Community News

From Schaeffer House

Evolution of the Punts
Before the evolution of the punts, horseman would place their saddles in a boat and tow their horses across the river with their hands holding the bridle.
Up to the sixties the vehicle ferry between Grafton and South Grafton was worked by hand. It was in the charge of Charlie Matthews at the time. The first steam ferry was put into commission around the year 1862. The first ferry master was the late John Kilton Andrews, who had been working in the pilot boat at Twofold Bay, on the South Coast. His punt was set up from Sydney in pieces, including the machinery and was assembled at the foot of Villiers Street, on the site of the present punt approach and where it was launched when completed. The punt was worked by a chain instead of a wire rope and noise of it could be heard blocks away. The chain sometimes gave away under the strain and on more than one occasion the punt and passengers could be seen drifting down stream.
The next punt put into commission at Grafton was the one with passenger accommodation on the upper decks on either side, which did good service until the present big punt replaced it in 1926. This two decker punt must have been in commission for nearly 40 years. It had accommodation for about 12 cars and during the ten years prior to the arrival of the new punt was totally inadequate to deal with the volume of traffic.
The most recent ferry punt, arrived in Grafton in August 1926, made a big difference being one of the largest built in the state. It was built at Walsh Island at a cost of 22,000 pounds and was brought to the Clarence in tow of the Orestes. The hull itself was 128 feet in length and, with the flaps added, a total length of 171 feet. The beam was 36 feet and the depth 6 feet 6 inches, it carried 24 cars, but even now and then some vehicles had to be left behind.
Before the construction of the Grafton Bridge, these punts caused serious delays on either side of the river, causing serious traffic waiting times.