Sydney K-class ferry
The K-class ferries were a group of double-ended screw steam ferries run by Sydney Ferries Limited and its government successors on Sydney Harbour. The company introduced more than two dozen of the vessels from the 1890s through to the early twentieth century to meet the booming demand for ferry services across Sydney Harbour prior to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.
The K-names were largely Australian Aboriginal names with their meanings listed in the table below.
The K-class were not a group of identical ferries - they were delivered in batches of two or three identical sister ships - rather they were a general type of vessel that ranged in sized but shared a typical form. They were all double-deck, double-ended screw steamers with two raised wheelhouses and a single tall funnel. Apart from a few early vessels with open upper decks that were later enclosed, the K-class had enclosed upper and lower saloons with lower deck outdoor seating around the vessel, and the upper decks had smaller outdoor areas at either end around the wheelhouses. The boats were all timber-hulled with timber superstructures, except for four later and larger vessels that had steel hulls and timber superstructures - namely, sisters Kanangra and Kirawa (both 1912) and sisters Kuttabul and Koompartoo (both 1922).
Prior to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Ferries Limited ran one of the largest ferry fleets in the world - the bulk of which in number and capacity were K-class - and carried 40 million passengers per year. Many of the K-class vessels were deemed redundant and were decommissioned following the opening of the Bridge, more still were decommissioned following the NSW State Government takeover of Sydney Ferries in 1951, while a handful of the ferries were in service until the mid-1980s having been converted to diesel.
List of K-class vessels
|Name||Year Built||Description||Origin of name||Tons||Length & beam (m)||Passengers||Out of service|
|Kangaroo (II)||1891||Built by David Drake Ltd, Balmain. 60 hp steam engine by Muir & Houston. First double-ended ferry with triple-expansion engines. She suffered several fires. Worked on North Sydney service before being transferred to Mosman service.||Australian native animal||158 tons||34.1 m x 6.6 m||632||1926|
|Waringa Karaga||1894||Built by Dunn Brothers, Berry's Bay. 30 hp compound steam engine by Muir & Houston Ltd, 11 knots. As built had open deck which was glassed-in about 1910, renamed Karaga in 1913. Taken out of service following opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Taken over by Australian government in 1943 to assist the war effort.||125 tons||32.2 m x 6.3 m||588||1932(?), 1943 to RAN|
|Wallaroo Kiamala||1896||Built by Young, Son & Fletcher, Rozelle. Originally built with open upper deck. 30 hp triple expansion steam engines by Muir & Houston Ltd. Rebuilt in 1914 by David Drake, Balmain, NSW and glassed-in with named changed to Kiamala. Taken out of service following opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Taken over by Australian government in 1943 to assist the war effort. Sister to Carabella. Fate unknown||Wallaroo, Australian native animal.||122 tons||32.4 m||545||1943 to RAN|
|Carabella Karabella||1897||Sister to Wallaroo/Kiamala. Built by Young, Son & Fletcher, Rozelle. 30 hp compound steam engine by Muir & Houston Ltd.Rebuilt 1916. Taken out of service following opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Taken over by Australian government in 1943 to assist the war effort.||After a house built on North Shore in 1882-'Carrably'||129 t, 1916: 151 tons||32.0 m x 6.6 m||595||1932(?)|
|Kurraba||1899||Similar to Kirribilli (II). Built by North Shore Steam Ferry Co Ltd. 60 hp triple expansion steam engine by Campbell & Calderwood. 12 knots. Mainly used on the Mosman run. Sold for breaking up in 1934.||Sydney harbourside suburb||195 tons||40.9 m||890||1934|
|Kirribilli (II)||1900||Similar to Kurraba. Built by John Cuthbert, Sydney. 60 hp triple expansion steam engines by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co Ltd, Balmain. 12 knots. Served various North Shore runs. Retired following opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.||Australian Aboriginal name meaning 'good fishing spot', and name of a Sydney suburb||198 tons||39.7 m x 7.9m||896||1934|
|Koree||1902||Built by David Drake, Ltd, Balmain. 69 hp Triple expansion steam engine by Clyde Engineering Co. Ltd. 11 knots. First North Shore ferry with enclosed promenade deck passenger house. Sold for breaking up in 1934.||An Australian Aboriginal name for Chowder Bay||276 tons||42.8 m x 8.6 m||1,058||1934|
|Kummulla||1903||Built by Dunn Brothers, North Sydney. 31 hp compound steam engine by Lees, Anderson & Co. 12 knots. Engine removed 1935 and sold 1935. Hull sold 1939.||168 tons||36.3 m x 7.6 m||795||1934|
|Kulgoa||1905||Built by W M Ford Jnr, North Sydney. 60 hp triple expansion steam engine by Mort's Dock & Engineering, Balmain. 12 knots. Along with Kuramia, at 338 tons, the largest wooden ferries on Sydney Harbour. Sold for breaking up 1952 following State Government takeover.||Australian Aboriginal word meaning 'returning'||338 tons||42.7 m x 9.6 m||1,255||1952|
|Kareela||1905||Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. 40 hp compound steam engine by Chapman & Co. Ltd. 10 knots. Nicknamed 'The Box'. Sold for breaking up in 1959 after Kosciusko returned service following her conversion to diesel power.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'south wind'||186 tons||34.4 m x 8.2 m||784||1959|
|Kai Kai||1906||Built by David Drake Ltd, Balmain. Triple expansion steam engine (59 hp). One of the highest capacity of the K-class ferries, worked the heavy-lift commuter run from Circular Quay to North Shore run. To Navy 1942 for use as accommodation ship, sold for breaking up 1947||Australian Aboriginal word for 'jewfish' or 'food'||303 tons||46.3 x 10.1 m||1,245||1942|
|Kookooburra||1907||Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. 61 hp triple expansion steam engine by Campbell & Calderwood. 12 knots. Represents Sydney Ferries Ltd's first attempt to design ferry specifically for Parramatta River service after it took over the service in 1901. Unusually for K class, it was originally fitted with a short funnel for service along the river and its low bridges. Passengers, however, were showered with soot and awning was placed on promenade deck. 'Sister Kaludah was a similar design with short funnel. Kookooburra and Kaludah were the only K-class ferries to have pointed ends. Following cessation of services past Gladesville Bridge in 1928, she was fitted with tall funnel. In late 1940s, was sent to Newcastle to carry dockyard workers. Broken up in 1959.||Australian native bird||180 tons||42.7 m x 7.7 m||700||1948-49(?)|
|Kaludah, formerly Kuranda||1909||Built by Morrison & Sinclair, Ltd. Balmain. Campbell & Calderwood triple expansion steam engines (50 hp, 12 knots). Of similar design to Kookooburra with short funnel to pass under low bridges on Parramatta River service. Kookooburra and Kaludah were the only K-class ferries to have pointed ends. Caught fire at her moorings on 22 March 1911, drifted downstream, brought under tow alight by fire boat Pelvius, burnt herself to the water line and sank in Tarban Creek...the shortest lived of the Sydney ferries. Engines and usable timber went to the Kamiri.||137 tons||35.1 x 7.6 m||1911|
|Kanimbla Kurra-Ba||1910||Similar to Kosciusko. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. Triple expansion steam engine by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co Ltd, 55 hp, 11 knots. Gave up her original name, Kanimbla, in 1935 to a bigger ship, and became Kurra-Ba. Broken up 1950s.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'Big fight'||156 tons||35.4 m x 8.8 m||791||1946(?)|
|Kirrule||1910||Identical sister to Kiandra & Kubu. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. 70 hp triple expansion steam engine by Mort's Dock Engineering Co Ltd. 13 knots. Along with her sisters, they were given greater power than earlier vessels of the same size so that longer runs to Mosman were quicker. All three vessels survived the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but Kirrule and Kiandra were laid up immediately following State Government takeover of Sydney Ferries Ltd in 1951. Broken up 1953. Kubu was laid up following Kanangra's return to service following conversion to diesel.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'aroused'||258 tons||42.7 m x 9.2 m||1,080||1951|
|Kiandra||1911||Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. 70 hp triple expansion steam engine by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co, Ltd. 13 knots. Identical sister to Kirrule & Kubu. Laid up immediately following State Government takeover of Sydney Ferries Ltd in 1951. Sold for breaking up 1953||a corruption of Aboriginal 'Gianderra' for 'sharp stones for knives' and town in NSW||258 tons||42.7 m x 9.2 m||1,101||1951|
|Kosciusko||1911||Similar to Kanimbla. Built by David Drake Ltd., Balmain. 54 hp triple expansion steam engine by Campbell & Calderwell. 10 knots. Converted to diesel in 1959 (60 hp Crossley Brothers, 11 knots), allowing coal-fired Kareela to be retired. Towed to Hobart following collapse of bridge. Burnt out in Hobart 1982. End of hull including propeller and rudder displayed outside hotel in Hobart.||Australian mountain named after Polish military leader Tadeusz Kościuszko||165 tons||35.4 m x 8.7 m||785||1975|
|Kanangra||1912||Sister ship to Kirawa who were the only steel-hull K Class vessels. Built by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co. Ltd, Balmain. 68 hp triple expansion steam engine (by builder). 13 knots. The last of the inner-harbour ferries to be converted to diesel (8-cylinder diesel, 44 hp, 11 knots) re-entering service in 1959. Retired 1985. Now part of Sydney Heritage Fleet and under restoration. One of the longest serving Sydney ferries and the last of the large early twentieth century Sydney ferries.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'beautiful view'||295 tons||50 m||945||1985|
|Kirawa||1912||Sister ship to Kanangra who were the first steel-hull K Class vessels (then only Kuttabul and Koompartoo had steel hulls). Built by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co Ltd, Balmain. 68 hp triple expansion steam engines by builder. 13 knots. Retired and broken up in 1953 due to faulty boiler tubes.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'looking for them'||295 tons||45.5 m x 9.7 m||1,070||1953|
|Kubu||1912||Identical sister to Kiandra & Kirrule. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. 68 hp triple expansion steam engine by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co Ltd. 12 knots. The last coal-fired steam ferry on Port Jackson. Removed from service following Kanangra's return to service after conversion to diesel. Broken up in 1960.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'oak tree'||258 tons||42.7 m x 9.2 m||1,072||1959|
|Kamiri||1912||Sister to Kameruka. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain. Used engines and timbers of Kaludah which was gutted by fire in 1912. 50 hp triple expansion steam engines by Campbell and Calderwood. 11 knots. Retired in 1951 and broken up upon state government takeover of Sydney Ferries Ltd.||Name of Aboriginal Australian tribe||144 tons||34.1 m x 7.9 m||594||1951|
|Kameruka||1913||Sister to Kamiri. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd, Balmain for Parramatta River run. Relatively high speed ferry, and thus used on Taronga Zoo and river runs. 53 hp triple expansion steam engines by Campbell and Calderwood. 12 knots. Burnt out in 1918 and rebuilt. 1938 boiler crowns collapsed and was not returned to work until 1945. In 1954 was converted to diesel (60 hp Crossley Brothers 6-cylinder, 11 knots) and given a more modern looking makeover. One of the longest-lived Sydney Harbour ferries.||Australian Aboriginal word meaning 'wait til I come'||144 tons||34.1 m x 7.9 m||594||1984(?)|
|Karrabee||1913||Sister to Karingal. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd. Original triple expansion steam engines (36 hp, Hawthorn, Leslie & Co.) were sourced from Pheasant (1887), Sydney's first triple-expansion steam ferry. These engines are now part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection. 1936 converted from steam to diesel-electric power (6-cylinder diesel, by Henty & Gardner), the first of the Sydney Ferries Ltd fleet converted. Re-engined 1958, 6-cylinder diesel, 450 bhp, Crossley Brothers. Used in 1966, along with Karingal, on a weekend and holiday service to Watsons Bay, however, the service ceased due to lack of passengers. 1984 sank at Circular Quay after competing in the annual Great Ferry Race. Raised two days later and laid up. 1986 sold and relocated to Gosford as floating restaurant. Sank at wharf in 2003 and broken up in 2005.||Australian Aboriginal word for 'Cockatoo'||107 tons||32.8 m||653||1984|
|Karingal||1913||Sister to Karrabee. Built by Morrison & Sinclair Ltd., Balmain. Her original steam engines (28 hp Bow, McLachlan & Co) came from Alathea when she was converted to a lighter. Karingal could make 11 knots with her original steam engines. Converted to diesel in 1937 (6-cylinder L. Gardner, 9 knots). Re-engined 1961 (450 bhp 6-cylinder diesel, Crossley Brothers). Used in 1966, along with Karrabee, on a weekend and holiday service to Watsons Bay, however, the service ceased due to lack of passengers. Sank in Bass Strait en route to new owners in Melbourne in 1980s.||Australian Aboriginal word meaning 'happy home'||107 tons||31.7 m||608||1984(?)|
|Kuramia||1914||Along with Kulgoa, at 335 tons, the largest wooden ferries on Sydney Harbour. Built by David Drake Ltd, Balmain. 69 hp triple expansion steam engines by Mort's Dock & Engineering Co. Ltd. 12 knots. Engine sold 1940, requisitioned for naval use in 1942 as a boom gate vessel on the harbour boom off Watsons Bay. Hulk sunk as target of Sydney, 10 October 1953.||335 tons||47.7 m||1,357|
|Kuttabul||1922||Along with her sister, Koompartoo, she was the last of the K-class ferries and was one of the two biggest ferries owned by Sydney Ferries. Built by NSW Government Dockyard, Newcastle. 113 hp triple expansion steam engine by builder. 12 knots. With the largest passenger capacity of any Sydney ferry including Manly ferries, both vessels built for the short heavy lift run from Circular Quay to Milsons Point. Originally certified for 1,505 passengers, they later carried up to 2,500 passengers, and regularly 2,000. Removed from service following opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Due to their large size and relatively young age, other uses were found for them including cruises and to view harbour sailing events. Taken over by the Royal Australian Navy as an accommodation ship and moored on eastern shore of Garden Island. On 31 May 1942, sunk by Japanese torpedo with the loss of nineteen naval ratings (see Attack on Sydney Harbour). Naval base at Garden Island carries the name HMAS Kuttabul||Australian Aboriginal word for 'wonderful'||447 tons||55.7 m x 11.0 m||2,089||1932|
|Koompartoo||1922||Built by NSW Government Dockyard, Newcastle. 113 hp triple expansion steam engine by builder. 12 knots. Along with sister Kuttabul, was one of the two biggest ferries owned by Sydney Ferries and the largest ferry on Sydney Harbour by passenger capacity. Both vessels built for the short heavy lift run from Circular Quay to Milsons Point. Made redundant on the Milsons Point run following 1932 opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and converted to concert boat in 1935. Converted to Naval boom-gate vessel 1942-42. Sold to Commonwealth Government 1945. Stripped hull went to Tasmania 1966 to be used as a bauxite barge.||Australian Aboriginal word meaning 'a fresh start'||447 tons||55.7 m x 11.0||2,089||1932(?)|
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- Prescott (1984), pp. 15-16
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- Andrews (1982), p. 96
- Andrews (1982), p. 104
- Andrews (1982), p. 97
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- Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
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- Andrews, Graeme (1975). The Ferries of Sydney. A.H. & A.W. Reed Pty Ltd. ISBN 0589071726.
- Andrews, Graeme (1982). A Pictorial History of Ferries: Sydney and Surrounding Waterways. Sydney: AH & AW Reed Pty Ltd. ISBN 0589503863.
- Gunter, John (1978). Across the harbour : the story of Sydney's ferries. Rigby. ISBN 0727007157.
- Prescott, AM (1984). Sydney Ferry Fleet. Magill South Australia: Ronald H Parsons. ISBN 0909418306.