Building bridges – History in Pictures

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.

Construction of the Merivale Railway Bridge, Brisbane, 1976, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 191073

Construction of the approach viaduct of the Merivale Railway Bridge, 1976

Construction of the Merivale Railway Bridge, Brisbane, 1979, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: clp00063

Lifting the central tie sections into place using hydraulic jacks. Merivale Bridge, 1979

View looking towards Milton during the flood, 2011, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 28182-0001-0015

Four Brisbane bridges withstand the 2011 flood. Kurilpa Bridge (2009), William Jolly Bridge (1932), Merivale Bridge (1979) and the Go Between Bridge (2010)

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.

Comet railway bridge under construction, ca. 1878, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 191875

Comet railway bridge under construction, ca. 1878

Comet River Railway Bridge on the Central Line, Queensland, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 14386

Comet River Railway Bridge on the Central Line, Queensland

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.

Stoney Creek Falls bridge, 1890, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 161477

Constructing the railway bridge at the spectacular Stoney Creek Falls on the Cairns Railway

 

Testing the Stony Creek Bridge, Cairns District, 1890, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 69638

Testing the Stony Creek Bridge, Cairns District, 1890

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.

Construction of the second Indooroopilly Railway Bridge, Brisbane, May 1895, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 172527

Construction of the second Indooroopilly Railway Bridge, Brisbane, May 1895

Albert Railway Bridge at Indooroopilly, Brisbane, ca. 1911, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 194777

Albert Railway Bridge at Indooroopilly, Brisbane, ca. 1911

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.

Construction of the Alexandra Railway Bridge at Rockhampton, 1898

Construction of the Alexandra Railway Bridge at Rockhampton, 1898

Alexandra Railway Bridge, Rockhampton, 1899

Alexandra Railway Bridge, Rockhampton, 1899

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.

Railway Bridge over the Return Creek at Mt Garnet, ca. 1901, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 11287

Construction of a Railway Bridge over the Return Creek at Mt Garnet, ca. 1901

Train on the Return Creek Railway Bridge, ca. 1904, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 13134

Train on the Return Creek Railway Bridge, ca. 1904

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.

Scaffolding erected during the construction of the Deep Creek railway bridge, Gayndah district, 1905, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: API-073-0001-0005

Scaffolding erected during the construction of the Deep Creek railway bridge, Gayndah district, 1905

Steam train passes over the completed Deep Creek railway bridge, Gayndah district, 1905, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: API-073-0001-0008

Steam train passes over the completed Deep Creek railway bridge, Gayndah district, 1905

This relatively simple bridge crosses the St Lawrence River on the North Coast Line.

St. Lawrence railway bridge under construction, 1921, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg:152855

St. Lawrence railway bridge under construction, 1921

St. Lawrence railway bridge, 1921, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 37466

St. Lawrence railway bridge, 1921

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.

Daradgee Railway Bridge, 1924, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 32520

Daradgee Railway Bridge, 1924. Final span being floated into place.

Official opening of the Daradgee Bridge over the Johnston River for the railway between Townsville and Cairns, 1924, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 39462

Official opening of the Daradgee Bridge over the Johnston River for the railway between Townsville and Cairns, 1924

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland