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Published July 24th 2016
Spanning the flow
Taking small detours when travelling can result in some amazing discoveries. Having followed a sign promising an historic place of interest on the South Gippsland Highway, we ended up at the Sale Swing Bridge at the junction of the Latrobe and Thomson Rivers approximately 5km South of Sale city.
The bridge swings horizontally to allow traffic to pass on both sides
Part of Sale's rich history as a Port, the Swing Bridge was built from 1880-1883 and is the oldest surviving swing bridge in Australia. It was restored in the early 2000's, reopening in 2006, is National Trust classified and recognised as an Engineering Heritage National Landmark. An interesting fact about the bridge is that the original designer was John Grainger (father of Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger).
You can walk across the bridge at any time and it is apparently normally opened on weekends and one Wednesday per month. At the time we visited it had unfortunately been vandalised and therefore not in operation until further notice. You can see how it works in this Youtube video:
It seems like a fairly ingenious solution to having both a road bridge and a clear path for river traffic. The bridge could be operated by hand by a single person however nowadays there is a portable generator to help.
Billboards around the reserve explain the history of the bridge in some detail.
The Swing Bridge is a worthwhile stop off, particularly if you have an interest in history and/or engineering. Additionally, the nearby attraction of the Sale Common Natural Conservation Reserve encompasses the Sale Common River Heritage and Wetlands Trail. A lookout, boardwalk across the wetlands and abundant birdlife make this a pleasant spot to wander and take in the natural surroundings.
Sale is approximately 215km by road from Melbourne. See Travel Victoria for a comprehensive listing of transport options.
You're right Janice, it is always interesting to get off the main road, you just never know what you are going to find around the corner. I'll definitley be detoruing to this bridge next time I'm in the area.