Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published October 14th 2015
Stand in the Shadow of these Railway Giants
Historic Trestle Bridges and Rail Trails When steam locomotives chucked along our railways making history that would long stay in our hearts and imaginations, strong men gathered together to erect towering wooden trestle bridges that would stand the test of time. I wonder if any of them guessed then that more than a hundred years on people would come to admire their work.
Do you know which of Victoria's historic trestle bridges is risen from the bushfires, which was built to carry coal and which to carry timber? Where can you view an historic trestle bridge while relaxing on the beach? Which bridge was the scene of a dramatic derailment? Which bridge carries Puffing Billy into Sherbrooke forest and which bridge today forms part of Melbourne's busy electric rail network?
The Bourne Creek Trestle Bridge at Kilcunda Carrying the Coal that Fuelled the Railways Steam locomotives were hungry for coal and the Bourne Creek Trestle Bridge at Kilcunda played an important role in keeping our railroads in motion. It was an innovation in its day with its angled piers, extra vertical supports and additional beams designed to carry the heavy loads of coal from the State Coal Mine in the Powlett Coal Fields at Wonthaggi.
Protected by the National Trust, this single track, 15 span bridge is 91 metres long and 12 metres high at its maximum. It formed part of the Wonthaggi-Woolamai Rail Line. First used in 1911, it remained in service until 1978 and is preserved today as part of the Bass Coast Rail Trail. The bridge is now used by pedestrians and cyclists.
The Bridge is visible from the Bass Coast Highway but the best views are from Kilcunda Beach, where Bourne Creek trickles to the ocean and the trestle framework is reflected in the water. The beach is accessed from the Bass Highway via a set of wooden stairs. Capture some magnificent views of the bridge and take some time to stroll Kilcunda beach, sit on the sand, or explore the rock pools.
The Bourne Creek Bridge is in South Gippsland on the Bass Highway at Kilcunda. More Information can be found here.
The No. 7 Noojee Trestle Bridge Risen from the Ashes This trestle bridge like the Phoenix, has risen from the ashes. The bridge was rebuilt in 1939 after being burned in the Black Friday Bushfires of January 13th of that year. It was part of the Noojee Railway Line which was built to move timber from the LaTrobe River area.
Noojee Trestle Bridge (Image by Mattinbgn -talk · contribs - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
At 21 metres high the No. 7 Noojee Bridge is the tallest surviving trestle bridge in Victoria and is registered with the National Trust. It is 102 metres long across 18 spans. It continued in service until 1958 and is the last of seven trestle bridges that stood between Nayook and Noojee.
Noojee Trestle Bridge (Image by Mattinbgn -Talk contribs - Own work. Licenced under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons )
The bridge is today preserved as part of the Noojee Trestle Bridge Rail Trail, a 3km each way gravel and dirt trail with a gentle climb that is suitable for all levels of fitness. The trail runs between the old station site at Noojee and the bridge. Set amongst towering eucalypt forest the trail is well shaded. You are able to traverse the bridge which is protected by guard rails but do keep an eye on your little ones.
Noojee Timber Trestle Bridge (Image by By Zzrbiker -Own work CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
The Noojee Trestle Bridge is on Mount Baw Baw Tourist Road, Noojee. More information about the bridge and rail line can be found here. More information about the Noojee Trestle Bridge Rail Trail can be found here.
The Stony Creek Trestle Bridge near Nowa Nowa A Dramatic Derailment
In 1964, seven years after diesel engines replaced steam locomotives on the line, the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge was the scene of a dramatic derailment. Eleven timber filled trucks left the tracks and fell from the bridge, three of them at the time of the accident and the remaining eight as crews cleaned up. In a stroke of good fortune the engine and guard's van remained on the tracks and all on board were safe.
At 274 metres long and 18.6 metres high, the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge is thought to be the largest remaining wooden bridge in Australia. It was built in 1916 from locally sourced red iron bark and grey box timber.
Unfortunately this bridge is not well maintained and cannot be traversed. It has been barricaded for safety. Stony Creek Bridge is part of the East Gippsland Rail Trail, a 96km cycling, walking and horse riding route running from Bairnsdale to Orbost along the route of the old Orbost Railway Line. An information board at the site gives some interesting history.
The bridge is 22kms north-east of Lakes Entrance, just off the Princes Highway within the Colquhoun State Forest. The turnoff from the Nowa Nowa Road is not easy to spot although it is signposted. The road into the forest is unmade. It was a little bumpy when we visited but was fine for a two wheel drive vehicle. There are no tourist facilities at the site.
We visited the Stony Creek Bridge on the way to Buchan Caves and together they make a great day out. These are only two of the many things to do in and around the Gippsland Lakes area.
More information about the East Gippsland Rail Trail can be found here.
Eltham Central Park Trestle Bridge Integrated into the Modern Electric Rail Network
Built in 1902, this 113 year old engineering marvel is the only wooden trestle bridge in use on Melbourne's electric train network and the last remaining wooden trestle bridge in suburban Melbourne. Measuring 195 metres long over 38 spans it is thought to be the longest curved wooden bridge on a commuter railway in the southern hemisphere.
A modern day train crosses the historical Eltham Trestle Bridge (Image by By Thebusofdoom -Own work - CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)
More information about the Eltham Rail Trestle Bridge can be found here and about the Diamond Creek Rail Trail can be found here.
The Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge on the Puffing Billy Railway Carrying a Premier Tourist Attraction
It is only fitting that Melbourne's historic Puffing Billy Railway, numbered amongst the city's premier tourist attractions, passes over one of our oldest trestle bridges. Just minutes out of Belgrave Station Puffing Billy crosses the historical Horseshoe Bridge over Monbulk Creek.
Puffing Billy traversig the Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge (Image by Stephen Edmonds www.flickr.com CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
This National Trust registered curved timber trestle bridge is the only substantial timber bridge still in regular use aside from the Eltham Central Park Trestle Bridge. 91 metres long over 15 spans the bridge rises to 13 metres high and was built in 1899.
It is not known how many of the original beams and piers remain as the bridge is constantly maintained and timbers replaced as required. The original single piles were reinforced with an extra row in the early 1900's. Concrete pads have since been constructed underneath and all the bolts in the bridge are now galvanised.
Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge heading into Sherbrooke Forest (Image by Nick carson at en.wikipedia CC BY 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons)
The bridge can best be viewed around a kilometre east of Belgrave on Belgrave-Gembrook Road, near the intersection with Greenwell Road, in Selby. There are a few parking spots beneath the bridge where Puffing Billy can be photographed on the crossing. It's a popular spot and can get quite busy. The parking area is adjacent the road so keep an eye on the children.
More information about the Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge can be found here. Find information about the Puffing Billy Railway including timetables and special events here.