5 / 3/1879
... part of the KellyGang story
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THE ECHUCA AND MOAMA BRIDGE
[BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH]
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT)
The new bridge over the Murray has been left open for general traffic all day, and it generally believed that no endeavour will made to prohibit the public from using it. Signalmen have been placed at each extremity of the bridge, and it is now recognised as a crossing place, for officers of both the Victorian and New South Wales Customs service are stationed on the bridge. The gates are looked after by the signalmen. Trains crossing the bridge whistle continuously from where the ascent of the approach on the one side commences till they get nearly across, and see that the road is clear. This whistling is to warn people about to cross to wait till the train has gone over, as no horse could stand in such close proximity to an approaching train as the animal would be forced to do if both were allowed on the bridge together. The pontoon bridge is entirely unused since the iron bridge was opened.
Subjoined is a précis of the papers in the archives of the Railway department on the subject of the delay in opening the bridge over the Murray River , between Echuca and Moama, for public traffic. It may be premised that the cost of the work is to be borne in equal portions by the Government of Victoria and New South Wales, and that each Government claimed and possessed the right of inspection and approval or disapproval of the bridge before it was opened. On the 28th August, 1878, the secretary for Victorian Railways received, in reply to a telegram sent by him the previous day, a telegram from the New South Wales Government, stating that the question of inspecting the bridge by their engineer in chief, prior to its being opened, was then under consideration. Mr Watson, Victorian engineer in chief minutes the papers as follows on 31st August, 1878 -' I was at Echuca on Thursday, 20th, and found the new bridge quite fit for opening for railway traffic. As the temporary bridge had become very shaky, not positively dangerous, but occasioning great fear and alarm amongst passengers, I authorised the opening of the new bridge without waiting for further reply from New South Wales Government." The purport of that minute was communicated to the New South Wales Government on 2nd September, the trains having, however, begun to run over the bridge on the 30th August.
On 6th September the New South Wales Government informed the Victorian Government that they could not consent to the opening of the bridge until inspection by their engineer in chief and until regulations for its use were agreed on. In reply, the New South Wales Government were told that the bridge had not been formally opened, pending the inspection by their officer. On 6th January 1879 , the engineer for maintenance reported to our engineer in chief that the contract for the construction of the bridge had been completed, "together with approaches, &c, and that the bridge is now ready for public traffic." That report was promptly communicated to the New South Wales Government.
On 9th January 1879, the mayor of Echuca telegraphed to the Minister of Railways, stating that public traffic on the bridge was prohibited, and that great public indignation was manifested there at. He was informed, in reply, that the formal opening of the bridge was delayed, awaiting the arrival of the New South Wales Government engineer.
On the 21at January the Echuca Borough Council wrote, urging that the bridge be opened for road traffic, and on the 29th January the New South Wales Government were informed that our Railway department was being much pressed to have the bridge opened to the public, and were asked when the engineer in chief of New South Wales would be able to make his proposed inspection.
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