||The Olympic Highway crosses Murringo Creek near Bendick Murrell a small centre between Young and Cowra in the state's south-west. The wider Murrumbidgee region and Central Tablelands were home to the Wiradjuri language group. European settlement reached the area via two routes. G. W. Evans reached the northern part of the Cowra district and the Lachlan River in 1815, two years after his exploration of the Bathurst Plains. By January 1815 William Cox had built a road over the mountains to Bathurst from Emu Plains which opened the area to settlement. Development of the area was initially slow and carefully controlled by the Government and early white settlers remained apprehensive about the strong Wiradjuri presence until the 1840s. Settlement of the Murrumbidgee region followed the 1817-1820 exploration of the southern tableland by Hume, Throsby, Meehan and Oxley, who returned to the colony filled with enthusiasm about the region. (Regional Histories, 1996, pp. 109) James White took up the Burrangong station, on which today's Young stands, in the 1830s. (Harden Walkabout Website http://www.walkabout.com.au/fairfax/locations/NSWHarden.shtml; Australian Encyclopaedia Vol 3, pp. 452-3, Vol 9, p. 528, Regional Histories, p. 141) Cowra stands on what was originally the Rev. Henry Fulton's "Cowra Rocks" station and the town was surveyed and gazetted in 1849. (Regional Histories, 1996, pp. 90-1, 93, Marriott, 1988, pp. 27-8) Tracks and stockroutes between the stations would have developed along with the outposts themselves.
The region's gold rushes in the mid to late nineteenth century resulted in population explosions, followed by some permanent settlement, and would have generated increased foot and horse traffic on the tracks between settlements and diggings. An extensive area of alluvial gold was discovered near today's Young in 1860 and many diggers transferred to this find from the Kiandra and Adelong goldfields. The Young town site, first called Lambing Flat, was settled by the diggers. Over a single year, the number of diggers had grown to 10,000, and racial tensions erupted in June 1861 with serious riots against Chinese diggers, which led directly to the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act of 1861. The greatest number of diggers working the fields at Young at one time may have reached 17, 000. (Australian Encyclopaedia Vol. 9, p. 528, Regional Histories, p. 141) Alluvial mining began at Trunkey, on the Abercrombie River in the 1850s and reef mining continued into the 1890s. There were also sporadic finds around Orange (Regional Histories, 1996, pp. 91-2)
The status of Both Cowra and Young as major regional centres was confirmed into the 1880s and 1890s. The Harden-Blayney rail branch line reached Young in 1885 and Cowra in 1888 and both towns prospered as a result. (Regional Histories, 1996, p. 93) By 1878 Nicole Jasprizza had begun cherry cropping on a commercial scale at Young and after the railway reached the town, a much wider market could be tapped. Scores of other cherry orchards were established over the following half century, and quinces, apples, pears, oranges, grapes and strawberries were also grown from the 1890s. The soldiers settlement at Young, following on the First World War brought a new population of fruit growers to the area. (Regional Histories, 1996, p. 139) The marked advantages of rail for the transport of produce over horse or oxen haulage along the primitive roads may have rendered the region's roads quieter and less important for several decades except as far as they facilitated access to the rail lines. The road between Young and Cowra through Bendick Murrell runs parallel to the rail line. The roads leading to Young were declared "public quagmires" in 1893, (Bayley, 1956, p. 128, cites the Burrangong Chronicle of 7th June 1893)
From 1906 the Burrangong Shire Council was responsible for the management of road infrastructure in the Shire, and sought to improve the roads for the heavy produce-laden traffic, such as Wallace White's waggon "The Emulator", typically carrying sixteen tons of wheat in 1907. The Bendick Murrell quarries supplied blue stone for the construction of important public buildings in the area, including the young Presbyterian Church, built in 1920, and would have placed heavy loads on the roads, or perhaps rail. (Bayley, 1956, p. 129, p. 161). The section of the Young-Cowra road between Young and Koorawatha, on the boundary of the two Shires, was classified a main road in 1906 under the Local Government Act. (DMR, 1976, map opposite p. 64) That the classified route did not extend into the Cowra Shire is curious.
As private transport and long distance haulage of produce and supplies was increasingly carried out by motor vehicle during the first decades of the twentieth century, the condition and design of road infrastructure across the state attracted a new level of attention and necessitated the development of new road making technologies. The late 1920s and 1930s was a busy time for the improvement of road infrastructure in New South Wales. The first route in the Young Shire to be upgraded was that between Young and Wombat to the south, reconstructed in 1928. (Bayley, 1956, p. 131, DMR, 1976, p. 82 and maps opposite pp. 80, 112). The road between Young and Cowra through Bendick Murrell, however, was overlooked when main roads were classified and then reclassified in 1923 and 1928 under the amended Local Government Act and Main Roads Act respectively, but was finally classified a trunk road in 1939. By this time funding and manpower allocations were affected by the war effort, and it is possible that the bridge over Murringo Creek was needed sooner, but its construction deferred until after the war, in 1947. In the same year a public library was established at Bendick Murrell. (DMR, 1976, p. 82 and maps opposite pp. 80, 112, 160, Bayley, 1956, p. 143). Subsequently this road has become part of the route known as the Olympic Highway.
In the decades prior to the war the Main Roads Board and then the Department of Main Roads had adapted existing standards of bridge design to meet the requirements of improved motor vehicle performance. Bridges were generally wider with an improved load capacity. The principal types of bridges constructed during the period were: reinforced concrete beam; concrete slab; steel truss on concrete piers; and timber beam bridges. Concrete was favoured in many instances because it was perceived to be a low maintenance material (DMR, 1976, pp.169, 170). Based on Roads and Maritime Services bridge database records, reinforced concrete beam or girder bridges were the most common form of concrete bridge construction to 1948, with more than 160 extant. They have been very popular in NSW, and elsewhere, providing an efficient and often aesthetically pleasing solution to a wide range of crossing types. Within the general group of beam bridges, the main longitudinal members have had various configurations ranging from a simple set of rectangular beams cast integrally with the deck, through beams with curved soffits, to flat soffit decks where the edge beams also form the bridge parapet or sidewall. These bridges on the state's main roads and highways, constructed to replace high-maintenance and aged timber bridges or open crossings, along with other road improvements, ushered in the age of comfortable motor transport and efficient road transport of goods and produce to which we are accustomed today.