Increasing Load Capacity on the Longford Railway Bridge

Longford’s Railway Bridge across the South Esk Risk in the north of the state will undergo maintenance and structural work later this year to increase load capacity without compromising its strong heritage values.

Photo courtesy Nic Haygarth

The bridge is part of the 83-kilometre long Launceston and Western Railway Line opened in 1871. This was Tasmania’s first railway line, constructed to move agricultural produce from the north west coast to Launceston, and on to Melbourne via shipping.

Built of a continuous cast iron through-lattice truss structure over two 64-metre spans centred on a brick pier in the middle of the River, the bridge was considered a major engineering feat. It was built at the Rhymney Iron Works in Wales and shipped out to Tasmania in pieces at a cost of 28,000 pounds. At the time of its construction, it was one of two bridges in the Australian colonies with the longest spans.

The bridge remains a strong visual element in the landscape, and is still used today. To ensure its continued use and to respond to the need to increase the bridge's structural loads, TasRail sought advice from Heritage Tasmania.

Proposed works to the bridge include replacing steel bracing members, completing mortar repairs to masonry abutments, and repainting the steelwork to ensure the continued use of this important historic iron structure.

The Tasmanian Heritage Council has approved the works through a Certificate of Exemption, saving TasRail time and money. Since January this year, more than 80 exemptions have been issued for sympathetic works that minimize impacts on a place’s heritage values.

From the public perspective, the Longford Railway Bridge will continue to retain its original features, sitting proudly over the South Esk River.

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