Pleasure was mixed with relief when I read the article on page 4 of last week’s paper stating the Barham/Koondrook Bridge was being refurbished to extend it’s life indefinitely.
The two-span de Burgh truss bridge with a lift span to allow the paddle steamers through was built in 1904. With the chief engineer being non other than Sir John Monash who went on to become one of Australia’s most illustrious military commanders in World War I; serving with distinction in both Gallipoli and France.
The Barham/Koondrook Bridge is possibly a rather large headache for the Roads and Traffic Authority (whose job it is to maintain it). Just last year the RTA was all for demolishing it. To quote from their July 2011 report on timber truss road bridges they said: “Barham Bridge does not bear any unique or outstanding design characteristics that cannot be viewed in other de Burgh truss bridges, meaning its removal and replacement would not result in a loss of the representativeness of the RTA’s timber truss bridge collection.”
…Well, that’s their opinion, mine is somewhat different. Although I have only been a Barham resident for a mere three years and therefore at least two generations away from being granted “local” status, I have grown to love the old lift-span bridge. The thought last year that our rattley old single lane timber bridge may be demolished to make room for some new fangled modern cement structure was filling me with dread. The very thought that this iconic state crossing may have become a memory only to be seen in photographs seemed a travesty.
A couple of years ago my friend Ilka and I were discussing the various things we liked about Barham. We talked about the people and the great community it is; that we enjoy the clean country air while Melbourne remains an easy and very accessible three-hour drive to the south. We discussed the large array of high standard sporting facilities and clubs available to the community; the magnificent golf club, the lawn tennis clubs, the bowling clubs, the very proactive Koondrook Barham Football Netball Club to name but a few. We talked about the beautifully maintained parks such as Riverside in Barham and the Apex Park in Koondrook and how nice it was to be able to walk around the picturesque Barham Lake Complex.
We both agreed one of the things we liked the most was the bridge over the Murray River joining the two towns. Although the single lane could sometimes be frustrating and that technically drivers on the Victorian side had to give way to drivers coming from New South Wales, most people were happy just to take it in turns to cross the bridge. That people exercised common sense and good manners with no honking of horns, shaking of fists, loud offensive language or “road rage” that may sometimes be witnessed in city traffic.
In today’s “throw away” society so often when something is in need of repair our initial and sometimes only thought is to chuck it out and buy (or in the bridge’s case, build) a new one. Sadly it is also often easier, cheaper and more practical to buy or build a new whatever than to repair the old one. In the case of the Barham/Koondrook Bridge I am wholeheartedly glad it is being repaired.