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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lady Northcott Turns Forty

The oldest remaining Lady Class ferry, the Lady Northcott, turns 40 on Friday. She and the Lady Herron are the last in a line extending back to the steamer Lady Mary, which was launched in 1892.  

All the Lady boats were double ended screw ferries, ideally suited to coming and going from Circular Quay without the need for cumbersome manoeuvring. 

The world's first double ended screw ferries were developed for the Clyde River, Scotland. Sydney's North Shore Ferry Company quickly followed suit, launching Australia's first double ended screw ferry, the Wallaby, in 1879. The Wallaby was designed by famous naval architect Norman Selfe. 

Selfe's designs were later perfected by Walter Reeks in the form of the Lady boats, with the Lady Mary and Lady Napier introduced to service in 1892 by the Balmain New Ferry Company. The Lady boats have continued in service on Sydney Harbour for an unbroken 122 years, surely a record in the history of public transport.

The Lady Northcott was designed by naval architects Barnes and Fleck and built at Carrington Slipways in Newcastle. It was launched on 26 September 1974, but first went into service on 31 January 1975. It has been a stalwart of the Taronga Zoo and Mosman lines, but is not suited to the tight turning required in Neutral Bay, Mort Bay Balmain or Darling Harbour. It is sometimes used as a back up to the Manly Ferry. With a passenger capacity of 800, it has also performed heroically in moving large crowds to and from events at Cockatoo Island.                           

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