A Semi -Regular Photo Blog about Life in Northern New South Wales, Australia.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grafton Bridge - The Bascule Span

When the Grafton Bridge was first designed in 1915 it was conceived as a singe story rail bridge with footways. As plans were further developed in the 1920's the design was changed to accommodate growing vehicular traffic and a roadway was designed for a top level. To further complicate matters, Grafton relied on coastal steamships for transport and they had to be able to pass under or through the proposed bridge. A unique solution was designed, a two level bascule span.
The small house on the bridge was the control room. I hope you enjoy the following series of historical shots of the bascule span opened.

HMAS Inverell passing through the bascule span in the 1950's

A coastal steamship, note the wooden piers that surrounded cement piers in case of collision.

Lots of transport happening in this shot.

With the decline of the coastal shipping industry the bascule span was opened less and less. It is a legendary story in Grafton that once it was opened and they couldn't get it back down again. The span was last lifted in 1969 and now is impossible to lift due to the removal of the vital controls and the instillation of a large water main and Telstra fibre optic cables adjacent to the railway lines.
It is interesting to note that the State Railways owns Grafton Bridge and I have been told that the lease of the space to Telstra and Clarence Valley Water contains a clause that if the span needs to be lifted again they must quickly remove their infrastructure, but perhaps this is apocryphal.

Although it will never open again it is incredible that virtually all the machinery/equipment associated with the bascule span remains in situ. This is even down to the old gates on the upper level road with their yellow paint and red 'cats eyes' sign stating 'stop'. The incredible cogs and levers used to lift the span are now the roosts of pigeons and covered in thick layers of guano.


  1. Fascinating! What a fine contribution to Sunday Bridges, Mark!

  2. I enjoyed reading the details of this familiar icon. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for the history lesson about this unique bridge.

  4. Nice post. Like the details of the last picture with the rust coloring. Thanks for showing.

  5. Your blog is a treasure. The constant beautiful imagery and then the historical posts like this - you are adding so much to the modern culture of the area. Makes me consider moving back one day. Top work!


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