McKanes Falls Bridge | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


McKanes Falls Bridge

Item details

Name of item: McKanes Falls Bridge
Other name/s: McKanes Bridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Location: Lat: -33.5495127485 Long: 150.1243908350
Primary address: Jenolan Caves Road, Lithgow, NSW 2790
Local govt. area: Lithgow
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Bathurst
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Jenolan Caves RoadLithgowLithgow  Primary Address
Lithgow to Oberon RoadLithgowLithgow  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

This bridge is a McDonald timber truss road bridge. Timber truss road bridges were extensively used in New South Wales because of the high quality of local hardwoods and the shortage of steel during the early decades of settlement of the state. The timber truss was highly developed for bridges in New South Wales, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world at that time. The McDonald truss is a significant evolutionary link in the development of timber road bridges in New South Wales and has three standard span lengths, 65'/19.96m, 75'/22.86m and 90'27.43m . At March 1998 there were seven McDonald truss road bridges remaining in New South Wales, McKanes Falls Bridge being one of two with a 27.43m span and one of two in a double span configuration. The bridge has been assessed as having State significance.
Date significance updated: 15 Jun 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 McDonald, NSW Engineer for Bridges
Builder/Maker: NSW Public Works
Construction years: 1892-1893
Physical description: The bridge consists of two 90' ( 27.43m ) truss spans supported at each end by sandstone masonry abutments. The centre pier was built as stone but replaced with a reinforced concrete pier in the 1980,s following flood damage. The bridge with a 4.57m (15') between kerbs at its narrowest. There is no footway. The deck is made up of lateral timber cross girders supporting longitudinal timber decking. The cross girders are bearing on the bottom chords of the trusses. The substructure consists of two sandstone abutments and a central concrete pier.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Generally good condition following major repairs carried out in the last few years
Date condition updated:15 Jun 05
Modifications and dates: c1925 - brushbox decking laid 1934 - bridge screwed up 1941 - dismantling and erecting squared timber 1951 - 86 - repairs and maintenance 1986 - New reinforced concrete central pier replaced original stone pier after severe flooding. 1986+ A metal flashing has been placed over all top chords and principals to shed water. Regular maintenance by RTA.
Current use: Road bridge
Former use: Road bridge


Historical notes: The design of the McDonald Truss was greatly influenced by the needs of the time. During the period 1865-1885, the Public Works Department was attempting to tap the resources of inland Australia and to redirect the line of trade from Melbourne to Sydney. To achieve this most funds were directed at the railways. As more people were moving to the rural areas it was necessary to link farms and towns to nearby railheads, with consequent road and bridge requirements. The McDonald Truss was designed by John A McDonald M.I.C.E. and was the answer to the need for more bridges, the technical faults of the old PWD design and limited funds.
It is most probable that McKanes Falls, McKanes Crossing and McKanes Bridge are named after Archibald McKane. He was born in Edinburgh in 1807 and was trained as a joiner and ploughwright. He was convicted of cattle stealing in 1830 and transported to Australia for 7 years. He was sentenced to another 7 years for larceny in 1833. He was appointed as overseer of carpenters in the 1830s. He was involved in expeditions with Mitchell and was commended for his duties as a carpenter. He was granted his certificate of freedom in 1844.

The road on which the bridge sits was built in the late 1870s to connect Bowenfels and Hampton. With the increase in road use in the early 1890s due to tourism (Jenolan Caves) but mainly farm production, especially wool, the road was upgraded and the bridge was built in 1893.

Tenders were called to erect a bridge over Cox's River in September 1891 and was under construction by 1892. The bridge was constructed to shorten the distance for traffic going from Bowenfels to Lowther, Hampton and Jenolan Falls. The earlier route had run via Hartley.

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]
McDonald truss bridges have historical significance because timber truss bridges were developed and refined in Australia to achieve the highest level of timber bridge construction for the time of their design and the McDonald truss is an important recognisable design in the evolution of timber truss bridges in NSW. The bridge also has a historical link with the evolution of the local community. The probable association with Archibald McKane and his involvement with Mitchell's third expedition also lends some significance to the crossing itself. McKanes bridge is a relic of the NSW government's policies of the late nineteenth century which focused on the provision of land areas to facilitate an increase in production and trade throughout the state. Is associated with John A McDonald, designer of the McDonald Truss and a significant figure in the area of bridge design and construction in NSW.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
McDonald truss bridges have aesthetic significance because they are evocative of Australian methods of bridge construction, in their materials, scale and configuration they reflect and express nineteenth century technologies and experiences and for the time of their design and construction they demonstrate the best quality design available. The dark green painting and the valley setting complement the surrounding rural environment. McKanes Bridge is an excellent example of a twin span McDonald Truss type bridge The scale of the structure, the natural timber and other materials allow the bridge to meld with the surrounding landscape.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
McDonald truss bridges have social significance because their size and location contribute directly to the local area and they are a strong element in the local environment. McKanes Bridge is located in farming country and is isolated, with few residents nearby. For these reasons there is little contemporary community association. However, the bridge forms part of local school bus routes and consequently is well known to the children of the wider community. The bridge has been an important feature of one of the old routes to the Jenolan caves tourist area since its construction in 1893. Built tp provide better access for traffic from Bowenfels to Lowther, Hampton and Jenolan Falls, it played a significant role for those people living, working and holidaying in the surrounding area.
SHR Criteria f)
One of six remaining McDonald truss bridges, one of two 90' span bridges. One of very few timber truss bridges remaining in the Lithgow area. The only surviving example of a twin span McDonald Truss road bridge in NSW and one of only five surviving in NSW and still in use.
SHR Criteria g)
Representative example of a two span, 90' McDonald truss bridge. Representative of the first truss bridge design which can be considered uniquely Australian due to its local design and use of native timbers. Is an example of the design which led to a rapid expansion in bridge construction throughout NSW and an excellent example of a twin span McDonald Truss in in good condition and easily accessible
Integrity/Intactness: Elements of truss true to original design although most or all of the timbers have been replaced as part of routine maintenance as with other parts of the bridge. The Central stone pier replaced with concrete pier.
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
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for commentDraft CMP submitted for information  
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 0147320 Jun 00 --
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerRoads & Traffic s.170    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007McKanes Falls Bridge View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007McKanes Falls Bridge View detail

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: 5051377
File number: H00/00308

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