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Railway & Riverboat Heritage, Murray Bridge

Murray Bridge South Australia
Railway & Riverboat Heritage

Rail & River

Railway lines were laid to the wharf in 1886.

During 1910 over 35,000 tons of freight was trans-shipped across the wharf between railway and boats.
On occasions freight transfer resulted in 16 trains leaving Murray Bridge in the one day.

During the 1920's and 30's Murray Bridge became a popular destination for both local and interstate marketed coordinated Rail/River trips with the PS Marion being based in Murray Bridge and also periodically 
the PS Gem and PS Ruby.

This Rail/River coordination was also operated in the 1970's with newer boats and is sure to happen again.


Murray Bridge was previously known as Edwards Crossing where sheep and cattle were swum across the river prior to the building of the bridge.

All the willows and pepper trees are introduced species. The area of land bordered by the railway yards and river was known to the local Ngarrindjeri people as "Pomberuk" and was one of the last traditional trading camps in the lower Murray area.

Long Island is a spiritual place to the Ngarrindjeri representing a lentlin (spear) thrown by Ngurunderi at Ponde (the fish) as it made its way to Wellington creating the river. *(ref, SA Museum Aboriginal History Section.) Prior to the turn of the century dolphins had been seen at Murray Bridge.

Nowhere between Blanchetown and the mouth is the riverbed above sea level.
Hume Reserve named after Hume Brothers, whose factory was on this site. They were world leaders in cement pipe construction in the 1920's.


The railway working party reached Murray Bridge in 1884 with the first train arriving on December 26, 1885.
The railway line across the river was placed in the middle of the road bridge. The foundation stone was laid in November 1873, this was 2 years before tenders were called for the Echuca bridge.

The bridge at Echuca in Victoria was completed in December 1878 and opened in the following March.

The Murray Bridge was still the first to span the Murray River also opening in March 1879 and is over 4 times the length of Echuca because it traverses swamp lands.

The Roundhouse adjacent to the bridges west end was built for the construction manager and was the first stone building in the area.

During construction of the bridge the super structure was strengthened to cater for the railway. By 1921 the bridge would carry up to 15 heavy goods trains per day.
Murray Bridge became the main locomotive depot and administration centre between Adelaide and the Victorian Border with a large engine shed and turntable. The turntable is still in place opposite the grain silos.

The turntable was built in 1883 by the Edgemore Iron Co. of Delaware USA and was installed circa 1884.

A large brick crew barracks replaced the timber building in 1915 the original station was included in the refreshment rooms and the new railway station was built.
Construction of the new railway bridge commenced in 1924 and was finished twelve months later. The Bridge was designed, manufactured and assembled in South Australia. 

It is the largest rail bridge still in use in this state and is able to take all the newest heavy locomotives! - FORESIGHT!! 

The third or eastern span is the longest - 240ft as against 185ft of the 2 western spans, resulting in a different design to maintain the required strength. The longer span passes over the navigation channel - on the other side of the river to the wharf - to give clearance between passing traffic and steamers and barges unloading at the Murray Bridge Wharf.

From 1926 the Murray Bridge division of the SAR was formed with a train control and administration centre, the largest centre outside Adelaide until closed in 1993.

River Trade

The Port of Mobilong was declared in July 1886 and was to become one of the 3 largest in the Murray Darling Basin along with Morgan and Echuca, leading to the demise of Mannum and Goolwa as major river ports.

The total length of the 2 level timber wharf was 620 feet (190m) along with a further 450 feet (145m) of sheet piling face to the bank at deck level totalling over 1070 feet (335m) all serviced by two railway lines along the entire length extending from between the two bridges downstream.

More than 6 cranes were used at the wharf for the transfer of freight. In 1913 the area was lit by electricity and the wharf was equipped with 2 rail mounted electric catenary wire type cranes.

Before the turn of the century up until 1907 the local Church of England Diocese based its 2 Etona mission boats in Murray Bridge.

From circa 1919 to 1940 milk boats were used from the dairies for delivery to the milk factory which was just down stream from the wharf, a use believed unique to Murray Bridge.
From circa 1910 to 1940 Murray Bridge was the base for the Government fleet of over 12 steamers and barges.

During the 1920s and 1930s more wheat was trans-shipped across the wharf than any other port in South Australia, except Port Adelaide, and it was not uncommon to see up to 20 steamers and barges at the wharf at any one time. A typical load of grain for a steamer and barge was 8000 bags of grain. River trade died out in the early 1940s with the last original steamer leaving in 1962, the PS Kookaburra.

In 1976 Murray Bridge held the first official paddlesteamer race in South Australia this century, when the PS Enterprise, PS Oscar W and MV Coonawarra raced for the William Randell Cup.

The restoration of the Oscar W undertaken at Murray Bridge and subsequently at Goolwa was the forerunner in the state to other restorations of genuine paddle steamers.

There are over 9 steamers and barges sunk between Sturt Reserve and just upstream from the bridges. The depth of the river varies from 25 feet (8m) to 60 feet (18m).

Brought to you by:
The Murray Bridge Riverboat, 
Rail & Steam Group Inc.
PO Box 984
Murray Bridge SA 5253
Phone: (08) 8531 1552
"Your membership helps us preserve this important heritage"


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