Today in Transportation History – 1889: Seven-Span Railway Bridge Opens in Australia

The Australia-based Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge, carrying the Main Northern railway line over the Hawkesbury River on the northern outskirts of Sydney, was officially opened. The seven-span bridge, which would remain in use for more than a half-century before being replaced by the current bridge, was the final link in a railway network connecting Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

The original bridge was also considered a major achievement of John Whitton, an internationally acclaimed engineer who contributed extensively to southeastern Australia’s railway infrastructure during the 19th century. Whitton, who was born in England in 1820, moved to Australia in 1856. Over the next several decades, he built a number of bridges, viaducts, stations, and yards for various railways serving the present-day Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales.

When Whitton died in 1898, the New South Wales-based Delegate Argus newspaper noted that “he was a man of great integrity and firmness of character.” The newspaper also reported, “He was at all times held in the very highest respect by the railway officers with whom he came in contact, and the news of his decease will be keenly felt by them all.”

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