Brisbane residents may notice that the Merivale Bridge, carrying the railway line across the Brisbane River, is currently undergoing its first major maintenance. This bridge, with its distinctive steel arch, was opened in 1979, but it was first proposed as early as 1891 when the South Brisbane Station was opened as the terminus of railway lines approaching the city from south of the river. Cross-river rail proposals are still in the news but let’s hope the next project won’t take 80 years to come to fruition.
State Library holds a volume on the construction of the bridge produced by engineers Cameron McNamara as well as a DVD Rail link : the Merivale Bridge produced by Brian Benson. The DVD shows a fascinating glimpse of construction work 1970s style with not a high-vis vest in sight with many workers shirtless in the Brisbane sun and few hard hats in evidence. Nevertheless the project was completed without major injury.
State Library has many fine images of railway bridges under construction dating back to 1878. Here are a selection of photographs of various railway bridges in the process of being built and the completed structures. The Comet River Railway Bridge was constructed of timber in 1878.
The Cairns-Kuranda railway was a major feat of engineering requiring 15 tunnels, 93 curves and dozens of difficult bridges spanning ravines and waterfalls. A number of workers were killed undertaking this difficult and dangerous construction.
The first Indooroopilly Railway Bridge was a victim of the 1893 floods and a second bridge, which would be named the Albert Bridge was soon under construction. This bridge at Indooroopilly was the only rail crossing of the Brisbane River until the Merivale Bridge was completed in 1979.
The Alexandra Bridge crossing the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton is similar in construction to the Albert Bridge, although somewhat smaller, and was finished three years later in 1898. Both bridges were designed by chief railway engineer Henry Charles Stanley.
The Mt Garnet branch line was one of a number of privately built railway lines constructed to serve mines and copper smelters on the Atherton Tablelands. The line was purchased by the Queensland Government in 1915.
The Chowey Bridge, constructed from reinforced concrete over Deep Creek is the main feature of interest on the Mungar Junction to Monto Branch Railway. This bridge was the first of its kind in Australia when it was built in 1905.
This relatively simple bridge crosses the St Lawrence River on the North Coast Line.
The North Coast Line connecting Brisbane to Cairns was completed in 1924. The railway bridge at Daradgee was one of the final links joining the line together.
Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland