The 9 December 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the current Moruya bridge. it is a good time to reflect on all four bridges that have been important parts of the town’s built heritage.
The first bridge was opened on 26 January 1876 “the anniversary of the colony” with great fanfare, a regatta and a procession of 400 school children. It had 17 spans, each of 50ft, 6 inches.
it seems a splendid piece of work, something like three hundred paces long, the stacks of piles being about 50 feet apart. The piles are all of splendid ironbark, nearly as durable as iron itself, and some of them of great length ; it is said 60 feet in some places did not touch solid ground. The traffic way of the structure is above all chance of flood, and when a little more work is done and the side-rails are finished, the whole will be a splendid bridge and likely to see out some generations before it gives place to a successor.
The bridge had been splendidly adorned for its opening ceremony, and was gay with flags and evergreens. The motto ‘ Success to Trade’ flashed out at one end of the bridge and ‘Advance Moruya’ at the other.
By 1898 it had become known as the “shaky bridge’ and it was replaced by a bridge using the latest technology to sink 12 inch diameter iron pipes as piers. The formal opening on 8 December 1900 was again:
a grand affair, with a procession of cyclists, Australian Horse, the Town band, the coach with the Minister of Justice, W.H. Wood, school children and the general public – in all, upwards of 1,000 people.
This bridge withstood the pressures of the 1925 flood when water levels rose several feet over the decking, as well as lesser floods in 1922, 1934, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944, but the flood of 9th April 1945 piled so much timber and wreckage against it that it collapsed at 4.45am. A diversion over Larry’s Mountain Road and the Kiora Bridge added hours to travel to and from the north.
A punt was brought into operation until a temporary bridge could be built. It too was damaged by a second flood in June. However, the temporary bridge, making use of timber salvaged from the wrecked bridge, was ready for use in October 1945.
The present bridge was opened on Friday, 9 December 1966, by which time, according to the Moruya Examiner, the temporary bridge had “a distinctly delicate air”. About half the town’s school children were given time off, but, being a working day, the turnout of the general public could not match the crowd at the 1900 opening. Nevertheless at the official lunch at the Criterion Hotel, catering provided 1000 each of chicken legs, patties and fish pieces, 12 dozen eggs, 250 oysters and 500 bread rolls.
The steel and concrete bridge cost $730,000. It is 271 metres long, slightly shorter than the first bridge. At the time of its opening, it was carrying 2,00 vehicles per day. If high winds from a certain angle reach sufficient velocity, the bridge gives off a not unpleasant singing noise.