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1879

  • March: First road bridge across the lower Murray completed at Edwards Crossing (now Murray Bridge).
  • First public secondary school in South Australia opens-Advanced School for Girls in Adelaide; also the first public secondary school for girls in Australia.
  • Search for missing Ludwig Leichhardt.

For more information see The Foundation of South Australia: 1852-1883, Key events and issues.

Bridge workers, Murray Bridge
Title : Bridge workers, Murray Bridge Bridge workers, Murray Bridge
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Creator : Sweet, Samuel White, photographer
Source : B 11708
Date of creation : ca. 1875
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 244 x 185 mm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

Construction workers on the first South Australian bridge over the River Murray.


Crossing the River Murray was always difficult. Early explorers such as Hume and Hovell, then Charles Sturt, and various overlanding parties all faced this problem. They generally converted their drays to temporary punts in order to cross. Punts or ferries were used at many points along the river, and still are today. As traffic across the river increased, so did the need for bridges.

In 1864 it was proposed that a bridge be built across the River Murray in South Australia. The decision was driven by growing trade with the South East of the colony and later with Melbourne. The movement of stock to and from the rich grazing lands in the South East was impeded by the river. Animals were lost at considerable cost to their owners. It was decided by a parliamentary Select Committee to build a bridge at Edwards Crossing. The Government Surveyor took depth soundings at various suggested locations including Wellington where a ferry still operates today. Edwards Crossing was selected because the estimated costs for a bridge were cheapest there.

A Warren girder bridge costing 9500 pounds was ordered from England in September 1866 and arrived in early 1868. It went into storage at Dry Creek while debate over the site continued for many more years. Construction of the first South Australian bridge over the River Murray finally began in 1873.

As only the bridge span had been ordered from England, the costs of bridge foundations, supports and approaches had not been accounted for and so the construction budget had blown out before work even began. A year later the engineer was advised that this road bridge would in future have to also carry a railway as part of the inter-colonial network. Despite this and other difficulties, construction was finally completed in March 1879 at a cost of 130 thousand pounds. Bridge traffic had a speed limit of 25 miles per hour (40 kph). From 1886 it carried the railway as well. Road traffic stopped when a train was crossing.

Edwards Crossing became the town of Murray Bridge in 1924. The increasing weight of railway rolling stock meant that a separate rail bridge had to be built.  This was completed in 1925. Road traffic continued to use the original bridge. In 1979 a new road bridge was built five kilometres downstream at Swanport, linking to the South Eastern Freeway through the Adelaide Hills.

Subjects
Coverage year : c.1875
Period : 1852-1883
Place : Murray Bridge
Region : Riverland and Murraylands
Further reading :

Across the mighty Murray: Murray Bridge [Murray Bridge, S. Aust.]: Murray Bridge and District Historical Society, 1988

Jones, H. W. Bridge centenary Adelaide: Highways Dept., 1979

Murray Bridge completed. History of its construction. South Australian Register 24 March 1879 p. 10 col. b

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