Barham/Koondrook Lift Span Bridge

Barham/Koondrook Lift Span Bridge

The Barham/Koondrook Bridge is of timber construction, lift span (which still operates) and was constructed in 1904 at a cost of ₤11358. Is located over the Murray River on MR 319 at Barham. The bridge comprises of a lift span & 2 de Burgh composite timber trusses designed by EM de Burgh, MICE Bridge Engineer of the NSW Public Works. An improvement on earlier designs, it was built by Messrs Monash & Anderson of Melbourne.

Consists of a 34 ton lattice steel lift span 58ft 4in (17.8 m) between centres of bearings over piers, supported by four lattice steel towers able to raise the lift span so as to achieve a headroom of 30ft 6inc (9.3m) at normal water level. The clearway between piers is 49ft 4inc (15m).

The pair of piers are wrought iron cylinders founded on a concrete base upon piles driven into stiff clay. They are protected by steel sheet piling. There are two (2) timber beam spans, one at each end of the bridge, linking the trusses to each shore, timber decking throughout and a segregated footway. The towers were raised 6ft 6inc (2 m) in 1925, in the same form of construction, in order to increase the headroom for paddle steamers on flood levels.

It is one of the older lift span bridges on the Murray, until it was motorized in 1997, it was operated by a system of weights worked by 2 men turning wheels. The bridge is of historical significance because of its place in the evolving pattern of bridge design in NSW. The bridge is a reminder of the part it played in the important era of Australian history, the river trade and continues serving the important north/south inland stock route from QLD to Melbourne.

Barham/Koondrook Bridge celebrated its centenary on 10th October 2004, whereby it was identified to be awarded a historic Engineering Marker with a plaque, which was unveiled at the celebrations. The bridge is listed on the State Heritage Register as an item of State Significance.

The Murray River around Barham was settled by graziers, mainly in the 1840s from south of the River in what became Victoria. The really desirable water frontages were quickly taken up while the open plains to the north in NSW remained undeveloped back blocks. EB Greens Barham Station had a 32km frontage to the river.

With similar developments along the Loddon River, which joins with the Murray north of Barham, there was a need for a crossing. However it was late 1884 before a ferry was operating at Barham. Murray Darling River trade was underway at the time of the Victorian gold rushes in the 1850s with the first paddle steamers passing upstream on the twin settlement of Barham (NSW) and Koondrook (VIC). When the river transportation reached its peak in the 1890s some 200 paddle steamers were actively engaged in the trade. In the earlier days, much of the cross river transportation was by punts and ferries but as traffic grew, so did local pressure for their replacement by bridges.

When designing these structures engineers needed to make provisions for a moveable span to allow the passage of river traffic.

By 1902 the volume of stock traffic along justified a bridge. Under Federation, the Commonwealth, Victorian and NSW State Governments agreed that a lift span bridge be built. Around 1900 NSW Public Works Engineer EM de Burgh produced a design which was a combination of metal and wooden construction, cheaper to build and easier to operate & maintain than existing moveable span bridges in the Murray Darling System.

Two bridges of this design were built, one at Cobram-Barooga (1902) and the other at Barham/Koondrook (1904). The Cobram bridge is about to be replaced, but the river spans will be retained. The Barham bridge is still operational and will be completely retained. They are the only lift bridges flanked by de Burgh composite steel & timber trusses.

Contact Details

  • Wakool Shire Council - Engineering Dept
  • Phone: 03 58875007
  • Fax: 03 58875103