Timber truss bridges

Over the past one and half centuries more than 420 timber truss bridges were built across New South Wales. Roads and Maritime Services has committed to conserving 26 of the bridges as part of the state’s road network. All but unique to New South Wales, timber truss bridges originated from settlement into rugged and remote areas, serving the need to carry large freight loads and high quality hardwood timber of massive dimensions.

Picton Bridge

For more than eighty years the designs of these bridges were continually refined to improve their performance, meet changing demands and tie communities together. Today, the remaining bridges record the ingenuity of their designers and builders and display the unique qualities of Australian hardwoods.

In 2018 Roads and Maritime will release a publication on the history of the timber truss bridges of New South Wales. Following is an introduction and outline of this upcoming publication.

The Timber Truss Bridge Book

How did timber truss bridges become such distinctive elements of the landscapes of NSW? And why were more than 400 of these bridges built in the eighty years after responsible government was won in the 1850s?

Constantly increasing freight loads, abundant high quality hardwood timber of massive dimensions, and the abilities of some remarkable engineers offer some answers. Today, the remaining bridges record the ingenuity of their designers and builders and the unique qualities of Australian hardwoods. But their story only starts there.

Investigating why NSW became ‘the timber truss bridge state’, this publication shows the part these bridges played in shaping localities and in the development of the State. The interplay between state enterprise and local needs and skills emerges as a key theme. The stories of these bridges uncover layers of meaning as the routes of modern highways reveal the roadways used by bullock teams and mail coaches and before that, the fords and pathways of Aboriginal Australia.

These bridges also tell of their designers, whose ingenuity adapted engineering knowledge to local materials, developing the successive timber truss types that have become milestones in Australian bridge engineering.

These are stories that trace fascinating new paths through the history of NSW.

A project of Roads and Maritime Services, this publication will be fully illustrated with both colour and historic photographs. All of the authors are experts in their field and bring engineering, historical and heritage perspectives to an intriguing subject. It addresses a wide audience interested in NSW, local history, engineering and heritage. Written for the general reader with a minimum of necessary technical jargon, it is the definitive statement on these significant heritage places.

The publication will be an e-publication, freely accessible and available for download.

The Timber Truss Bridge Book
Edited by Lenore Coltheart and Amie Nicholas, with Ian Berger and Denis Gojak. To be published 2018.

Authors and content

Author(s) Section title and description About the author(s)
Tony Brassil, Lenore Coltheart and Rex Glencross-Grant The early years
A brief history of the development of NSW and its transportation network.
Tony Brassil is an expert in Australia’s industrial heritage. He is a member of The National Trust’s Industrial Heritage Committee and Roads and Maritime’s Heritage Committee.

Dr Lenore Coltheart is an historian of engineering and technology, with publications including histories of public works in NSW.

Dr Rex Glencross-Grant is Senior Lecturer, University of New England
Don Fraser and Amie Nicholas Developing the truss
An overview of the evolution of the five truss types built from the 1850s to the 1930s
Dr Don Fraser is the doyen of bridge engineering and heritage in Australia

Amie Nicholas is a Bridge Engineer for Roads and Maritime Services NSW and a Chartered Heritage and Conservation Engineer.
Lenore Coltheart The designers
Collective biography of the engineers whose names now identify the heritage truss types
Ian Bowie and Amie Nicholas Timber truss technology
Not just any timber goes into a bridge. The engineering science and practical issues of hardwood timber for bridge building
Ian Bowie is Honorary Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering and IT, University of Sydney.
Ian Jack People, places and their bridges
How rural communities celebrated their bridges
Associate Professor Ian Jack is among the founders of industrial heritage studies in Australia and former senior lecturer at the University of Sydney
Ian Berger Building bridges
How bridge builders did what they did, and the generation of hard-won knowledge and skills
Ian Berger is Environment Officer [Heritage] at Roads and Maritime
Ray Wedgwood, Brian Pearson and Wije Ariyaratne with Amie Nicholas Weighty matters
How can bridges designed for laden wagons be made to carry modern heavy freight vehicles?
These are the current and two former chief bridge engineers for Roads and Maritime and its predecessors
Denis Gojak A working legacy
History for the future – conserving timber truss bridges
Denis Gojak is Roads and Maritime’s Senior Heritage Specialist
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