Opening of the Wagga Wagga Traffic Bridge, 1895

Hampden Bridge, Wagga Wagga, NSW, 1895

First published in the Wagga Wagga Express 12 November 1895

OPENING OF THE NEW WAGGA TRAFFIC BRIDGE.

CHRISTENED “THE HAMPDEN.”

AN IMPROVED STRUCTURE.

For many years the old Wagga bridge, constructed of timber, offered the only satisfactory and expeditious means of crossing the river Murrumbidgee. Punts were in use at a few places, yet the labour of crossing by these means was considerable under the most favourable conditions, and during times of flood traffic had to be suspended. The private company which built the old bridge, which is of wood, was formed in 1860, and on 27th October, 1862, this structure was opened for traffic. It has stood in constant use since that date, a period of 33 years, and has now been replaced by one of modern construction, with advanced engineering improvements, the decking being several feet above the highest recorded flood in the Murrumbidgee. The new bridge is of imposing appearance, and has the advantage of a roadway of a width which will allow of exceedingly heavy traffic from both sides passing at any point, and consequently a greater immunity from accident through collision of vehicles. At times the crossing of bullock teams drawing heavy waggons has been a source of great danger to those travelling in light vehicles, and many accidents have accordingly resulted. The roadway of the new bridge is the widest of the kind in New South Wales, and this feature will be fully appreciated by those who are compelled to use it as a means of crossing. In addition there is also a safe path for foot passengers fully protected by railings. It is described in the official records as a very fine structure, creditable alike to the Department of Public Works, to the contractor who carried out the work. It is the largest timber structure, carried by iron cylindrical piers, yet erected in New South Wales, and, as far as can be ascertained, in the colonies. The bridge differs from the usual American type of Howe truss in the omission of all counter braces where the analysis shows them not to be required. In America these members are introduced to give laternal stiffness to the main pine braces. In the Wagga Bridge the great strength of the iron bark used renders this unnecessary. The great height above the summer level of the river, and the nature of the piers, will render, unnecessary the work of watching the structure during periods of flood, and removing by means of heavy iron hooks attached to ropes any timbers, which in former times used to collect against the sharp piers of the old bridge.

The opening of such a structure free to the public must, therefore, become an event in the annals of any district, and yesterday must rank as one of the ‘red letter’ days of Wagga. By reason of Wednesday (tomorrow) having been proclaimed a public holiday in the Wagga district, and the opening of the bridge having subsequent to the notification been fixed for November 11th, the latter event was robbed of some of the display usually noticeable on such occasions. Those comprising the Fire Brigade, Friendly Societies, and kindred bodies in the town of Wagga were not represented by reason of the business places in the town not being closed. The Town Band and Wagga Infantry, besides hundreds of school children, and numerous pedestrians, however, made up a large gathering, which was representative of the town and district. Had the date of opening been either earlier or later, the procession would have been much more imposing, by reason of the certainty of the day being proclaimed a public holiday. However, the proceedings passed off without hitch or accident, and the opening of the bridge may be said to have passed off with the general rejoicing upon such an occasion.

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Note: The bridge carried the Olympic Highway, formerly the Olympic Way, between 1963 until the bridge’s closure to highway traffic in October 1995, replaced by the Wiradjuri Bridge. The Hampden Bridge was subsequently converted to local traffic use, then pedestrian use only, and finally demolished in 2014.

[Opening of the New Wagga Traffic Bridge (1895, November 12). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 – 1917), p. 2.]

Provenance: “New South Wales: the mother colony of the Australias“. Frank Hutchinson, Edited by F. Hutchinson.
Author: Frank Hutchinson
Date of Publication: 1896
Publisher: C. Potter
Place of Publishing: Sydney
Copyright status: Out of copyright
Courtesy: The British Library

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