Saturday, 15 December 2012
The Bridgewater Bridge was one of the first bridges constructed in Tasmania following British settlement in 1803, and gave its name to the nearby suburb of Bridgewater. Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur commissioned the construction of the bridge and causeway as part of the Launceston - Hobart Trunk Road, linking both Tasmanian towns and providing easier access to farmlands in the interior of Tasmania.
Construction commenced on the bridge in 1829. The causeway, which was constructed first, was built by a workforce of 200 convicts who had been condemned to secondary punishment. These convicts, using nothing but wheelbarrows, shovels and picks and sheer muscle power, shifted 2 million tonnes (2,200,000 short tons) of soil, stones and clay. The finished causeway stretched 1.3 kilometres (0.8 mi), although did not span the full width of the Derwent. The original plan apparently called for a viaduct, but this plan was abandoned and the half-built arches were filled in to form the present causeway
On 22 July 1886, a train from the north was passing over the bridge when the engine left the tracks and tipped over, hanging precariously above the water on the edge of the southern end of the swing bridge. The fireman and driver were injured, but no-one was killed and the locomotive was salvageable. The cause of the accident was found to be that the rails failed to match properly when the bridge was closed, so the bridge was modified again to solve this problem. The bridge lasted several decades more before being replaced by another swing bridge in the early 1900s. The pivot and the sandstone abutments of this bridge are still standing and can be viewed on the left of the present bridge as one travels towards the north.
Construction on the present steel vertical lift bridge across the Derwent began in 1939. It was briefly interrupted by World War II, but was finally completed in 1946. It consists of a long concrete bridge that leads off the end of the causeway, and a steel lifting section just before the northern bank of the river. The lifting section is one of only a few remaining in the Southern Hemisphere, and is the largest of its kind remaining in Australia. The bridge was designed to last a century without replacement. A small control house stands on the lifting section. Inside are the switches and locks which operate the bridge.
In response to vandalism of the house which contains the bridge operating controls, closed-circuit television cameras were installed along the lifting span sometime between 2003 and 2005.
Text & Information sourced from Wikipedia