Yass Town rail bridge over Yass River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Yass Town rail bridge over Yass River

Item details

Name of item: Yass Town rail bridge over Yass River
Other name/s: Yass Town Truss
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Location: Lat: -34.8392328601 Long: 148.9061782280
Primary address: Yass Town Tramway, Yass, NSW 2582
Local govt. area: Yass Valley
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Onerwal
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Yass Town TramwayYassYass Valley  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Rail Infrastructure CorporationState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Yass Town railway truss is highly significant because it was the major component of infrastructure on the historic (infamous) Yass Tramway, it is a highly visible and imposing structure and it set the course for the adoption of American bridge technology in lieu of the previous dominance of British bridges so favoured by John Whitton. Despite being abandoned, it still retains its original fabric. It is a landmark structure in the history of railway bridges in New South Wales.
Date significance updated: 16 Mar 06
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: Engineer C Fischer, NSW Government Tramways
Builder/Maker: Fabrication by O McMasters, North Sydney, erection by McGill & Son.
Construction years: 1892-1892
Physical description: A single span, lightweight steel Pratt truss of 61 m (200 feet) span on brick piers with timber beam approaches.
Current use: Out of service
Former use: Carried the single track Yass Tramway over the Yass River into Yass Town


Historical notes: When the extension of the Main South Railway from Goulburn to Cootamundra was being planned in 1870 it was intended to take the line into Yass Town. However, following a site visit by Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton who recognised the route would involve more than one crossing of the Yass River by expensive iron bridges, the line was shifted 5 kms (3 miles) north which required no crossings of the river but bypassed the town. Despite the vehement protests of the townsfolk, the Departmental route was adopted and the line was completed to Bowning (north west of Yass) in July 1876 with a station about 3 km (2 miles) north of Yass Town.

So, although the Yass residents could not have the main line through their town, they persistently petitioned successive governments to have a branch line and were eventually successful. In 1889 the Minister for Public Works authorised construction of a lightweight railway or tramway from the renamed main line station, Yass Junction to the town. It could have stopped at the Yass River with passengers and goods transhipped the short distance into town via the existing iron lattice road bridge. But no, the tramway had to go into the town, so a large (200 feet) span steel truss was built over the river.

The bridge represented a gross over capitalisation of a line that would prove to be operationally expensive and never showed a profit. Contractors Kerr & Cronin completed the line in July 1891 for £13,156 and McMasters’ bridge cost £5,412 bridge in an all up cost of £27,318. So the bridge represented 20% of the final cost, just to satisfy town ego and have a grand opening ceremony in the town by the Governor, Earl of Jersey, on 20th April 1892.

Despite the Railway’s displeasure with the line, the bridge was in fact a technical milestone.
Prior to this, the dominant main line metal bridge was the heavy wrought iron lattice truss, fully imported from England. But on the eve of John Whitton’s retirement, the winds of change were blowing. The technical and economic merits of American bridges was widely recognised and independent groups of engineers in the Railway Construction Branch under Henry Deane, the Existing Lines Branch under George Cowdery and those in the Tramway Branch were designing and planning to construct large American steel trusses and Yass got the first.

The next group were the main line trusses on the Murwillumbah Line (see separate SHI sheets) and the change over to American bridge technology was complete.

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 (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The bridge was the major component of infrastructure on the historic (infamous) Yass Tramway.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Although the lightweight truss is out of service it is still an impressive structure high above the Yass River, easily accessible from adjacent parkland and visible to all road users crossing the river nearby.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The tramway and its magnificent bridge inflated the ego of the town but was never a social or commercial success. Eventually, Yass prospered by direct road links to the main line at Yass Junction.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Tramway may have been a colonial folly but the bridge was a technology landmark, being the first American style bridge used for a railway in New South Wales (the Nowra Bridge was intended for railway used but has been a road bridge). It set the course for the adoption of American bridge technology in lieu of the previous dominance of British bridges so favoured by John Whitton.
SHR Criteria g)
An excellent, highly visible, example of a large American Pratt truss.
Integrity/Intactness: Despite its abandonment, the bridge retains its original fabric and structure.
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.

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 0129202 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Rail Infrastructure Corporation s.170 Register2003 Rail Infrastructure Corporation  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDon Fraser1995Bridges Down Under
WrittenEngineer-in-Chief Yass Tramway 1891 and 1892
WrittenJohn Forsyth1960Historic Notes for the Yass Tramway
WrittenR F Wylie1942New South Wales Tramways, The Yass Line The Yass Line

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

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5012296

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.

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