Points of Interest Category: Bridges, Historical POI's 1881-1900, Historical, Infrastructure | Landmark, and Site | InfrastructurePoints of Interest Tags: Gippsland, History | Historical - Gippsland, and Railways | Trains
Being reported as being the fastest river to flood and drain in the entire southern hemisphere, the Avon River has presented numerous challenges to the many bridges that have spanned it. Progress persisted and by the late 1800’s, the railway corridors throughout Gippsland began to link the region directly to Melbourne.
The first train passed over the railway bridge in Stratford, Victoria, stopping at Stratford Railway Station, on its way to Bairnsdale, on the 8th May 1888.
The original bridge was set on wooden pylons (as seen in the picture to the left) and once spanned the river at a length of 110 m – however, the river no longer flows under the original bridge . . .
After many flood events, the river’s course has totally altered. By 1940 an additional seven spans, set on brick pylons, had to be added to cross the river – increasing the length of the bridge to 274 m.
As described in the Paper by Capt. L.H. Chase, read 6th October 1896:
“The Gippsland Railway divides into two branches at Traralgon, one going to Maffra and the other to Sale. These two branches re-unite about a mile South of Stratford and continue as a single line to Bairnsdale. The line crosses the Avon River flats on a long timber viaduct, curved to about 20 chains radius and then continues across the River Avon on an iron bridge of six 60 ft spans resting on large pile piers. These piers are all closely covered with planking to prevent top from being caught in flood time and are each provided with a heavy timber elevator. During the last few years the river has had a tendency to erode the south bank and the main stream now flows entirely outside the end of the original iron bridge leaving he old bed a desert of sand and shingle. The wooden viaduct consists of 15 ft openings and when the river was in flood the timber used to catch in the piers and rapidly form a dam which carried away the piles and stopped all traffic. After some unsuccessful attempts to get the river back into the old channel it was decided to extend the iron bridge for 300 ft so as to give a free flow for the timber laden floods . . . ”
This long curved bridge remains in service until this very day and still compels the trains to crawl along the bridge and viaduct at a speed of no more than 15 km per hr.
How the Railways came to be . . .
Railways built during the late 1800’s assisted the accessibility to, and through, Gippsland – with its lush pasture lands and delightful fresh produce.
West Gippsland’s milk, fruit and vegetables were transported fresh to Melbourne markets, whilst East Gippsland supplied cheese and butter – all via the rail network. Tourism to Lakes Entrance also increased due to this modern form of transport. As with any form of progress, there is usually a trade-off. The infiltration of the railways did mark the beginning of the end of the coastal shipping trade, and hence the water ports of Sale and Bairnsdale.
The Gippsland rail corridor also helped fuel the land boom of the 1870’s. The trains originally departed Melbourne City at Oakleigh – the connecting line from Oakleigh to Melbourne was not completed until 1879 . . .
At the height of the land boom in 1888, the land sales in Gippsland were being held two, or even three times a week.
As published in an excerpt from the ‘Gippsland Times’ on the 28th October 1885:
“It must be very gratifying indeed to the townspeople of Stratford, and particularly so to myself, that Briagolong rejoices with us in the many advantages that direct railway communication will bring to Stratford. I do not know that there is anything more calculated to promote the interest of Stratford and the surrounding district socially. At the present moment Stratford has begun to attain the position which is her due as the great centre junction of the North Gippsland railway . . .
. . . I think it should be the aim of those who are true to Briagolong to entwine her destinies with direct railway communication through Stratford, which places her at once in a position to avail herself of the direct route to the head of the great seaboard at Sale . . .
. . . By adopting this suggestion they could then become partakers in the pleasures of travelling ove rthe magnificent bridge which is to span the sparkling waters of the Avon at Stratford. . .
. . . I have much pleasure in congratulating you correspondent and the people of Briagolong on their determination to be in the march of prosperity. Let them remember that unity is strength . . . “
However, the new railway links could not curtail the inevitable crash of the land boom in 1889 which in turn, contributed to the banking collapses of 1893 and hence the major depression of the 1890’s.
As the motor cars and trucks became an increasing popular mode of transport, the roadways prevailed – thus closing many of Gippsland’s rail corridors . . .
Some sections of the historic railway lines have been revamped as tourist railways – others as bike and walking trails.
– Close proximity to Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Car Parking available along McMillan Street and in Apex Park
– Other Historical POI’s in Stratford
– Nearby Features:
– Facilities available at Stratford
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- Parking & Transfers:
- Off Street Parking
- Gravel Track
- Sealed Road