Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge over Murray River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge over Murray River

Item details

Name of item: Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge over Murray River
Other name/s: RTA Bridge No. 3184
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Primary address: Cobb Highway, Moama, NSW 2731
Parish: Moama
County: Cadell
Local govt. area: Murray
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Cobb HighwayMoamaMurrayMoamaCadellPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

Echuca-Moama Bridge, completed in 1878, is of State significance. The bridge is a unique type in the Murray River Crossing in the combination and size. The presence of the lift span is important. The form and setting have high aesthetic and social significance.
Date significance updated: 14 May 09
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: William Henry Greene with assistance from George Hay Edwards.
Builder/Maker: Halliday and Walker
Physical description: Eucha-Moama Bridge is a riveted iron girder bridge generally two lanes wide, across the Murray River at Echuca. The main axis of the bridge is north-south.

There are three main spans supported on twin cylindrical cast iron piers. On the northern approach there are 17 approach spans, and on the southern side there are seven. The approach spans have steel girders and beams on twin cast iron piers. The bridge has a concrete deck with AC overlay.

The three main spans comprise two large riveted iron girders, supported on twin circular cast iron cylinders with Tuscan capitals and cross braced with riveted iron work. The three main spans are set to a high level alleviating the need for a lift section.

The approach span on both ends are approximately 14.3m to 14.6m spans and have two riveted iron girders with iron cross beams supporting the round deck. The girders are supported on smaller diagonally braced wrought iron cylinders. The bridge has brickwork abutments at each end.

The main cylinders slope downwards at their north and south ends and are braced above the roadway at three points, one to each span by portal frame arches.

The bridge was erected in 1875. The bridge has a cantilevered pedestrian footway on the western side and in 1989 a rail bridge was erected on the eastern side.

The bridge has a clearance over normal water level of 12.2m.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Original condition assessment: 'The Border Bridge Maintenance Strategy reports that the bridge has been working at well above its prudent structural capacity.' (Last updated: 21/05/1998.)

2007-08 condition update: 'Poor.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Date condition updated:17 Apr 09
Modifications and dates: N/A
Further information: Note: The listing on the State Heritage Register includes the bridge within a broader heritage precinct which also covers an old wharf. The bridge is within the Conservation Area defined in the Local Environmental Plan. The RTA's responsibility within the SHR listing extends only to the bridge.
Current use: Murray Crossing
Former use: Murray Crossing


Historical notes: Echuca and Moama developed around two fords where the Murray banks were sufficiently gentle to allow stock easy access. Two ex-convicts were responsible for creating the townships, James Maiden at Moama, Henry Hopwood at Echuca. Maiden came first and established a punt at Moama about 1845. Hopwood established his punt in 1853 upstream at Echuca (originally called Hopwood’s Ferry). The crossing was important in the 1850s because of the market for meat created by the gold-rushes around Bendigo, but with the decline of that market and the slump in cattle prices, Maiden became bankrupt and Moama declined. Hopwood, with Melbourne encouragement, developed Echuca.

Hopwood sold his punt to John Foord upstream at Wahgunyah in 1857 and built instead a pontoon bridge based on a model at the Victorian Industrial Society Exhibition held in the previous year. Ten wooden sections were floated in the river on iron pontoons, with a device to allow the central sections to be swung aside to let river traffic through. In 1858 Hopwood also built a bridge nearby over the Campaspe River, in alignment with the Murray pontoon, which was replaced by a ferry in the 1860s.

The Victorian railway came to Echuca in 1864 and transformed the town into a major river port, with a famous wharf and substantial urban growth in the 1870s. Despite interstate rivalries, a rail link within New South Wales was increasingly advocated and the Deniliquin - Moama line opened in 1876. A railway bridge across the Murray was initially opposed by Echuca, because the railhead would then effectively move to Deniliquin but the railway company built its own temporary low-level bridge in 1876, with a central drawbridge to allow steamers to pass. In 1878 the NSW government built an iron bridge 50 metres upstream.

The Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge proposal was initially prepared for a low level swing bridge but was subsequently amended to a high level structure of fixed spans totalling 1 452 feet in length, providing a single track railway in a 21 foot roadway. A major flood in the Murray during 1870 was a significant contributor to the decision to build a higher, larger bridge. In 1875 the NSW government agreed to the erection of the bridge according to plans prepared by officers of the Victorian Government and which were generally approved by the officers of the NSW Government.

The general design and specifications for the bridge were prepared by William Henry Greene, resident Engineer in the Railway Department. He was also responsible for supervision of the project. George Hay Edwards, Greene's assistant ,was responsible for the bridge calculations and preparation of the drawings based on instructions from Greene. The construction company Halliday and Walker were the successful tenderers for the bridge contract. They were awarded the contract in November 1875 for an amount of 81 225 pounds. The cost was to be borne equally by the NSW and Victorian governments. This bridge, the present road bridge was completed in 1878. The contract had been due for completion in July 1877. A Royal Commission into the building of the bridge considered the appropriateness and cost of the bridge.

Initially only the Deniliquin-Moama trains were allowed to use the bridge: all road traffic had to pay tolls on the ferry and the coach service to Deniliquin was withdrawn. In March 1879 the new bridge was attacked by angry crowds both from Echuca an Moama opening the locked gates at both ends and walking, riding o driving across. The bridge thereafter was a combined rail and road bridge but passengers and freight trains took priority over vehicles. this created increasing delays for cars in the twentieth century and there was agitation for a separate road bridge. There was much debate from the 1960s onward about the siting of new bridge to preserve the highly significant visual relationship of Echuca Wharf and the 1878 bridge. Finally the Victorian government decided to build not a new road bridge but a new railway bride just upstream from the earlier bridge, with minimum disruption to railroad alignments. the railway bridge opened in 1989 and the 1878 bridge became a two-lane road bridge instead. The decision allowed the retention of the existing road approaches and the preservation of the riverscape at the expense of a bumpy bottleneck for motorists.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Echuca Bridge has historical significance as the first physical link between Victoria and the Riverina, a link that has existed for over 100 years.

Echuca Bridge also has historical significance as an iron bridge a product of Colonial foundries. The riveted plate web girders were used extensively during the 1880’s as railway mania was experienced in NSW.

The bridge is a fine example of nineteenth century bridge construction. It has an outstanding setting.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Echuca Bridge has aesthetic significance due to its outstanding setting and landmark qualities. The bridge provides the gateway to the historic town of Echuca from NSW.

The size and setting makes a landmark address to the entry. It towers above the river and contrasts dramatically with the natural landscape. It relates to and emphasises the historic precinct that is being approached.

Such settings with an immediate association, yet aesthetic impact are rare. The combination with the wharf helps interpret the style, custom and activities of this historic environment.

This brief is an essential element of the landscape and is unique in the Murray region.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Echuca bridge has high sound significance due to its association with the historic township of Echuca. It is crucial to the community’s sense of place as it provides the main address to the approach from NSW.

The bridge is an integral part of the historic environment and represents one of the transport links of the historical commencement activity that founded the township.

Both the Murray Shire’s General Manager, Greg Murdoch and the Campaspe Shire Manager Greg Toll, feel the need for a second crossing.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Echuca Bridge has significance as a rare example of a plate web girder bridge. This form of bridge is a product of British development.

The impetus for its development and use came from the Railway Mania, a period in the 1840’s in England which saw a frontier rate of railway construction.

The Echuca Bridge is a fine example of its type and has extremely high integrity. It is ideally located for interpretation by interested persons in bridge technology.

The bridge has universal significance as a unique member of the Murray Group of bridges.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Murray Crossings Heritage Study1998 Hughes Trueman Reinhold  Yes
Study of Heritage Sig. of pre 1930 RTA Controlled Metal Road Bridges in NSW2001 Cardno MBK  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenA Morris1953Rich River
WrittenB Burton1973Flow Gently Past: the Story of the Corowa District
Management PlanB pearson, R Wedgewood and G Rigden2002Echuca Bridge - The Designer
WrittenC O’Connor1985Spanning Two Centuries: Historic Bridges of Australia
WrittenH Coulson1995Echuca-Moama on the Murray
WrittenJ E P Bushby1980Saltbush Country: History of the Deniliquin District
WrittenS Priestley1965Echuca: a Centenary History

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4301047
File number: 96M1061

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