Friday, January 1, 2010

'Short Road' Ferry to Williamstown

When John was driving for Fleetways in the mid 1960s, ‘Tommy the Copper’, was one of the last policemen on point duty in Melbourne. He controlled the intersection of the Spencer Street Bridge, Normanby Road, Yarra Bank Road and Clarendon Street, just outside One South Wharf, where Jeff’s shed is now. Trucks wanting to make the right hand turn into Normanby Road had to travel on the left hand side of the Bridge into a large holding area at the entrance to Yarra Bank Road where they waited until Tommy decided there were enough of them, then he would stop the traffic and let the trucks make their right hand turn. Lots of trucks used Normanby Road as it was route to Lorimer Street and South Wharf, and to General Motors, who were on the corner of Lorimer and Salmon Street. Further down Lorimer Street were the two Aircraft factories - the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) at Fisherman’s Bend. There was also all of the traffic which went down Normanby Road to Williamstown Road to the Tasmanian Ferry Terminal, and to the 'Short Road' Ferry. Traffic to the Port Melbourne wharfs i.e Station Pier and Princes Pier, and the BP Depot, turned off Williamston Road at Beacon Road.

If you didn’t line up in the queue to make the right hand turn, or disobeyed Tommy’s instructions, he would wave you off to the side of the road and book you, leaving the intersection unmanned and it would descend into chaos. Those were the days when Police had real power. Tommy also attended, at the invitation of Sir John Williams, the Fleetways Christmas drinks at Bertie Street in Port Melbourne. Incidentally, the area where the trucks used to line-up was outside the Diamond T importers/assemblers on the corner of Yarra Bank Road and Clarendon Street, so that provided some interest while John was waiting.

The 'Short Road' or Williamstown Ferry, taken in 1965. The Ferry is leaving Williamstown. This particular ferry commenced service in 1930. Photographs taken by Frank & Wendy Rouse.

It was called the 'Short Road' Ferry, because it was the 'short road' to Williamstown. The 'long road' was down Dynon Road to Whitehall Street and Douglas Parade. It’s hard to believe now, as Williamstown is very gentrified and trendy, that Williamstown was once a real working port and industrial area. There was the Newport Power Station, the Newport Railway workshops, the Naval Dock yards, the Port Phillip Woollen mills, the Harbour tugs at the Reid Street Pier, the Melbourne Harbour Trust dredges (which dredged the Melbourne Port area) at Ann Street pier, and the Ports & Harbours bay dredges, which dredged the South and West Channels in Port Phillip Bay. Dredging of the Bay has been going on since the 1870s, so you have to wonder why there was so much kerfuffle over the recent (2008-09) Channel dredging by the Queen of the Netherlands. Obviously, some people have no idea of our history.

The Williamstown Ferry went from the end of Williamstown Road and crossed the Yarra to the bottom of The Strand, near the Power Station. This location had been the site of a river crossing since Melbourne was established, but the first formalised ferry service didn't start until 1873. The 1873 scale of fees was - Foot passenger, one pence ; Vehicle with one horse or animal, six pence ; with two horses or animals, nine pence ; with three animals, one shilling ; Vehicles with four wheels, 2 shillings. The Ferry became redundant with the opening of the West Gate Bridge in November 15, 1978. I have some pictures of the West Gate Bridge in the next blog post.

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