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Friday, 3 February 2017

Bridge over the Merri River, Hopkins Basin - Port Fairy Railway Line.

This bridge crosses the Merri River near Dennington, an outer western suburb of Warrnambool, on the former Port Fairy line. The bridge would have been constructed in approximately 1890 and the line closed finally in 1977. The rail was retained and still exists from Warrnambool to the Fonterra factory at Dennington, the remainder being lifted.

At the point where the line crosses the Merri River, a section known as the Hopkins Basin, the river is approximately 45 metres wide. The bridge itself is approx. 175 metres long, the number of openings being unknown as a 50 metre section of bridge has been removed over the river itself.

I have to say I was disappointed by this bridge, it looked large and impressive in all the glimpses I got of it, both in the flesh and via Google Earth, but on arriving there it was not all that special. Having been nobbled by the removal of a large section, and the remaining part was heavily fenced off, making any decent exploration hazardous, and the vegetation surrounding it guaranteed to harbour snakes, I was unimpressed.

A lovely man in the house where the line crosses Farnham Road North, has been mowing the ROW for ages, and so it is perfectly possible to drive a car down it to reach the bridge, although his wife did warn me about tiger snakes in the long vegetation. Georgia the Gunzel Spaniel was keen to explore, but I thought it unwise, and instead I sent her off to KFC to get us both lunch. She likes chickens....

So I must apologise for the shortage of still shots, however I hope the aerial footage gives a better idea of what the bridge now looks like. 

Wide shot of the bridge taken from the north west quadrant. Note the very secure and substantial fence, making trespass, and therefore exploration, very difficult.

A closer view, note the lush undergrowth, very long, wet, swampy and full of snakes. The Fonterra dairy factory can be seen in the background on the eastern side of the river.

And the video of the bridge. As always, it is best viewed full screen and in the highest resolution you can get to work. It has been uploaded in 4K.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Bridge over Curdies River north of Timboon - Timboon Railway Line

The Timboon Railway Line branched off the Warrnambool or Port Fairy Line a short distance west of Camperdown. It was roughly 36 kilometres in length, opening in 1892 and closing relatively recently in 1986. 

The Curdies River Bridge is just 4.6 Kilometres north of the line terminus at Timboon. It crosses both the Curdies River and Limeworks Road, the lime works still being in use and actively mined. There was a siding off the line to serve the lime works originally, but the output is shifted by road trucks these days, passing under the bridge quite frequently.

I love this bridge, it looks good, and sits beautifully in the landscape, something that is best appreciated from the air, hence my use of the drone to get a rather magic aerial perspective. And it is hard to take a bad photograph of the bridge, as it manages to look great from almost any angle.

The bridge is 185 metres long, with 30 openings, and is in very good condition considering its age. It now carries the Camperdown -Timboon Rail Trail across the valley, and has been sympathetically restored by adding a simple transverse timber deck and safety railings. The spans are a uniform 20 foot, with a rare and very unusual arrangement where 4 pile piers are interleaved with two pile piers with stay piles on the outside. This makes the bridge even more unique and attractive.

Shot from the northern end of the bridge, looking towards Timboon.

The complimentary view, from the south end looking north. 

Two views from the north-east quadrant.

View from the east side, showing Limeworks Road passing under the bridge.

View from the south bank of the river looking towards Timboon.

Three views of the river crossing. There is a small concreted ford at this location, part of which is seen in the last photo. The Curdies River is quite prone to flooding, given the massive rainfall in this part of the Otways, so clearing debris away from the bridge piles is a constant task.

And here is the video clip of the bridge, in glorious 4K if you have that capability.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Bridge over tributary of the Barwon River West Branch at Forrest - Birregurra To Forrest Railway

Just one kilometre north of the line terminus at Forrest, this small bridge spans a tributary of the Barwon River West Branch. The bridge has 7 openings, and is 45 Metres long. Unlike it's nearby companion, it has not been repaired, and the rail trail bypasses it. 

The reason for not repairing it is not known, considering the smaller bridge has been repaired, but the condition may be a clue, it would be relatively expensive to repair the damage and put a new deck and railings on it.

Bridge over the Barwon River West Branch at Forrest - Birregurra To Forrest Railway

Now this bridge is a bit of an embarrassment. With all my preparation for the visit to the area, I did not know that it existed. I actually had to sail straight past it in the car before I saw it. And to add to the embarrassment, there was yet another one 250 Metres further down the road. 

I cannot see how I missed them, although I suspect I was looking at a different route for the railway, but there they are. This one is quite small, only 3 openings, and has been 'sanitised' for use on the rail trail. But the work is not too destructive, as it looks to only involve new decking and rails.

Bridges over the Barwon River West Branch at Barwon Downs - Birregurra To Forrest Railway

Finally managing to get away and explore bridges again, Georgia the Gunzel Spaniel and I set out on January 26, Australia Day, heading for Victoria's South West. The plan was to spend two days shooting the bridges at Barwon Downs, then Timboon and finally Warrnambool.

We were graciously being accommodated by friends on their magnificent property at Wongarra, and that provided a welcome chance to enjoy the beauty of their property, the coast and their generous hospitality.

The target bridges are on private property at Barwon Downs, on the former Birregurra to Forrest Railway. The line opened in June of 1891 to provide access to the timber in the Otways and also to service the farming communities in the area. The line closed in 1957 and the rail was lifted. As it has lain disused for the better part of 60 years, much of the infrastructure is long gone.

But, as usual, the well built timber bridges are still in place, although somewhat worse for being abandoned.

Upon arriving at Barwon Downs about 9:00 AM, the first task was to identify which property the bridges were on and try to obtain permission from the property owner to cross their land to get to the bridges. Typically, this was not easy as it turned out, the larger bridge sits neatly in the corner of three properties. I managed to get permission of one landowner on Wickams Lane, the second owner referred me to the third and the third was not at home.

In the end, it worked out that the best, and safest route to the bridges, was to park near where the railway used to pass under Wickhams Lane, and walk south west down the old ROW to the bridges. The area looked ripe for Joe Blakes, so Georgia was left to look after parking the car. She managed to find a good place with a view of chickens. She likes chickens...

The first bridge you come to is the larger of the two, over a swampy section of the Barwon River West Branch. It consists of 11 openings, most of 15 feet. It is in quite good condition really, it would only require a new deck and rails in order to carry pedestrian and cycle traffic over it. The main structure is quite solid.

The first photo sets the place of the bridge in the landscape, taken looking south east, with the river at the right end.

The North end of the bridge, looking towards the river.

Looking north from the south end of the bridge, towards the cutting.

The second bridge is quite a lot shorter, being only 5 openings, but it spans the Barwon River West Branch proper. It is surprisingly low, and I would imagine would catch a lot of loose timber debris when the river floods. It is also not in as good condition as the larger bridge, two of its piers having sunk into the river bottom substantially.

This shot clearly shows the river and how close it is to the bottom of the bridge deck.

There is a move to extend the Forrest - Birregurra Rail Trail over this section, but it is being strongly opposed by landowners in the area.

Walking back to the car, I travelled north east up the ROW, which just north of the bridges, passes into a cutting where Wickams Lane crossed the line, with a timber road-over-rail bridge. The site of the bridge has been filled in, but some of the remains of the original road bridge can be seen stacked on the ROW at the entrance to the cutting.

Looking north up the cutting, the old road bridge timbers in a pile in the foreground.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Bridges near Thomson on the Moe Walhalla Railway

Finally, back bothering bridges again after a lengthy period of trying to tend to business. I had developed a very large backorder and at the same time, there were lots of chores to do around the farm. But it is mostly under control now, so off I went.

Today I travelled to Thomson on the Moe to Walhalla Railway, to look at two bridges just on the south side of Thomson. These bridges were timber piers with iron spans, one bridge on a curve with 7 openings and a straighter bridge of 5 openings, closest to Thomson. When I refer to the number of openings, these are the iron spans only. The Walhalla Goldfields Railway refers to these bridges as bridges 9 and 10, although the logic in this is puzzling, as normally bridges are numbered from the start of the line, while these bridges appear to ignore that convention.

Darren Hodges had photographed these two bridges back in the 1990s when the bush was not as thick as it now is, and I wanted to see how they fared today. This is a map of the bridges:

The Thomson Station precinct is shown in the green shaded area, with the two bridges highlighted in red and blue. They are only a very short walk from the station. For safety reasons, a track has been built around the bridge sites, and upon examining the area, I could not find any trace of the 5 opening bridge, marked in red, Bridge 9. It is possible that someone more adventurous could have bashed their way through the undergrowth, but I don't take chances like that these days. I could see down from the foot track to some extent, but could not see the bridge at all.

The larger 7 opening bridge, bridge 10 is still intact, but almost impossible to get good photos of due to dense undergrowth. 

Georgia the Gunzel Spaniel is again out and about with me, having just been down the hill and back again, more capable than I. One thing I noticed is that the nearest iron span has had the cross braces cut by gas torch, this is why the left beam, near Georgia, has dropped. Apparently this was done back in the 70s or 80s in order to stop trail bike or 4WD people from driving across the bridges.

The next two shots show what may be the iron spans from the apparently missing 5 opening bridge. They look very much like the ones on the 7 opening bridge, and co-incidentally, there are 5 of them stacked up in the WGR yard at Thomson. According to the WGR web site, bridge 9 has been removed, so it is a fair bet that these are the iron spans from that bridge, safely stored for the future.

Finally, a set of seven photos taken by Darren Hodges back in the 1990s when the bush was not as dense. 

Photo by Darren Hodges

Photo by Darren Hodges

Photo by Darren Hodges

Photo by Darren Hodges

Photo by Darren Hodges

Photo by Darren Hodges
I think the above photo shows the shorter 5 opening bridge, #9, the one I could not locate.

Photo by Darren Hodges

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Nothing New on Here?

Unfortunately I have been very busy with the Hollywood Foundry business for some months now. The development of an eye cataract made it very difficult to work and I got well behind on orders. I have since had the cataract removed, but there are still a lot of orders waiting to be assembled. One side effect of having the cataract removed is that it was colouring my vision with a strong yellow tint, and I now find all my meticulous colour grading is completely wrong.

When Spring comes and I can get the orders under control, I hope to get out and cover some more bridges - plenty more to go!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Bridges over Murray River Billabongs - Robinvale To Lette Railway

You could easily be forgiven for wondering what I am referring to here, as few people were aware that a railway was constructed from Robinvale to Lette in New South Wales. And strictly speaking, there was not one. It was planned in 1922, but was only completed as far as Koorakee. 

Work started in 1926 and it reached Koorakee in 1930. This was celebrated by a special train. Work continued towards Lette, but was never completed. The line was never officially opened and was operated by the Railway Construction Branch until construction was officially abandoned on 12 February 1943. The rail-road bridge was replaced in 2006 by a new road bridge.

Ken Littlefair was involved in the work on the new bridges and roadway of the Murray Valley Highway on the Euston (NSW) side of the line and took the following photos which he has kindly made available.

From available information, there were only two bridges on the line, the large combined road and rail lift bridge over the Murray River itself and these ones over a billabong. 

The bridge over the Murray was demolished in 2006 when the new bridge was built, but the lift span section has been preserved in a local park at the northern end of the Robinvale rail yard, on the corner of the Murray Valley Highway and Moore Street.

Photo by Ken Littlefair

Photo by Ken Littlefair

Photo by Ken Littlefair

Photo by Ken Littlefair

Photo by Ken Littlefair

Friday, 11 March 2016

Bridge over Merran Creek near Stony Crossing - Murrabit to Stony Crossing Line.

This was the last crossing of Merran Creek by the railway, just short of the terminus at Stony Crossing. 

This photo was taken by Des Jowett while flying along the line. Actually pretty obvious when you see the aircraft wing in the shot.

Photo by Des Jowett

Des Writes: This B&W shot was taken when a mate & I drove there when the line was intact and we planned to try and follow the line along dirt tracks. Down came the rain and that put paid to our plans as my Austin Lancer would have gone down in the mud.  The line was dismantled in 1961 back to Murrabit, and Murrabit to Kerang closed in 1964 when the  Barr Ck bridge collapsed under a small train - luckily the J and it's train remained on the track but the van was on the saggy portion.

The photo was taken on September 9, 1958.

Photo by Des Jowett

Bridge 1 over Larrys Creek - Murrabit to Stony Crossing Line.

This bridge is shown in the VR grades book as being over Nerran Creek, which these days is named Merran Creek, however looking at the maps, the section of creek is now isolated and called Larry's Creek. 

This is another photo by Des Jowett, taken from a light aircraft while flying along the route of the line. 

Photo by Des Jowett