s ferry services continued to grow, and by the start of the 1930s, Sydney Ferries Limited had become the world’s biggest ferry operator, with ferry patronage at some 40 million passenger journeys a year.

North Shore Steam Ferry Company (1861 – 1899)

The 10 ferries operated by the North Shore Steam Ferry Company included: –

SS Wallaby, PS Cammeray, PS Victoria, PS Warrane, PS St Leonards, PS Benelon, PS Sapphire, PS Bunya Bunya, PS Barangaroo and PS Millie.

A sample of photos from the collection is shown below.


Anyone interested in investigating the images is invited to contact the SHF Maritime Records and Research Centre, either by phoning 02 9298 3888 or emailing

For costs and availability of obtaining any of these photos without watermark, as an electronic file, as a print from the original negative (where available) or as some other format, contact the Maritime Records and Research Centre’s Curator on 02 9298 3850  or, quoting the full file name and giving details of format wanted.

Copyright for the majority of these images from the collection is vested in the Sydney Heritage Fleet. For the remaining images every attempt has been made to ensure correct attribution. If any originator of an image notes an error the Sydney Heritage Fleet would welcome any notification and will remove that image or modify its attribution.

Click on any image to enlarge