Como Rail Bridge | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Como Rail Bridge

Item details

Name of item: Como Rail Bridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Location: Lat: -33.9950932609 Long: 151.0707612080
Primary address: Georges River (over), Oatley, NSW 2223
Local govt. area: Kogarah
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT2 DP1001739
PART LOT249 DP1185247
PART LOT250 DP1185284


The bridge structure itself and abutments.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Georges River (over)OatleyKogarah  Primary Address
Georges River (over)ComoSutherland  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney WaterState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Como Rail bridge is significant as the longest single track lattice girder bridge in New South Wales and is a rare example of this type. Historically, the bridge contributed to the opening up of the souther suburbs of Sydney in the 1880s. While the rail infrastructure has largely been removed from the bridge, it continues to serve an important function, supporting the Woronora to Penshurst Water Supply Pipeline, part of Sydney's fifth water supply system. It also provides an important pedestrian link across the Georges River.
Date significance updated: 21 Apr 05
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: John Whitton, Dept of Railways
Builder/Maker: C and E Millar
Construction years: 1883-1885
Physical description: Iron lattice girder bridge. Formerly a rail bridge. Sydney Water has had a sewerage pipeline running across the bridge for many years. The railway infrastructure has been removed from the deck and the bridge deck is used as a pedestrian bridge over the Georges River.
Modifications and dates: 1926 - transverse elliptical arch braces added to support electricity lines
1935-42 - Woronora to Penshurst 48 inch water main installed across bridge
1985 - Removal of rail infrastructure and conversion to footbridge/cycleway
2003 - removal of timber walkway planks adjacent to the pipeline and the steel handrails.
Current use: Footbridge & sewer main carrier
Former use: Railway bridge


Historical notes: Oatley was named after a man who never lived in the area. James Oatley (1770-1839) a convict clock maker arrived in the colony on 27 January 1815 to serve a life sentence. The clock at Hyde Park Barracks, built between 1817-19, included a clock made by Oatley. When he was pardoned he received several land grants. One, granted in 1833, was 300 acres near the George's River. He called the property Needwood Forest, after woodlands in his native Warwickshire in England. Oatley never built on the land, but lived on a farm called Snugsborough near Beverly Hills. It stood in a 175 acre grant received in 1831. He died in 1839, and was buried at Snugsborough, where his grave was found in 1921. Needwood Forest passed to Frederick, his 3rd son, who sold it to Charles Cecil Griffiths in 1881. The property extended from Gungal Bay on the suburb's western edge, to the later Boundary and Hurstville Roads. When the Hurstville to Sutherland Railway line passed through Oatley's old property in the 1880s, the station, opened in 1886, took his name, as did Oatley Bay and Oatley Park, a favourite picnic spot for local residents (Pollen, 1996).

The old Como railway bridge was completed in 1885 as a part of the original Illawarra line infrastructure. It is a very fine example of a single track steel lattice girder bridge of the 1870s and 1880s. Como is the longest single track steel lattice girder bridge in NSW and the only such bridge within 250kms of Sydney. It was a notorious bottleneck within 5 years of its completion when the single track on either side eof the bridge was increased to a double track. The double tracks converged to a single 'gauntlet' track on the bridge, which enabled trains to cross in either direction without chain points and with a relative degree of safety. It was one of only a few installations of this type in NSW.

Between 1935 and 1942 the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board built a new 1220 mm diameter pipeline to pump water from the recently completed Woronora Dam to the Board's reservoirs at Penshurst. The pipeline was carried over the Georges River on the Como railway bridge, supported on new steel outriggers cantilevered from the main girders. To maintain an evenly balanced load, the 1220mm pipeline was split into two 600 mm diameter mains, one supported on each side of the bridge. The old Como railway bridge was finally superseded in 1972 by a new double track reinforced concrete bridge, built alongside the existing bridge. Responsibility for the old bridge was transferred to the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board, now Sydney Water. Sutherland and Kogarah Councils, the local authorities on either side of the river, shared the cost of converting the railway track to an extensively used cycleway and footpath, which opened in 1985, 100 years after the construction of the bridge. In the late 1990s Sydney Water undertook upgrading works to the pipeline and maintenance gantries to repair leaks and comply with current OH & S requirements.

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 Engineering the public railway system-
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]
Como Rail Bridge is one of Whitton's 12 original lattice wrought iron girder bridges and is of high significance and visibility in the surrounding area. It is a major structure in the area and indicates clearly the level of design and technology involved in early railway construction to cross a major river.

The bridge is a very fine example of a single track steel lattice girder bridge of the 1870s and 1880s. Como is the longest single track steel lattice girder bridge in NSW and the only such bridge within 250kms of Sydney.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The bridge is the older of two important man-made elements in a scenic estuarine landscape, contrasting with the stong natural quality of the environs. The simple, rugged quality of the engineering contrasts with the Australian bush, cliff and shore settings.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The bridge was a part of a major transport link between the South Coast and Sydney, encouraging development in the towns and suburbs which emerged along the railway line. The presence of the railway line encouraged Sydney day-trippers to use the Como boatsheds, baths, fishing locations and the adjacent National Park. The bridge continues in service as an important pedestrian and bicycle link across the Georges River.
SHR Criteria f)
The bridge is the only rail bridge of this style within 250kms of Sydney and was one of a group of 12 constructed in the 1880s. The survival status of the remaining 11 bridges has not been investigated.
Integrity/Intactness: Rail infrastructure removed form the bridge deck and replaced with bitumen footway.
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:

Manage the place and its significant components in accordance with the Heritage Council State Owned Heritage Asset Management Guidelines and the Minimum Standards of Maintenance and Repair in the NSW Heritage Regulations. Manage significant site elements in accordance with a Conservation Management Plan (CMP). If no CMP exists, consult with Asset Management Commercial Services with respect to commissioning a CMP. When commissioning a CMP, do so in accordance with the Model Brief for CMPs available on ConnectNet. Seek endorsement of the CMP from the Heritage Council of NSW. Works undertaken in accordance with a Heritage Council-endorsed CMP do not require further approval under the NSW Heritage Act. Involve heritage professionals as required under the terms of the CMP, or as otherwise determined necessary. Review CMP every 5 years or in a major change of circumstances, whichever is sooner. Review of a CMP should only be undertaken following consultation with Asset Management Commercial Services . When commissioning a CMP review, do so in accordance with the Model Brief for CMPs available on ConnectNet. Where no CMP is in place, or where works are outside the scope of the existing CMP, assess heritage impacts of proposed works in accordance with Sydney Water Environment Impact Assessment guidelines (e.g. undertake a Heritage Assessment and/or Statement of Heritage Impact as required, obtain Heritage Council approval as required). Consult with the Heritage Manager, Environment and Innovation, when major works are planned which affect items of State heritage significance. Undertake archival and photographic recording before major changes, in accordance with Heritage Council guidelines. Lodge copies of the archival record with the Sydney Water Archives and the NSW Heritage Office. Where the item is listed in a Local Environmental Plan Schedule of Heritage items, determine if works are exempt from approval under the LEP provisions. Where works are not exempt, obtain necessary approvals from the local council, in accordance with SWC EIA Guidelines.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0162415 Nov 02 2209709
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Local Environmental PlanComo Rail Bridge 02 Oct 98   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenPollen, Francis1996Oatley, in 'The Book of Sydney Suburbs'

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5000751
File number: S90/07129

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