Meadowbank (Parramatta River) Underbridge | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

About us

Meadowbank (Parramatta River) Underbridge

Item details

Name of item: Meadowbank (Parramatta River) Underbridge
Other name/s: John Whitton Bridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Primary address: Railway location, Main North Line 17.500km Bowden Street, Meadowbank, NSW 2114
Local govt. area: Ryde


The curtilage includes the footprint of the underbridge and associated abutments.North: Rear of abutment to land embankment;South: Rear of abutment to land embankment;East: Line along edge of steel bridge;West: Line along edge of concrete piers.Note: this bridge excludes the adjacent pedestrian bridge (no longer in rail ownership).
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Railway location, Main North Line 17.500km Bowden StreetMeadowbankRyde  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Parramatta River Underbridge (John Whitton Bridge) is of local significance as it is the first bridge on the New South Wales rail network constructed using welded steel box girders, and remains a rare example of this construction type. The bridge commemorates John Whitton, the "Father of NSW Railways". Its location adjacent to the original 1886 lattice girder bridge (Meadowbank Bridge) gives the bridge greater aesthetic quality as a landmark structure and demonstrates the evolution in bridge design over the intervening period.

The adjacent former rail bridge is no longer owned by RailCorp and is listed on the State Heritage Register.
Date significance updated: 12 Mar 10
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: Engineering staff, Way and Works Branch, NSWGR
Builder/Maker: Fabrication, Per Way Workshops, Chullora; Construction, Way and Works Branch.
Construction years: 1952-1980
Physical description: Two parallel, five span, single track, steel box girders with 47.38m spans between common concrete piers and abutments. A composite concrete slab spans between girders to support each track. The original 1886 iron lattice bridge is adjacent.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The bridge is in fair condition with the following defects: minor corrosion at connections
Date condition updated:20 Oct 09
Current use: Carries the double track Main North Railway over the Parramatta River
Former use: Nil


Historical notes: The first section of the Main North Line was built from the port of Newcastle to Victoria Street, Maitland in 1857 and extended to Singleton in 1863, Muswellbrook and Murrurundi in 1872, Werris Creek and west Tamworth in 1878, Armidale in 1883 and Wallangarra, Queensland in 1888. The Sydney to Newcastle section was started significantly later due to the difficult topography, including the need to cross the Hawkesbury River. The line was opened to Hornsby in 1886 and Hawkesbury River station at Brooklyn in 1887. The line also opened from Newcastle to Gosford in 1887. The Hawkesbury River bridge and the line to Gosford were opened in 1889.

The original bridge across the Parramatta River was the Meadowbank Bridge, a lattice girder bridge designed by John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Railways from 1856 - 1890. The bridge was constructed in 1886 as part of the original infrastructure for the Main North Line.

Electric arc welding was developed overseas in the 1920s, and first used in NSW for the strengthening of the Hawkesbury River Bridge, becoming an established method for the repair and strengthening of existing steel bridges. Welded steel was used for the construction of buildings, power stations and light structural framework, but was slow in being adopted for rail use due to lingering fears of the dynamic loading of rail use producing fatigue failure in bridges.

The railway limitations of the old Meadowbank Bridge had been recognised prior to World War II so plans were drawn up for its replacement as part of the quadruplication of the Main North Line. The concrete piers were completed on the eve of the 1952 recession and work was suspended for 20 years. By 1972 when a new bridge was truly a necessity, the new technology of lightweight steel, welded box girders offered a much cheaper and more elegant solution than the heavy, visually dominant trusses. It was now possible to accommodate quadruplication of the line on the existing concrete piers, which were widened by a concrete cap to suit 4 tracks, but only two single track, steel box girder bridges were built and came into service in 1980. These make up the John Whitton Bridge. The old bridge remains the Meadowbank Bridge, but is no longer in rail ownership.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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 Building the railway network-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Creating railway landscapes-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Significant railway identities-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Parramatta River Underbridge (John Whitton Bridge) has historical associative significance as it is commemorates John Whitton, the "Father of NSW Railways"
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Bridge has aesthetic significance as a highly visible landmark structure across the Parramatta River. The John Whitton Bridge has technical significance as the first use of welded steel box girders on the New South Wales railway network.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The John Whitton Bridge was constructed in 1980, using the existing concrete piers from 1952, adjacent to the original 1886 truss bridge and displays the evolution of rail bridge construction between 1886 and 1980.
SHR Criteria f)
The John Whitton Bridge remains a rare example of a welded steel box girder bridge.
Integrity/Intactness: The bridge is of high integrity, retaining its original fabric in a good condition.
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.

Recommended management:

1. Conservation principles: Conserve cultural heritage significance and minimise impacts on heritage values and fabric in accordance with the ‘Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance’. 2. Specialist advice: Seek advice from a qualified heritage specialist during all phases of a proposed project from feasibility, concept and option planning stage; detailed design; heritage approval and assessment; through to construction and finalisation. 3. Documentation: Prepare a Statement of Heritage Impact (SOHI) to assess, minimise and prevent heritage impacts as part of the assessment and approval phase of a project. Prepare a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) prior to proposing major works (such as new additions, change of use or proposed demolition) at all places of State significance and all complex sites of Local significance. 4. Maintenance and repair: Undertake annual inspections and proactive routine maintenance works to conserve heritage fabric in accordance with the ‘Minimum Standards of Maintenance & Repair’. 5. Movable heritage: Retain in situ and care for historic contents, fixtures, fittings, equipment and objects which contribute to cultural heritage significance. Return or reinstate missing features or relocated items where opportunities arise. 6. Aboriginal, archaeology and natural heritage: Consider all aspects of potential heritage significance as part of assessing and minimising potential impacts, including Aboriginal, archaeology and natural heritage. 7. Unidentified heritage items: Heritage inventory sheets do not describe or capture all contributory heritage items within an identified curtilage (such as minor buildings, structures, archaeology, landscape elements, movable heritage and significant interiors and finishes). Ensure heritage advice is sought on all proposed changes within a curtilage to conserve heritage significance. 8. Recording and register update: Record changes at heritage places through adequate project records and archival photography. Notify all changes to the Section 170 Heritage & Conservation Register administrator upon project completion.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerRailcorp S170 Register    

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
RailCorp Section 170 Register Update2009 Hughes Trueman Pty Ltd  Yes

References, internet links & images


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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4805744

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.