COMO RAILWAY BRIDGE
THE opening of the double track Como rail bridge in 1972 corrected a political blunder made in the previous century.
When the original rail crossing was proposed in the early 1880s, railway department chief engineer John Whitton wanted it to have two tracks.
Whitton’s plan was defeated by political opposition and lack of finance, and he had to settle for a single track structure, which opened in 1885.
Within a few years, the bridge had become a bottleneck, with two tracks on each side leading to a single track over the river.
The opening of the double track bridge 87 years later was a big event.
“Children from Como West, Minerva Street [Sutherland] and Como Public Schools lined the old Como station platform to form a welcoming party for the official guests,’’ the Leader reported.
“The children began to cheer as the train, which carried a head board to commemorate the opening, rolled to a stop.’’
Transport Minister Milton Morris cut a ribbon to open the $5.6 million project.
“It is a bridge built for the future and for this reason it is appropriate that we have so many children here today,” he said.
Former commissioner for railways Neal McCusker, who approved the works, said no one knew how much life the old bridge had left.
The new bridge should last for about 170 years, he said.
Cr Jean Manuel voiced Sutherland Shire Council’s view that Como station, which was moved a kilometres south as part of the project, was isolated, and the council would have to spend $250,000 on new roads.
NEW LEASE OF LIFE
In 1985, the old bridge was given a new lease of life when it reopened as a walking and cycle path.
Kogarah and Sutherland councils combined to fund the project, which was completed exactly 100 years after the bridge opened.
For more than a decade after it was superseded, the old bridge served no purpose apart from carrying twin pipelines from Woronora Dam to the Penshurst reservoir.
Barriers were erected to stop public access and there were rumours the bridge was to be demolished.
Railway officials denied the speculation, but the National Trust took no chances and listed it for preservation.
In 1980, a group of Oatley residents put forward the idea of reopening it as a pedestrian and cycle way and the proposal quickly gathered support.
The state government’s heritage branch says the bridge is one of 12 lattice wrought-iron girder bridges built during the period John Whitton was the railway department’s chief engineer.
It is the longest single-track steel lattice girder bridge in NSW and the only such bridge within 250 kilometres of Sydney.
From an aesthetic point of view, the heritage experts say ‘‘the simple, rugged quality of the engineering contrasts with the Australian bush, cliff and shore settings’’.
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