Gundagai’s historic bridge finally surrenders to the water above

Edwina Mason 1 October 2021 53
Prince Alfred Bridge

The timber viaduct that forms part of Gundagai’s historic Prince Alfred Bridge will be demolished later this year. Photo: Supplied.

The passing of time has hit at the heart of the Gundagai community which in coming months will see their magnificent town centrepiece – Prince Alfred Bridge timber viaduct – demolished.

It was with an air of resignation that Cootamundra-Gundagai Mayor Abb McAllister confirmed the news the hand-hewn timber structure – once part of the longest regional bridge in NSW – had seen better days.

“Unfortunately the majority of people in the town realise the timber section of the bridge has run its race,” he said.

“It’s just falling down in slabs now – not just a bit off the side – the timber is falling down between spans and it’s become quite dangerous.”

Once a part of any motorist’s adventure north or south along the Hume Highway – the 152-year-old bridge is embedded in the minds of many who clattered along its 922 metres over the town’s floodplain, or common, which was not an ideal place to be when the Murrumbidgee River flooded.

Gundagai's historic bridge

In its heyday, the journey over the Prince Alfred Bridge was viewed as a highlight of the journey down the Hume Highway. Photo: Supplied.

It may have survived floods and flows of traffic but once deposed in 1977 in favour of the new concrete Sheahan Bridge – constructed over the Murrumbidgee as part of a Hume Highway realignment around Gundagai – Prince Alfred Bridge enjoyed its final years of retirement providing local passage to the community.

The southern end of the bridge – the first iron truss bridge in Australia – remains in service today, while the 715-metre timber road viaduct to the north has been closed to traffic since 1984.

The death knell sounded in May this year when two spans of the wooden viaduct over Oibell Drive and Landon Street were demolished due to safety concerns.


READ ALSO: Gundagai’s heritage bridge survives troubled waters only to be toppled by a truck


By August, the heavy rain in the area over winter – increasing the weight of bridge timber due to moisture retention – was considered the culprit when the southern end of the bridge fell.

With further risk of other sections of the bridge also failing, including the potential for a significant collapse if there is a flood across the floodplain, fencing has already been erected in order to protect the community.

Gundagai

Economically unviable to restore or rebuild, the timber viaduct at Gundagai will now be demolished. Photo: Supplied.

“I think people understand it’s unsalvageable,” Abb said.

He said he can recall meetings where the community campaigned for it to be retained and preserved back in the eighties.

“I think it was good we were able to get another 40 years out of it,” he said.

“It’s a great landmark but unfortunately it’s not like the dog (Dog on the Tuckerbox) – that can be there forever,” he said.

“It’s just one of these things we all go through at the end of the day – age gets us.”

“It’s like losing a member of the family but I think everyone has accepted it’s time and we’re now in the process of trying to work out ways to honour it.”

Abb can recall when he worked for the local council he was one of the honoured few to traverse the timber sealing tar atop a rubber-tyred roller.

“It was the last time we sealed0 it, I think in the mid-1970s,” he said.

The timber viaduct will remain part of Gundagai’s future with parts of the demolished structure to be restored for use in the town.

“We’re looking at ways to memorialise the bridge, with steel spans on either side of the viaduct with viewing platforms, and possibly constructing a park beneath southern end,” he said.

He says this will work well with the Cootamundra-Gundagai Council this week approving an application for $1.055 million in funding to help finance the Old Gundagai Plan – a blueprint embracing the town’s heritage and history through walking tracks, signage and a floating pontoon.

Historic bridges

The two historic bridges of Gundagai spanned the Murrumbidgee floodplain to allow safe passage for locals and travellers. Photo: Supplied.

He’s encouraging the community to have their say through a survey into how they would like to see the timber road viaduct celebrated now and for future generations.

Available between 24 September and 31 October 2021, people can access the survey by clicking on this link.

Meanwhile, the fate of the town’s 819.4-metre state heritage-listed rail bridge still hangs in the balance.

Built in 1902, the Gundagai Howe timber rail bridge sits parallel to the road bridge and serviced the Tumut area for 82 years.

No longer operational, the future plans for the rail viaduct are uncertain amid local concerns it too will be demolished.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.


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53 Responses to Gundagai’s historic bridge finally surrenders to the water above
Alan Keogh Alan Keogh 8:14 pm 09 Oct 21

This is very sad to see

Michael Dolan Michael Dolan 1:58 pm 09 Oct 21

This where you were laying down flowers this morning mate? Timothy Ingold

    Timothy Ingold Timothy Ingold 2:26 pm 09 Oct 21

    Michael Dolan yeah it’s been a grim day mate. Big loss of history there 😔

Margaret Walker Margaret Walker 1:21 pm 08 Oct 21

So many years of crossing that bridge to a clacketty, clack sou nd. I feel a bit sad now.

Luke Storta Luke Storta 12:27 pm 08 Oct 21

Might have to change the ceremony spot Paul Toole Melissa Rea

Henni Wupper Henni Wupper 11:39 am 08 Oct 21

Geordie Britt did you do that

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:35 am 08 Oct 21

I remember as a child being a passenger driving over that. I always knew when we reached the bridge, as the car would go up and down, and the clonkity-clonk noise. I associated that with travel and used to look forward to it, as then I knew where I was, even in the dark. The old bridge of childhood memories will be badly missed 😢.

Paul Melling Paul Melling 9:47 am 08 Oct 21

Free firewood. Well seasoned.

Nigel Henigan Nigel Henigan 6:01 am 08 Oct 21

Awesome guy fawks night

Ben Moore Ben Moore 4:30 am 08 Oct 21

Gundagai has an amazing history and some very dedicated individuals telling its storey through some excellent museums, every confidence the town will find a fitting way to memorialise the bridge.

Fletcher Rooney Fletcher Rooney 10:29 pm 07 Oct 21

Good. Eye sore

Carol Davies Carol Davies 3:33 pm 07 Oct 21

Oh No, So sad. What a shame it couldn't have been saved

Mike Chesworth Mike Chesworth 12:35 pm 07 Oct 21

Peter Chesworth I’m pretty sure we went over this in the school bus when we couldn’t get home on the train from Melbourne? Can’t remember what year that was?

    Mike Chesworth Mike Chesworth 4:00 pm 07 Oct 21

    Peter Chesworth I remember going over the bridge, you’d been asleep, looked outside and said “Snow!” ….it was sunrise on the flooded river.

Junia James Junia James 12:16 pm 07 Oct 21

I remember driving over it many times. Sad to see the ruin.

Karl Craig Karl Craig 12:11 pm 07 Oct 21

Do nothing for 30 years then say it's sad it's beyond repair 🤔

Rodney van Lieshout Rodney van Lieshout 12:10 pm 07 Oct 21

There is one small section at the southern end still in use and part of the internal road into Gundagai. Travelled on the viaduct many a time when dad took the family to Sydney

Barbara Bullen Barbara Bullen 9:58 am 07 Oct 21

Drove across it in November 1972 and the flats were covered in Pattersons Curse, so pretty but none remain today.

Mark Will Mark Will 8:53 am 07 Oct 21

Are we certain a mining company didn't come along and blow it up... imagine how annoyed people would be if that happened to something really old!

Valerie Foster Valerie Foster 8:36 am 07 Oct 21

Firewood now.

Jack Ashurst Jack Ashurst 12:44 am 07 Oct 21

fingers crossed its the KFC there next Jackson Zac Matt

    Jack Ashurst Jack Ashurst 12:44 am 07 Oct 21

    but not my sweet oliver's 🥺

    Jackson Kurz Jackson Kurz 10:17 am 07 Oct 21

    Oliver’s will pay the ultimate price whilst KFC prospers 😈

Heather Parry Heather Parry 11:48 pm 06 Oct 21

Ruth Kingwill - no doubt you know this already about the bridge at Gundagai... 😁

    Ruth Kingwill Ruth Kingwill 6:35 am 07 Oct 21

    Heather Parry ... all very sad but was always going to happen.

    Heather Parry Heather Parry 9:39 am 07 Oct 21

    Ruth Kingwill yes - too hard (expensive) to preserve a wooden bridge & for what purpose - too look at & not use?

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