Bongaree's jetties - more from Bribie Island
by Phil Rickard
|Cover of Light Railways|
LR259 February 2018.
Light Railway Research Societyof Australia Inc.
The following article is from Light Railways 259 February 2018, pages 14-17.
Reprinted with permission.
I was most interested in Rod Milne’s article on the Tramways of the Moreton Bay Islands (LR 251, Oct 2016) and, like Rod, I was rather amazed at the spindly jetty on Bribie Island, seen in the photo on page 19 of that magazine. However, I suspect its raison d’être has been mis-understood. There were actually two jetties at Bongaree – the one depicted, plus the ‘normal’ passenger jetty just a few yards away to the right, and out of the picture. The photo in LR251 was taken from the foredeck of the ss Koopa which was berthed at the passenger jetty.
jetty, viewed from the ss Doomba.
Note the three jetty approach walkways, |
dating the photo to post-1926. The centre (original) jetty was built in 1912 and
fitted with a narrow-gauge tramway in 1913. The clothing seems indicative of the
mid-1930s however, note, under the awning, the hatless lady in smart white shorts,
bare legs, short-sleeve top and high-heels, rebelling against the fashion status quo
Photo source: State Library of Queensland image 6798-0001-0001
The new company’s three tugs were not purpose-built tug boats such as we know today, but vessels also capable of being used as excursion steamers. The ss Beaver (222 tons) was certified by the Marine Board to carry 400 persons on Moreton Bay or 700 in the Brisbane River, the ps Boko (203 tons) could carry 253 persons on the Bay and 506 in the river and the ss Greyhound 255 on the Bay and 450 in the river. As there was generally only enough work for two tugs at Brisbane it was clearly good business sense to use any spare vessels on excursion traffic.
The ss Greyhound was the preferred excursion steamer and little time was lost in diversifying its use. One unusual trip was for the Eight-hours’ Day holiday at the end of April 1904. At this time Bribie Island was bereft of a jetty or landing and very few people lived there. The Greyhound ran a ‘camping excursion’ to Bribie on Saturday 30 April and returned to pick up the campers and picnickers on the Monday.  Transfer to the beach was done by boats. In July the Beaver became the first of the company’s vessels to receive its new colour scheme, “a green colour [Aberdeen green] . . . with a red band around the funnel”.
Enlargement of the land end of the temporary staging, showing a small heap
of gravel, with skips above. Height to rail level is about 13ft; the sea end being
some five feet higher. For full picture, see Light Railways No.251.Photo source: State Library of Queensland image APA-114-0002-0007
Towards the end of 1905 the company obtained a 21-year lease on an acre of land at South Passage, on the southern tip of Moreton Island, and proceeded to erect a jetty (261ft long, no tram) for the landing of passengers. Again, this proved very popular as the spot allowed access to a much sought-after ocean surf beach on one side or, on the eastern side of the point, a shallow tidal pool suitable for children. Other events that proved popular included special trips with cheap tickets for children and parents, company picnics, fishing excursions, inspection trips whenever visiting naval warships (Commonwealth, British, Japanese etc) were in the Bay, visiting military encampments at Lytton and the free use of vessels for charitable events such as raising funds for hospitals.
In February 1911, in a business restructure, the Brisbane Tug Company was acquired by a new company, the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company Limited. The company’s issued capital was increased. George Campbell was appointed manager and secretary of the new company. A key intention of the new company was to buy a fast, purpose-built pleasure steamer of large proportions, specifically for the Moreton Bay trade – in fact they had already been in consultations with a Scottish shipbuilder (Ramage and Ferguson, who had also built the Beaver in 1886) for many months. At the time, Brisbane’s population was about 150,000 and both railway and water excursions were big events, eagerly anticipated by all in the early years of the new century and a newly federated country. As much of the shoreline nearest Brisbane was tidal mud flats or mangroves, there was a growing demand for sandy ocean beaches and they could only be reached by steamer. This made trips to the various seaside resorts much sought-after by excursionists.
Later in the year came the news that the new vessel, the ss Koopa (“Flying Fish”), had departed Leith, Scotland, on 17 October, and would arrive in Brisbane by the end of December. Such proved to be true, the Koopa arriving on Christmas Eve. The twin-screw steamer Koopa (416 tons) was built by Ramage and Ferguson Ltd, had a length of 192ft 6in, breadth of 28ft and draught of 6ft 6in. She had two sets of triple expansion engines; cylinders 13, 21 and 34in diameter x 18in stroke, with steam supplied from two Scotch marine boilers. Top speed was 16 knots. Two decks for passenger accommodation were provided, the top, promenade, deck extending almost the whole length of the vessel. The lower, enclosed, deck had two main saloons. A kitchen, bar and confectionery kiosk were also included. The two funnels and the full-length covered promenade deck gave her a distinctive appearance.
After arrival, she was immediately put into service, running two well-patronised return trips to Redcliffe, a favourite beach resort, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On New Year’s Day, 1912, even larger crowds were carried; on three legs of the two return trips to Redcliffe over 1200 people were on board for each journey. One month later, the Queensland government granted Special Lease No.1628 over 12 acres on Bribie Island to the company. Effectively, this was another continuation of the 1902 five-year lease which had been extended in 1907 for another five years, to 1912. A key difference this time was that SL 1628 was for 21 years (at £2 per annum) and required a “good and substantial wharf” to be built. The purchase of the Koopa and the expansion to Bribie Island were clearly two key parts of the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company’s future plans.
Arriving at the Bongaree jetty; taken from the promenade deck of the ss Doomba, March or April 1924. The temporary staging, to facilitate the import of stone and gravel for construction of the company’s private road, is clearly seen – with one skip visible – beyond
the passenger jetty. The ss Porpoise is largely hidden behind the jetty shelter shed. Three men and the top of the skip being filled, can just be seen above the roofline. Compare with next photo. The row of huts in the background were built by the Brisbane Tug Company and often referred to as the ‘Twelve Apostles’.Photo source: State Library Queensland image APA-114-0002-0003
ss Porpoise at the temporary construction staging, at
Bongaree in 1924, taken from the foredeck of the ss Doomba. The Porpoise is known to have been at that jetty in late March and early April when
George Hallett got his fingers jammed in some machinery.
The Porpoise (125 tons) was built in |
In November 1912 the government declared the new ‘Town of Bongaree’ adjacent to the company’s jetty, conducted a survey and placed 100 blocks, each of one rood, up for auction. These were eagerly sought after and most lots were sold at between £5 and £31 each, well above the upset price. Another sale followed in December 1913; prices ranged from £20 to £42. The price increases clearly showing where Bribie was heading. Further sales followed in subsequent years.
Over the years the company made various other improvements at Bongaree – in 1913 they laid a narrow gauge tramway along the jetty and supplied a trolley for conveyance of luggage and stores, erected jetty railings, and a stylish shelter shed at the jetty head. Changing sheds and lavatories were erected at the beach for use of excursionists. Private enterprise provided a store and boarding houses and the company built a row of twelve huts along the foreshore, north of its jetty. These were quickly dubbed the ‘Twelve Apostles’ and appear in many early photos of Bongaree.
In early January 1914, the Queensland government granted the Tug Company’s secretary, George Peter Campbell, Special Lease No. 1862, for 21 years over a narrow strip of land across Bribie Island for the purpose of building a tramway. The area, stretching from the jetty to the ocean beach, together with blocks at each end for termini, equalled about 58¼ acres. The rent was £2 per annum, for the first six years and subject to review thereafter. It seems Campbell was embarking on a private venture. Unfortunately, the Great War intervened.
In 1920, at the rent review hearing, Campbell advised that the original lease was obtained [signed?] on 31 March 1914. It was then found that the Minister for Railways had to give permission, a rather slow process. Then a London agent was needed to purchase the plant with Burns, Philp and Company eventually being appointed. They were arranging for the plant and material to be purchased from Belgium when war was declared, and advised Campbell to await the end of hostilities. The war was now over but the price of material was said to now be five [sic] times what it was in 1914. Campbell stated that he had had a survey made at a cost of £100 whilst also keeping a walking track open along the easement. He hoped plant would soon be available at a reasonable price so work may proceed. He was granted the same rent as that existing, £2 per annum for another six years.
Still events moved slowly. In early December 1922 tenders were called for the clearing and grubbing of the two-chain-wide easement. By March 1923 this was subject to some industrial troubles over hours worked and the matter ended up in the Arbitration Court in Brisbane. The dispute was between the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company (confirming that, ultimately, the company was behind the tramway scheme), jointly with Queensland Employers’ Federation. Around ten men were engaged in the clearing work under foreman William Shirley. Though clearing work was completed by mid-May, the Tug Company had a reality check and decided to construct a roadway, rather than proceed with the tramway. Railway material was proving expensive whilst road vehicles seemed to offer a less costly and more flexible alternative, considering the small distance to be traversed. Road work was well underway by September 1923, a visitor reporting a ‘lively scene’ with bullock team, grader and scoop at work.
As stone for the road (or railway had it gone ahead) was unavailable on sandy Bribie, it had to be imported. To this end, Blake Brothers, carriers from suburban Windsor, were engaged to provide gravel and stone. This came from Bowser & Lever’s quarry at Windsor and was trucked by Blakes to a wharf in Brisbane whence it was shipped to Bongaree by various ships and lighters. An elevated staging was erected using the rather slim paperbark piles visible in the photos. This staging was about 120 yards in length and had double track at the jetty head. Road metal and gravel was unloaded by the various vessels’ steam-powered derrick and a grab, into standard 2ft-gauge side-tipping skips. Photos show at least two, that being the reason for the double track at the head; whilst one truck was being loaded, the other could be wheeled ashore. There, the material could either be tipped to a heap or emptied directly into Blakes’ motor trucks for movement to the required site. If dumped, it was later reloaded via another couple of skips operating up a short ramp and emptied into motor trucks – the below photo shows the arrangement.
The ‘first-class macadamised motor road’ was virtually finished by the end of September 1924. Indeed, from late August (and even earlier – i.e. Easter, along much of the way) the Tug Company had been running a motor omnibus along their road at ‘one shilling per return journey’. A month later the company hosted an invited party including the Acting Premier, William Gillies; various ministers and MLAs. After luncheon on the ss Koopa, the party drove over the new road to the ocean beach at Woorim. With the road’s completion the temporary elevated staging was dismantled. It was said that the Tug Company had spent around £8000 on the entire venture. One journalist claimed it was the best road around Brisbane! Within a few months the company had three buses available along their private toll road. In December the Queensland government declared a new town – Woorim – at the ocean beach-end of ‘Campbell road’, and started selling lots.
The Tug Company continued to improve and build additions on the island. In September 1922, at their instigation, the telephone was connected. Later in the same year they donated land for tennis courts to be constructed. On 24 November 1923, the company’s newest vessel, the ss Doomba – even larger than the Koopa, came to Bribie for the first time. In 1926, with the Bongaree jetty barely able to cope with the crush of passengers, two additional jetty approaches were constructed out to the T-head which was, itself, widened to 40 feet. Only the centre jetty (the old one) carried a tramway. Shelter sheds were added at the ocean beach, plus a life-saving reel. A bowling green was constructed at Bongaree; a water tank was provided with clean drinking water and, in 1929, a kiosk for the sale of oysters and seafood built near the jetty. By 1933 the company had carried more than one million excursionists to Bongaree. Bribie Island was now one of the premier beach resorts around Moreton Bay, principally due to the foresight and drive of the Brisbane Tug Company and, specifically, G P Campbell.
Acknowledgements and references
My grateful thanks to Donna Holmes at the Bribie Island Historical Society for answering my numerous questions and freely giving of her knowledge of G P Campbell’s activities pertaining to Bribie, and providing access to the society’s photographs. The society’s interesting blog may be found at http://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com.au/ and is well worth a visit.
 Queensland State Archives ID 24553
 The Telegraph, Brisbane 4 Sep 1903
 The Brisbane Courier, 3 Oct 1903
 The Brisbane Courier, 26 Apr 1904
 The Telegraph, Brisbane 4 Feb 1911
 The Brisbane Courier, 17 Oct 1911
 The Queenslander, 23 Dec 1911
 The Brisbane Courier, 5 Jun 1912
 The Brisbane Courier, 23 Apr 1912
 One Rood = ¼ acre [1012sq m]
 The Brisbane Courier, 31 Jul 1913
 Queensland State Archives ID 333167
 The Brisbane Courier, 10 Jan 1914
 The Daily Mail, Brisbane 18 Aug 1920
 The Brisbane Courier, 8 Dec 1922
 The Daily Mail, Brisbane 25 Jun 1924
 The Daily Mail, Brisbane 2 Oct 1923
 The Daily Mail, Brisbane 21 Aug 1924
 The Brisbane Courier, 1 Nov 1924
 The Brisbane Courier, 12 Sep 1924
 The Telegraph, Brisbane 4 Jul 1933