Como Rail Bridge

  • Number
    4576032
  • Other name
    Former Como Railway Bridge
  • Primary address

    285, over Georges River Como, 2226. NSW
    LGA: Sutherland
    LGA region: Sydney
    DUAP region: Sydney South

  • Owner
    Sydney Water
  • Current use
    Footbridge & water main carrier
  • Former use
    Railway bridge
  • Item type
    Built
  • Item group
    Transport - Rail
  • Item category
    Railway Bridge/ Viaduct
  • Curtilage/Boundary
    The Como Rail Bridge site is located in the locales of Como, Sutherland LGA and Oatley, in the Hurstville LGA where a 19th century rail bridge crosses the Georges River from north to south.The curtilage is defined by the bridge structure itself and the abutments plus 3m from the outer edges of the structure, as shown on the curtilage plan.
  • AMG easting
    321817209
  • AMG northing
    6236701080
  • Statement of significance
    The Como Rail Bridge is significant as the longest single track lattice girder bridge in New South Wales and is a rare example of this type. Historically, the bridge contributed to the opening up of the southern suburbs of Sydney in the 1880s. While the rail infrastructure has largely been removed from the bridge, it continues to serve an important function, supporting the Woronora to Penshurst Water Supply Pipeline, part of Sydney's fifth water supply system. It also provides an important pedestrian link across the Georges River. The 1885 Como Rail Bridge is one of twelve prefabricated lattice truss iron bridges ordered by the noted Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton (1820 -1898) of the (NSW) Railway Department from British iron suppliers. They were constructed between 1871 and 1887. The Como Rail Bridge possesses exceptional significance as one of the 1871-1887 group of twelve rail bridges erected by the NSW Railway Department and through their direct assocation with Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton.
  • Endorsed significance
    State
  • Designer
    John Whitton, Dept of Railways
  • Builder
    C and E Millar
  • Year started
    1883
  • Year completed
    1885
  • Circa
    No
  • Physical description
    Single track iron lattice girder bridge. Formerly a rail bridge. Two water pipelines are attached to the bridge. The railway infrastructure has been removed from the deck and the bridge deck is used as a pedestrian bridge over the Georges River. The bridge is a wrought iron girder bridge supported by six pairs of cast iron columns in the riverbed.
  • Modifications made
    1926 - transverse elliptical arch braces added to support electricity lines. 1935-42 - Woronora to Penshurst 48 inch water main installed across bridge. 1985 - removal of rail infrastructure and conversion to footbridge/cycleway. 2003 - removal of timber walkway planks adjacent to the pipeline and the steel handrails. The bridge has also been modified by the fabrication and addition of steel elements to increase the height of the original lattice arch braces to accept the electrification of the passenger trains on the Illawarra service. The cast iron cladding may also have been removed at this time to facilitate this work.
  • History
    The Como Rail Bridge was completed in 1885 as part of the original Illawarra line infrastructure. It is a very fine example of a single track iron lattice girder bridge of the 1870s and 1880s. It is the longest single track iron lattice girder bridge in NSW and the only such bridge within 250kms of Sydney. It was a notorious bottleneck within five years of its completion when the single track on either side of the bridge was increased to a double track. The double tracks converged to a single 'gauntlet' track on the bridge, which enabled trains to cross in either direction without chain points and with a relative degree of safety. It was one of only a few installations of this type in NSW. Between 1935 and 1942 the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board built a new 1220 mm diameter pipeline to pump water from the recently completed Woronora Dam to the Board's reservoirs at Penshurst. The pipeline was carried over the Georges River on the bridge supported on new steel outriggers cantilevered from the main girders. To maintain an evenly balanced load, the 1220mm pipeline was split into two 600mm diameter mains, one supported on each side of the bridge. The old bridge was finally superseded in 1972 by a new double track reinforced concrete bridge, built alongside the existing bridge. Responsibility for the old bridge was transferred to the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board. Sutherland and Kogarah Councils, the local authorities on either side of the river, shared the cost of converting the railway track to an extensively used cycleway and footpath, which opened in 1985, 100 years after the construction of the bridge. In the late 1990s Sydney Water undertook upgrading works to the pipeline. The Como Rail Bridge was tenth in a series of twelve lattice truss wrought iron bridges commissioned by John Whitton from 1871 to 1887. Whitton preferred this form of bridge construction to timber truss bridges for durability and maintenance. The lattice truss components for all the bridges were ordered as 48.5 (159 ft) metre individual spans that were assembled as prefabricated units by the NSW Department of Public Works. Dependent on their locations, a selection of masonry supports, earthen embankments and cast iron piers were used to support the bridge units. All of the bridges in the series were braced overhead by distinctive lattice arches. The northern Oatley abutment for the bridge was constructed in quarry-faced ashlar and the bridge was constructed atop six paired-and-braced piers ordered from Stockton Forge. These piers are bell-shaped at the bottom and rest on the sandstone bed of the Georges River. Once placed as caissons, they were braced and filled with concrete. One pair of piers is set within the embankment on the Como side of the crossing. The Como approach was constructed from fill on the southern side, and the first pair of piers was set into the embankment. John Oakes’s history of the Illawarra Railways notes that the ironwork for the bridge was unloaded at Darling Harbour in 1883-84 and after overland transport to the Cooks River; the material was carried by steam tug and barge to the construction site. (Oakes, 2003, p.16). Cochrane and Company, Middlesborough, England, fabricated this structural ironwork. (O’Connor, 1985 and Best and Fraser, 1984). As a member of the second group of John Whitton’s lattice truss bridges, the Como Bridge was constructed in a more generously spaced lattice truss arrangement that suggests that improvements in the ironwork and its subsequent assembly allowed for some rationalisation of materials. The completed bridge was first placed in service on 26 December 1885 with an excursion train to Sutherland and displacement testing took place on 19 January 1886. (Oakes, 2003, p.16).
  • National
    Economy
  • State
    Transport
  • Local
    (none)
  • National
    Settlement
  • State
    Utilities
  • Local
    Water Supply
  • Local description
    Relates to the planning, development, expansion and provision of water supply.
  • a) Historical
    Como Rail Bridge is of high significance and visibility in the surrounding area. It is a major structure in the area and indicates clearly the level of design and technology involved in early railway construction to cross a major river. The bridge is a very fine example of a single track iron lattice girder bridge of the 1870s and 1880s. Como is the longest single track iron lattice girder bridge in NSW and the only such bridge within 250kms of Sydney. The 1885 Como Rail Bridge is one of twelve prefabricated lattice truss iron bridges by the noted Engineer-in-Chief John Whitton (1820-1898) of the (NSW) Railway Department. The 12 bridges were constructed between 1871 and 1887. These bridges were part of a major expansion plan put in place by Whitton. Eleven of twelve of these bridges have survived in varying degrees of intactness. Although there were iron bridges constructed in Australia by the 1860s, this ambitious order of twelve bridges was unparalleled. This lattice truss railway bridge programme was complete by 1887.
  • b) Association
    The (NSW) Railway Department at the time of the construction of the Como Rail Bridge was under the control of John Whitton (1820-1898). On 27 March 1856 he was appointed Engineer-in-Chief to oversee the construction of railways in New South Wales. As Engineer he supervised the construction of the Blue Mountains line and its noted zig-zags. He also developed plans for a suspension bridge from Dawes Point to Milson’s Point. In 1889, Whitton opened the Hawkesbury River bridge to complete the railway line to Brisbane through Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. On his retirement, he had managed the construction of 3494 kms (2171 miles) of railway track and despite a Royal Commission in 1884, Whitton survived with his engineering and management integrity intact (Singleton, 1976, pp 393-394). Whitton is considered a secular saint within the Australian engineering profession.
  • c) Aesthetic
    At the time of their construction (1871-1887), the twelve lattice truss rail bridges ordered by John Whitton were outmoded technology. The technical innovations of suspension such as cantilever (1820s) and steel girder bridges (after 1870) had superseded the lattice truss (ca.1820) amongst innovative bridge builders. The choice of a prefabricated lattice truss bridge ordered in identical 48.5 metre sections for installation at twelve different sites was a practical, rather than an inspired engineering solution for colonial bridge building where skill levels were low and colonial iron in very short supply. The British designer of the Whitton bridges, Sir John Fowler (co-designer of the Firth of Forth Bridge, 1883-1890), for example, had progressed to innovative cantilever bridge designs before the NSW bridge project was completed.
  • d) Social
    The bridge was a part of a major transport link between the South Coast and Sydney, encouraging development in the towns and suburbs which emerged along the railway line. The presence of the railway line encouraged Sydney day-trippers to use the Como boatsheds, baths, fishing locations and the adjacent National Park. The bridge continues in service as an important pedestrian and bicycle link across the Georges River.
  • f) Rarity
    The bridge is the only rail bridge of this style within 250kms of Sydney and was one of a group of 12 constructed in the 1880s. Within the context of Sydney Water, the Como Rail Bridge is the carrier for the Woronora/Penshurst Pipeline. The Como Rail Bridge is a significant element within the NSW Government Railways’ late 19th century programme of erecting twelve lattice truss bridges.
  • g) Representative
    The Como Rail Bridge is one of eleven lattice truss bridges surviving of the twelve originally constructed. In most respects, these bridges are near identical in concept and construction, thereby representing the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places.
  • Integrity assessment
    Rail infrastructure removed from the bridge deck and replaced with bitumen footway.
  • List name
    Register of the National Estate
  • Reference number
    15915
  • List name
    Local Environmental Plan
  • Name
    Sutherland Shire LEP 2006 Schedule 6
  • Reference number
    A009, A020 and L197-R
  • Date listing listed
    01 January 2000
  • List name
    Local Environmental Plan
  • Name
    Kogarah LEP 1998 Schedule 3
  • Date listing listed
    01 January 1998
  • List name
    Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register
  • Name
    Sydney Water Heritage Register
  • Date listing listed
    30 June 2002
  • List name
    National Trust of Australia register
  • Date listing listed
    01 January 2000
  • List name
    Heritage Act - State Heritage Register
  • Name
    State Heritage Register
  • Reference number
    01624
  • Gazette number
    220
  • Gazette page
    9709
  • Date listing listed
    15 November 2002
  • Title
    S170 Register
  • Author
    State Rail Authority
  • Published
    0
  • Title
    Como Railway Bridge Heritage Assessment and Record Drawings
  • Author
    Ian Sansom
  • Published
    1998
  • Item reference number in study
  • Title
    Como Rail Bridge Conservation Management Plan
  • Author
    Sydney Water
  • Published
    2006
  • Item reference number in study
  • The physical curtilage plan for Como Rail Bridge.
    The physical curtilage plan for Como Rail Bridge.
    Created by: Sydney Water
    Creation date: 28 June 2006
  • Como Rail Bridge showing supports with new bridge adjacent.
    Como Rail Bridge showing supports with new bridge adjacent.
    Created by: Sydney Water
    Creation date: 01 January 2006
  • Como Rail Bridge, northern end showing sandstone abutment.
    Como Rail Bridge, northern end showing sandstone abutment.
    Created by: Sydney Water
    Creation date: 01 January 2006
  • Como Rail Bridge, south side showing embankment.
    Como Rail Bridge, south side showing embankment.
    Created by: Sydney Water
    Creation date: 01 January 2006
  • Como Rail Bridge showing raised girder and bike path.
    Como Rail Bridge showing raised girder and bike path.
    Created by: Sydney Water
    Creation date: 01 January 2006
  • Como Rail Bridge showing water pipe.
    Como Rail Bridge showing water pipe.
    Created by: Sydney Water
    Creation date: 01 January 2006
  • Data entry status
    Basic
  • Entered
    13 February 2002
  • Updated
    05 December 2014