Today in Transportation History – 1927: A Historic Bridge Brings The Railroad to Paringa

In the state of South Australia, a new bridge was opened in the town of Paringa. The bridge was built to carry the Brown’s Well railway (later renamed the Barmera railway), which had begun operations in 1913, across the Murray River at Paringa and to the larger South Australia town of Renmark in that grain-growing region.

The Paringa Bridge was one of the first bridges built across the Murray River. Measuring 568 feet (173 meters) in length, the Paringa Bridge has a total of six spans; these include a movable span that can be raised to allow for the passage of vessels sailing on the river. While built specifically to extend the Brown’s Well railway further into South Australia, the bridge was designed to accommodate motor vehicle traffic as well.

On the day of the bridge’s grand opening, a party of public officials made their way to Paringa on a train that was decorated with pepper tree foliage, ears of corn, and eucalyptus branches.”Never before had Paringa witnessed such a remarkable scene as when the train drew up at the entrance to the new bridge,” reported the Adelaide-based Register newspaper. “On each side of the river, hundreds of motor cars were parked, while several thousands of people, with children carrying miniature flags, gave the visiting party a rousing welcome.” As another part of this welcome, an arch of wheat sheaves had been set up at the bridge entrance.

T.A. Hughes, chairman of the Paringa District Council, highlighted the significance of the bridge during his remarks at the dedication ceremony. “The provision of this bridge will provide greatly increased convenience in the means of communication between the south and the north of the river and appreciably reduce the risks, delays, and expense hitherto attendant upon crossing,” he said. “In addition, it is to us a matter of great importance to be placed in direct rail communication with Renmark and the surrounding districts.”

The Paringa Bridge ended up outlasting the railway for which it was primarily built. The railway ceased operations in 1990, but the bridge remains in service as a motor vehicle link of the Sturt Highway between the cities of Sydney and Adelaide. In addition, the bridge is listed on the South Australian Heritage Register.

For more information on the Paringa Bridge, please check out  http://maps.sa.gov.au/heritagesearch/HeritageItem.aspx?p_heritageno=16378 and the 28 January 1927 Murray Pioneer article “Official Description of Paringa Bridge and Paringa to Renmark Railway” at https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/109356777.

Additional details about the Paringa Bridge and other crossing points on the Murray River are available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crossings_of_the_Murray_River .

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