Woolbrook rail bridge over McDonald River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Woolbrook rail bridge over McDonald River

Item details

Name of item: Woolbrook rail bridge over McDonald River
Other name/s: Woolbrook Lattice Railway Bridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Location: Lat: -30.9678546934 Long: 151.3476291150
Primary address: Main Northern Railway, Woolbrook, NSW 2354
Local govt. area: Walcha
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Amaroo


The listing boundary is formed by the area on which the bridge is located as it crosses the McDonald River and includes supports, abutments, embankments, track formation and bridge structure. It extends for a distance of approximately 50 metres in all directions from the bridge structure.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Main Northern RailwayWoolbrookWalcha  Primary Address
Main Northern railwayWoolbrookTamworth Regional  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Rail Infrastructure CorporationState Government 

Statement of significance:

This is one of Whitton's major 1870's wrought iron bridges and is an excellent example of early bridge construction. The lattice girder is one of Whitton's original 12 bridges of that design and they represent the third stage of bridge construction in NSW following the stone viaduct and iron tubular bridges.

This bridge is a member of the most significant group of colonial bridges in New South Wales. Collectively, as items of railway infrastructure, they contributed significantly to the history and development of New South Wales. Each bridge is an imposing structure at its site. In terms of contemporary bridge technology the wrought iron lattice bridge was among the best for major bridgeworks.
Date significance updated: 26 Apr 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: John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief for Railways
Builder/Maker: J S Bennett, iron work by J & C Brettell, Worcester, England
Construction years: 1882-1882
Physical description: A single-span iron lattice bridge. The span is 159 feet to centres of bearings and the lattice work has 7 triangulations.

This is the only iron lattice railway bridge with brick abutments.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is good.
Date condition updated:26 Apr 06


Historical notes: During the 20-year period 1873-1893 there was a massive programme of public works in New South Wales, particularly in expanding the road and rail networks. It was a boom period that ended with a severe economic depression.

Despite the boom conditions, the respective Chief Engineers, for Roads (William C Bennett) and for Railways (John Whitton) were constrained to economise by using as much local material as possible, consequently an enormous amount of hardwood timber was used for bridgeworks, mostly timber beam and timber truss bridges.

However, there were many major rivers to be crossed, requiring long span bridges, for which no form of timber bridge was suitable. These large bridges had to be metal and supplied from England, a very expensive import cost to the successive colonial governments.

Both Chief Engineers were British so they chose the widely used wrought iron lattice truss bridge in the half-through form. Twelve of these were built for the railways and 24 for roads.

These two sets of iron lattice bridges are the most significant group of bridges of the colonial period. A high percentage are extant and still in use, 11 on railways and 18 on roads.

The current railway lattice bridges are,

1876 Macquarie River at Bathurst, 1881 Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga,
1881 Macquarie River at Wellington, 1882 Peel River at Tamworth
1882 MacDonald River at Woolbrook, 1884 Murray River at Albury
1884 Macquarie River at Dubbo 1885 Murrumbidgee River at Narrandera
1887 Lachlan River at Cowra.

Two former railway lattice bridges (1885 Georges River at Como and 1886 Parramatta River at Meadowbank) were converted for use by pedestrian/cycle ways.

The 1871 lattice railway bridge over the Hunter River at Aberdeen was replaced by steel girders and demolished.

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]
Twelve wrought iron lattice railway bridges were built in New South Wales during the boom period for railway construction 1871-1887, starting at Aberdeen and ending at Cowra.
Nine of the survivors are owned and managed by the Rail Access Corporation.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
All nine iron lattice railway bridges are imposing structures
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Every iron lattice railway bridge crossed a major river which made it possible for the railway extension to develop the districts reached, socially and commercially.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The iron lattice bridge was a technically sound structure for the bridge technology of the late colonial period. Its strength and durability have shown it to have been a very cost-effective form of bridge.
SHR Criteria g)
Collectively, the iron lattice railway bridges represent a significant class of bridge structure.
Integrity/Intactness: Apart from relatively minor technical works of repair and strengthening, all the iron lattice railway bridges retain their original fabrics.
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 0106702 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Register of the National Estate  18 Apr 89 1260010

References, internet links & images


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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045147

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