Carousels and Merry Go Rounds in Australia


I think that I have liked Carousels and Merry Go Rounds since mum first put me on one on Clacton Pier when I was around four or five years old.

However, as far as I can remember I’ve never ridden on a carousel horse because I always feel a little uncomfortable about climbing onto and balancing on a horse when it is moving because of my fear of falling.

I read that the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round is that a merry-go-round has a variety of animals and vehicles while a true carousel has only horses. Most people seem to use the terms interchangeably though.

There are a few carousels still operating in Australia. I have seen a few of them but not all. I hope to rectify that one day. I love the colourful horses, the artwork on the carousel itself and I especially like the ones that are still steam-driven. Sometimes the operator will also have a steam-powered organ as well. The following photos are mine except where credited otherwise.

Tasmania.

Hobart is the home of “The Gallopers” a carousel built in 1882 in Norfolk, England and brought to Australia in 1990 virtually as a wreck. It was restored in Kingston, Tasmania and I first made its acquaintance on the Hobart waterfront where it was a regular visitor to summer events. It spends most of its time now at the Botanical Gardens but I was able to photograph it on the waterfront recently during the Tall Ships Festival. The portraits on the upper part of the carousel are of famous people including Australian Prime Ministers. I must say that it gave me a bit of a turn to encounter Paul Keating as well as Malcolm Fraser and Robert Menzies to mention a few.

History of The Gallopers
History of The Gallopers
image carousel
The Gallopers on the Hobart Waterfront.
All the horses are named
All the horses are named
organ 1
The Princess Fair Organ
image carousel horses
A close up of the carousel

New South Wales

Sydney has two carousels that I know of. One is at Luna Park on the harbour. I haven’t been to Luna Park for 25 years so I don’t know if the carousel they have now is the same one as they had then as the video I found shows installation of a new carousel and there is nothing about history.

English: Luna Park Sydney
English: Luna Park Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Darling Harbour Carousel

The other one is at Darling Harbour and I saw and rode on it last year when my sister and I were on holiday. As we are too old and fat to climb on to carousel horses we got into a car which was much more convenient for taking pictures. We laughed when we heard the music being played. The Wiggles “Big Red Car” and my sister commented that it was a good thing that her movie camera was not recording sound. Well the laugh was on us. It was!

image darling harbour carousel
The Carousel at Darling Harbour.
Darling carousel-05
On board the carousel

Darling carousel-01

This carousel is another English built one. The steam engine was built in 1892 and the horses date back to around 1885. They were carved by the company of G & J Lines and Co. of London. I think this is the same company that went on to become Lines Bros. the famous toy making company.

The carousel came to Australia in 1894 and travelled around to country agricultural shows all over New South Wales. It was at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was a permanent part of the fun fair at Manly and  made its home at The Rocks for a while. Now it is owned by the NSW Government. It has been at Darling Harbour since 1988.

South Australia

Semaphore is the home of another historic carousel which I saw many times during the time I lived in South Australia.  This carousel is believed to be the largest operating carousel in Australia with 40 horses. Apparently 36 is the more usual number. The carousel recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Semaphore Carousel
Semaphore Carousel (Photo credit: HeatherW)

Victoria

Melbourne has a carousel at Luna Park which has just celebrated its centenary. It has spent 90 of its 100 years at Luna Park, before that it was in Sydney. The carousel is an American made one from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen this carousel.

Luna Park, Melbourne
Luna Park, Melbourne (Photo credit: mattcashmore)

An hour away from Melbourne Geelong also has a carousel on the waterfront. This is one I still have to visit.

Carousel
Carousel (Photo credit: mrpbps)

Western Australia

Perth Zoo is the home of another vintage carousel. It has been there since 1947 and originally had 20 horses and 2 boats but in 1968 the boats were removed and replaced by 4 more horses. This carousel is the only known working one in Western Australia and another one on my list to visit.

Queensland

The only carousel I have read about in Queensland is one known as The Grand Carousel which  has been a permanent feature of the Brisbane Exhibition or “Ekka” as they say up there.

Brisbane Ekka 2009
Brisbane Ekka 2009 (Photo credit: Wenxiong Zhang)

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra has a carousel too and I’m rather cross that we ran out of time to see it when we were there a few years ago. I will try to get back there one day as there are a lot of other things I want to see in Canberra. This one has both horses and elephants so technically it is a merry go round. It was installed on the St Kilda esplanade near Melbourne in 1914 and has been in Petrie Plaza, Canberra since 1974.  It was designed and built in Victoria but the animals were imported from Germany and the poles came from Scotland.

Carousel horse, Canberra. photo ABC News. Louise Wills
Carousel horse, Canberra. photo ABC News. Louise Wills

Links:

These are some of the sites I found information on

http://carousels.org/psp/SydneyDarlingHarbour/

http://carousels.org/australian.html#

http://www.equusart.com/PTC30_100.htm

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/messenger/west-beaches/semaphore8217s-historic-carousel-faces-being-sold-overseas-for-parts-unless-its-operators-can-raise-125000/story-fni9llx9-1226700971431

http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/visit/carousel/

http://www.fairgroundfollies.com/index.html

http://www.visitcanberra.com.au/Things-to-do-and-see/Landmarks-and-architecture/Historic/Business-Details-Page.aspx?ID=9002763&Title=Merry-Go-Roundhttp://

http://www.library.act.gov.au/find/history/frequentlyaskedquestions/Place_Stories/carousel

http://www.ljmaywatchwords.com/107744583

Author: Taswegian1957

Born in England in 1957 my family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. David passed away in 2015 and I'm here on my own now but I have Cindy the dog and Polly the cat to keep me company. I currently co-write two Wordpress blogs with my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania.

12 thoughts on “Carousels and Merry Go Rounds in Australia”

  1. Hi, Henry Robert Carter had a steam riding gallery that travelled (probably to country shows). All of his children were born in various towns in Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland between 1899 and 1906 (Brisbane, Ballina, Beaudesert). He died in Ballina – see Trove paste below – in 1907 so the children were between 1 and 8 years old.
    His youngest daughter was my mother-in-law and I knew the surviving children (all deceased now of HR and his wife Elizabeth Jane nee Adams).
    The grandchildren of that line are mostly still alive including my husband, his siblings and a large line of 1st cousins who in their 70-80’s so I am trying to find some more background information for them as HR Carter died in 1907 and his wife in 1908 so my mother-in-law and her siblings were raised by various relatives and they had no family background other than their parents had a “travelling sideshow”. If you find anything relevant, it would be very warmly welcomed. See post from the Grafton Examiner below. Thank you for your blog – the family will be interested.

    Cheers
    Fran

    Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915) Saturday 2 March 1907
    A sad death took place at Nurse Fitz- henry’s private hospital in Ballina on Sunday, when Mr. H. P. Carter, proprietor of
    the steam riding gallery, passed away. The deceased, who was a native of Wynnum, (Q.), 34 years of age, leaves a wife and
    young family in Ballina. (note- Should be H R Carter)
    http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/61432940

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fran, it looks like we are connected! My paternal grandmother Olive Apelt nee Carter was one of the children orphaned after their father Harold died, and then their mother too, not long afterwards. I have recently become interested in finding out more. I would love to hear more about which of Olive’s siblings you are connected to.
      Best, Rachel Apelt

      Like

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