Kenmore History Series: Early transport along the Brisbane River

The Travelling Sugar Mill, The Steamer Walrus 1870.png

Steamships were introduced in 1846 and moved passengers, freight and parcels between Brisbane and Ipswich.

For farmers in the 1860s there were no roads to take produce to markets and to get supplies.  The river was the only means of transport. The dairy farmers rowed milk and butter to market.  Crops such as sugar, cotton, maize and arrowroot were also transported by river. 

The farmer’s river journey to the Brisbane and Ipswich markets could take many hours and often at night so they could work their farms during the day.  They often had to wait (sleeping or fishing) for the tide to turn before returning to the farm.

Around 1870, the sugar cane farmers along the river were serviced by the flat bottomed, steamer, the Walrus, a floating sugar mill.  It moved from farm to farm during the crushing season, tying up at each farmer’s wharf.

Many people moved back and forth across the river, sometimes to visit relatives, go to school, attend church and to work on properties held on both sides of the river. 

With the construction of more roads and the introduction of railways in the 1870s, the river trade rapidly decreased.

But the pleasure boats continued.  Small steamers and larger paddle steamers took parties of people to the many picnic spots along the river.  Popular for many decades was the Fig Tree Pocket picnic grounds and later the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Some enjoyed band music on the away there and back.

The river used to be the roadway.  Now bridges have replaced the cross-river movements and the river is most likely to be used for ferry transport, pleasure boats, rowing, canoeing and sailing

Reuben Packer-Hill