Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crossing the Hawkesbury by Rail

Railway Bridge across the Hawkesbury River - the "old" and "new" 

Brooklyn, New South Wales, on the the Hawkesbury River is rich in history. From the time of the Aboriginal  people of the Dharug tribe, to the first visit by Captain Phillip on 7 March 1788, to the present day, it has been witness to some significant events.

The most important of course being the construction of the rail and road bridges across the Hawkesbury.  A visit to Brooklyn can reveal their history.

The Railway

The Main Northern Railway Line (single track) from Hornsby to the Hawkesbury River Station at Brooklyn was opened on 7 April 1887. In the days before the first railway bridge was completed,  a branch line along a causeway formed by reclaimed land on the eastern side of Long Island carried passengers to the River Wharf Station. Here they would transfer to the paddle-steamer, General Gordon*, for the journey to Gosford, and later Mullet Creek, to join the trains going north.

On a recent visit, we walked along this causeway, seeing a remnant wall of the platform of the River Walk Station (photo at left)  and the  foundations of the Gordon Wharf (photos below).
  Platform Wall of the River Walk Station

Foundations of the Gordon Wharf
The Union Bridge Company of New York, USA, was awarded the contract to construct the first  railway bridge across the River in 1886. The piers consisted of concrete under the water and then built to the required height by sandstone quarried at the head of Mullet Creek opposite the present quarry at Wondabyne Station. The spans were assembled on Dangar Island and floated onto the piers by punts

The bridge was opened on 1 May 1889 to much fanfare. It was the  last link in the railway network extending from South Australia to Queensland.

It served the line well but when cracks started to appear in the late 1930's, a decision was made to replace the bridge.  Construction of the second  railway bridge  by the NSW Government Railways was commenced in 1939.

The spans were bought to Brooklyn pieces and assembled over three docks that were carved into the rock at the northern end of Long Island. (Photos below). When they were ready, the spans were floated out on large barges at high tide and lowered onto the piers at low tide.

One of the construction docks on Long Island.......
........a close-up view.
The   second railway bridge was opened on  1 July 1946. The old bridge was removed   but its sandstone piers remain  to this day. A great view of the  new bridge and the remains of the old piers is at the head      of this blog.

Of course in  both World Wars the bridges were heavily guarded. In one of the  piers in the Photo below, you can see on close inspection that dynamite holes had been drilled in case the bridge had to be destroyed.


If you are in interested in early Australian History go to our website at:

* Interestingly In its Hotel and Liquor Licenses Database, History Services NSW has details of Packet (Nautical) Licences being granted at various periods to Alexander Sinclair Murray and John Finlayson for the General Gordon Paddle-steamer.

No comments:

Post a Comment