Emu Plains (Nepean River) Underbridge | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Emu Plains (Nepean River) Underbridge

Item details

Name of item: Emu Plains (Nepean River) Underbridge
Other name/s: Penrith (Nepean Rvr) Underbridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Rail
Category: Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
Location: Lat: -33.74592268 Long: 150.68180953
Primary address: Off Bruce Neale Dr, Steel Trusses 1.3 Km Past Station, Penrith, NSW 2750
Local govt. area: Penrith
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT2 DP1186715
PART LOT2 DP1186816

Boundary:

The curtilage is limited to the footprint of the bridge and abutments of the Nepean River Railway Underbridge: Northwest: Rear edge of abutments to land embankment; Southeast: Rear edge of abutments to land embankment; Southwest: Edge piers and abutments of railway bridge (excluding adjacent service pipe bridge and road bridge); Northeast: Edge piers and abutments of railway bridge. Note: the adjacent road bridge is excluded from this curtilage as it is no longer in railway ownership. However, the significance of both bridges are inter related.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Off Bruce Neale Dr, Steel Trusses 1.3 Km Past StationPenrithPenrith  Primary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
RailCorpState Government 

Statement of significance:

The 1907 Nepean River Underbridge is significant as one of the largest steel truss bridges in NSW, and remains the oldest truss bridge still in use in the metropolitan area, with a continuous railway use for over 100 years. The bridge is an imposing landmark structure over a major waterway and is an excellent example of a railway Pratt truss underbridge. Its significance is enhanced by its location adjacent to the 1867 Whitton era railway bridge which together demonstrate the evolution of railway bridge design from British railway technology from the mid 19th century through to the change to American technology of the early 20th century.

The bridge is significant for its historical associations with James Fraser, Chief Railway Commissioner of the NSW Railways (1917-29) and Transport Commissioner (1931-32), who was responsible for the design of the bridge during his role as Engineer-in-Chief for existing lines (1903-14). The bridge was constructed as part of the duplication of the Main West Line and used innovative construction techniques to avoid interruption of the construction programme in case of severe flooding. The bridge is also significant as its fabrication by the local firm of R Tulloch & Co. which proved the capacity of local steelworks to handle projects of such magnitude, with the bridge becoming a benchmark for railway bridge construction throughout NSW.
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: James Fraser, Existing Lines Branch, NSWGR.
Builder/Maker: Fabrication by R. Tulloch & Co.; erection by day labour
Construction years: 1907-1907
Physical description: Five span, double track, riveted steel American-style Pratt through-truss railway bridge, with 1 x 36.6m and 4 x 58.8m spans between brick piers. The 1867 Whitton Era Victoria bridge is adjacent.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The bridge is in good condition with the following defects: crack in caisson, minor corrosion and pitting in truss chords, stringers, connections and bracing members, and splitting transoms.
Date condition updated:08 Dec 09
Modifications and dates: 1961: Service pipes added.
1995: Safety platform and walkway added.
Current use: Carries the double track Main West Railway over the Nepean River.
Former use: Nil

History

Historical notes: The Main West Railway Line runs from Granville to Bourke and was completed in 1885. By 1900 certain sections of John Whitton's single track railway network were operating at or near saturation, these included the famous Zig Zag near Lithgow, the Main West from Emu Plains right through to Bathurst, the Main South from Picton as far as Harden and the Main North between Maitland and Muswellbrook. Also, the metropolitan railways were congested by the combination of suburban and freight traffic. The Line was duplicated through Lithgow to Bowenfels in 1891 and then onto Wallerawang in 1922.

Pratt Trusses were introduced to Australia from the U.S in 1892 with the construction of the light-rail Yass Tramway. Thereafter they became the standard for Main Line railways for spans over 30 metres. While previous forms of truss had lent themselves to construction from timber, with stocky timber sections with good compressive and buckling resistance forming the diagonal members, the Pratt Truss reversed the direction of load in the diagonal members, enabling light rods or flat bars to be used in tension, making steel trusses highly efficient. The New South Wales railways continued to employ the use of steel Pratt trusses for major bridge crossings until the advent of reinforced and prestressed concrete in the 1970's.

The original railway, of the John Whitton era, crossed this river in 1867 on a massive wrought iron girder bridge. It was built for double track but only ever carried a single track with the adjacent space used for single lane road traffic. By the turn of the century, single line working was inadequate for the increasing traffic and the old bridge would not be strong enough for the steady increase in locomotive sizes and weight. Additional river piers in the river, as was done upstream at Menangle, was not considered appropriate so the decision was made to build a new heavy duty truss bridge and let the old bridge be used for 2-way road traffic. That is still the current arrangement.

James Fraser, a future Commissioner, designed the new bridge as a series of double track, American Pratt trusses for double the locomotive weights so as to allow for future increases without building another expensive replacement.

Fraser joined the New South Wales Government Railways and Tramways in 1881 and rose to be engineer-in-chief for existing lines (1903-14), assistant-commissioner for railways (1914-16), chief railway commissioner (1917-29) and transport commissioner (1931-32). He was largely responsible for beginning the electrification of Sydney's suburban network and for the first stages of the city railway (adb online).

His 1907 bridge is still in use, carrying modern heavy diesel locomotives and heavy wagons of coal and wheat. Fabrication by the local firm of R Tulloch & Co. proved the capacity home steelworks to handle projects of such magnitude that later enable them to supply all the bridges for the North Coast Railway 1911-23. Instead of a forest of temporary staging in a flood prone river, Fraser chose to build the trusses continuously, from one bank to the other, over the piers and two intermediate timber trestles within each span. When completed, the linking members over the piers were removed and the bridge became five independent spans.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Nepean River Underbridge has historical significance as part of the duplication of the Main West Line, one of the major lines on the NSW rail network. The bridge remains the oldest steel truss bridge in use in the metropolitan area, and has had a continuous railway use for over 100 years. Fabrication of the bridge by the local firm of R Tulloch & Co. proved the capacity of local steelworks to handle projects of such magnitude that later enabled them to supply all the bridges for the North Coast Railway 1911-23. The bridge became a benchmark for railway bridge construction throughout NSW.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The bridge has historical associations with James Fraser, who was responsible for the design of the bridge during his role as engineer-in-chief for existing lines (1903-14). Fraser was also chief railway commissioner (1917-29) of the NSW Railways and transport commissioner (1931-32). James Fraser’s design philosophy of building for future demand resulted in a durable, cost effective structure.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Nepean River Underbridge has aesthetic and technical significance due to its length, long spans, and its location adjacent to the 1867 Whitton Era Victoria Bridge (both bridges being fine examples of railway viaduct construction) provides significant landmark quality. The bridge is also one of the largest truss bridges in NSW.

The Nepean River Underbridge has technical significance as the construction technique employed was a technical innovation that avoided the potential for serious interruption due to floods. Instead of using temporary staging in a flood prone river, the designer chose to build the trusses continuously, from one bank to the other, over the piers and two intermediate timber trestles within each span. When completed, the linking members over the piers were removed and the bridge became five independent spans.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Nepean River Underbridge has research significance as the two parallel bridges demonstrate the evolution of railway bridge construction design during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The Nepean River Underbridge is an excellent representative example of a Pratt truss railway viaduct construction, a technology introduced to the NSW rail network with the changeover to American bridge technology in 1892.
Integrity/Intactness: The Nepean River Underbridge 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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
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.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Jun 28 2013

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0183028 Jun 13 793134
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
State Rail Authority Heritage Register Study1999SRA576State Rail Authority  No
RailCorp Section 170 Register Update2009 Hughes Trueman Pty Ltd  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDon Fraser1995Bridges Down Under
WrittenFraser, D.2000Report on the S170 Register of Railway Underbridges for the Rail Infrastructure Corporation
WrittenJohn Forsyth Historical Notes for the Main West Railway, 1960s

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

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(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: 5061198


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