Author Archives: DIHS Secretary

Historic Hawkesbury Cruise

One of the most exciting experiences being offered over the weekend of the 125th Anniversary of the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge (3-4th May 2014) is an opportunity to join Hawkesbury Cruises for a lunchtime cruise of the river taking in the site of the first bridge.  The cruise will also take you close to construction sites on Long Island and Dangar Island and you can view other locations of historic significance.  We will have an expert commentator on board who will explain the activities involved in construction and highlights of the bridge opening on 1st May 1889.  You will feel as if you were there for this momentous occasion!  It will be easy to understand why the Bridge was so significant to our developing nation.

MV Zarapita

MV Zarapita

This cruise will be informative and one of a kind.  Boats will leave from Brooklyn at the Public Wharf (near the Hawkesbury River Train Station), include lunch and a stop-over on Dangar Island to view the Historical Society Exhibition in the Community Hall.  If time permits, take a self-guided Historical Walk around the island to discover many of the sites discussed on the cruise.

Hawkesbury Cruises is not your average tour boat.  Week days they are a life-line for “water access only” river settlements and you are able to join them as they make their trip upriver to isolated settlements.  The Riverboat Postman started its run in 1910 – not long after our famous Railway Bridge opened for business in 1889.  Even today, deliveries include mail and essential provisions; and perhaps even depleted “refreshment” supplies?


The skippers are all locals who can fill you in on all the best information – gossip and intrigue, current house prices, dramatic events – and then round it all off with a good measure of river history and spectacular scenery.  The business is family owned and operates from Brooklyn.  All cruises include morning tea (home baked Anzac biscuits), a delicious Ploughman’s Lunch and plenty of freshly brewed tea or coffee. Bookings are essential.  Payment is made at the Brooklyn Public Wharf on the day of travel.  Cash & cards accepted (except American Express).  Group bookings are requested to please contact Catherine on 0400 600 111.


For more information:
Phone: 0400 600 111

Hurry!  Don’t miss out on a great day out on the Hawkesbury River.

Dangar Island

Dangar Island

Cruise in Heritage Style

One of the many activities we have planned for the Dangar Island Historical Society’s 125th Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge Celebration (3rd/4th May, 2014) is an offering of short cruises (from Dangar Island) aboard the MV BANKSIA.


MV Banksia plys the Hawkesbury River

 A Little of MV Banksia’s History:

This handsome, vintage ferry boat has been ferrying passengers since she was built in 1952.  Originally christened Biloela, an aboriginal word meaning ‘white cockatoo’, Banksia was designed as a sturdy dual purpose workboat for transporting workers over to the dockyards on Cockatoo Island, or in turn acting as a small tug around the dockyards.

Banksia was both built and maintained by the workers that used her. Her solid construction and timber features are typical of workboats of the day.  Both Banksia and her twin, Corella, have beautiful canoe sterns; both were stable, level and open performers – ready for work in any conditions.  Remaining in full commercial survey, the MV Banksia is one of the few vessels of this age still plying her trade, in essence she is a working piece of Sydney Harbour’s history.


Biloela was renamed Banksia in 1965 and continued to ply the waters of Sydney Harbour during 1988–1991 as the Dockyard 3 cycle work boat. Both Banksia and Corella were sold when the Dockyard closed down.  They were purchased by a Brisbane Water company that used them on a ferry service between Woy Woy, Davistown and Saratoga between 1996-2001.


Banksia was then bought by a Sydney Harbour charter business and kept in service until the Davidson’s picked her up in November 2005 from Middle Harbour in a sorry state. The Davidson’s  paid attention to bringing her back to a respectable standard and continued to charter the Banksia for group outings.  In 2011, the Banksia was onsold to the Stockley family of Dangar Island.

Now after a lavish and complete 8 month restoration by traditional shipwrights with paintwork by one of the original Halvorsen coach painters, the MV Banksia is in real showboat condition.

Deserving of her elegant style The MV Banksia now sedately plies the secluded coves of Broken Bay and Hawkesbury River and is perfectly at home around Dangar Island.


Banksia10Charter enquiries can be directed to:
Phone: 0448 101010

(The Banksia is licensed to carry 49 passengers; however the company recommend groups of up to 30 in daylight hours and up to 25 in the evenings as a comfortable number for extended cruise periods.)

The Great Railway Bridge

The spans for the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge were constructed on Dangar’s Island by the Union Bridge Company of New York over the period 1886 to 1889.  A worksite was established near to the present Café and ferry wharf.  From here, bridge spans were floated into position as each was completed.


The bridge, for its time, used cutting edge technology and was critical infrastructure with major political, social and economic consequences. It completed the rail link joining the colonial capitals of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and was an acknowledged symbol of the move to Federation. It both accelerated the economic expansion of North and North Western NSW and strengthened the political and economic dominance of Sydney. The bridge played a key role in the movement of men and materials in the defence of Australia during World Wars 1 and 2.

Come join in our festivities on 3rd & 4th May!  We are celebrating 125 years since the Bridge’s opening.

A Key Date for Your Diary

Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge 125th Anniversary in May 2014

7.1 View from Hawkesbury River Bridge, 1940s? full shot Source: Unknown.

View from Hawkesbury River Bridge, 1940s?
Source: Unknown.

May 1st, 2014 marks the 125th anniversary of the opening ceremony of the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge. This was an event of Regional and Local significance. It marked a milestone in the completion on the eastern railway line and the end of an era on Dangar Island.  From this date, Dangar Island evolved from a busy construction site to a weekender destination and to the unique community it is today.

The Dangar island Historical society is proposing to lead a celebration of this event over two days – Saturday May 3rd & Sunday May 4th 2014.  Keep these dates free in your diary and join us on the Island and in learning more about our local history.  More information to follow soon!

After Voting – Picture This!

'The Protex' late 1970's. Source: Unknown.

‘The Protex’ late 1970s
Source: Unknown.

Dangar Island Historical Society presented an exhibition entitled NOW & THEN on Saturday 7th September 2013.  This was in collaboration with The NSW History Council’s 16th Year of History Week, entitled Picture This.

A photographic exhibit, including a slide show was held in the Dangar Island Community Hall (12 to 4.30pm).  Three informative, one-hour island tours, starting from Dangar Island wharf were also conducted to fully inform the exhibition.

Along with contemporary history and images, visitors came and heard some fascinating stories of the Guringai aborigines, about Captain Arthur Philip’s exploratory tour of the Hawkesbury River and his 1788 landing on the Island. They learned why the island became known as Mullet Island and why & when its name changed to Dangar.


Now: ‘The Sun’ July 2013
Photographer: David Reynolds

Dangar is a unique, pristine traffic free island, situated in the Hawkesbury River and can be accessed by ferry (click on link for timetable).

If you would like more information or to book a tour, please send us your details via our Contact page.  Tour prices are explained on the Tours page.


Then: Dangar Island, circa 20s to 30s
Photographer: Unknown

Historical Society Reborn

Good news!  The Dangar Island  Historical Society was officially reborn at a meeting of interested parties on 2nd March 2013.

The Society has been re-registered with the Office of Fair Trading and has adopted their standard constitution. Initial committee members, until an AGM in September, are:

  • Peter Wolfe (President)
  • Dave Reynolds (Vice President and Historian),
  • Lisa Hayes (Collection Manager),
  • Rosemary Curtis (Librarian),
  • Judith Doyle (Public Officer),
  • Hans Pol (Treasurer), and
  • Jenny Pakes (Secretary).

Thanks to interim funding from the League we have purchased computer equipment to enable us to start the work of cataloguing, preserving and digitizing the collection.

Over the coming months we will be preparing and sharing our plans and inviting membership. Right now, we would welcome offers of volunteer support- there are a number of specific tasks that will arise as the collection is developed.

Dave will continue to lead Island Historical tours. These have been a good source of funds in the past and are a great way to share our history with interested folks. We invite anyone who would enjoy being an ambassador for the island to join us for training as a tour leader.

We would appreciate the return of any Historical materials that have strayed from storage in the Hall over the years, so that the collection can be fully prepared.

Please speak to any of the Committee with your ideas and thoughts as we relaunch the Society.

Peter Wolfe