Famous in verse, song and popular imagination, Gundagai today bids farewell to its iconic and historic Prince Alfred Bridge, condemned to demolition after more than 125 years of service.
- The bridge was viewed as a public safety risk that would be too costly to repair and maintain
- The dismantling of the bridge could take up to three weeks, which keeps fond memories for locals.
- Some believe it could have been saved if it had been listed as a heritage site
The wooden and iron bridge was built in the 1860s and completed in 1896 according to its current design.
Knowing that the demolition process is starting today arouses emotions throughout the city.
“It’s not just a big part of Gundagai, it’s also a big part of Australia,” said librarian Cindy Smith.
It was the first major bridge to cross the Murrumbidgee River and stood next to iconic Gundagai tourist attractions including the iconic Dog on the Tuckerbox, the sculpture of Yarri and Jacky Jacky and the marble masterpiece of Rusconi.
The bridge was also featured on the cover of Johnny Diesel and the Injectors’ 1989 Cry In Shame album.
Two spans of the bridge were removed in May 2021 after being considered a risk to public safety due to significant deterioration.
In August, another section of the bridge collapsed following heavy rains.
The southern end of the bridge that crosses the Murrumbidgee River is still in service today and will not be removed, but a 711-meter stretch to the north, closed to traffic since 1984, is on the verge of disappearing.
The Prince Alfred Bridge holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Gundagai, including Ms Smith, who crossed the bridge by car when she first obtained her permit as part of a local tradition.
“If you could cross the bridge after you got your license, you could drive anywhere safely,” she said.
Childhood lovers Kate and James Atwood took photos on the bridge on their wedding day, exactly three years ago today.
“We had so many great memories of being on the bridge, like school trips,” Ms. Atwood said.
“It’s a great piece of history for the community.
The process was tinged with regret that perhaps the fate of the bridge could have prevented a heritage inscription from having been obtained.
“Without the list, we couldn’t get the money,” said Robert Butcher, treasurer of Gundagai Historic Bridges.
In addition to the lack of public need for the decommissioned overpass, Crown Lands found it impossible to restore the logging road and continue to maintain it.
But it is intended to be remembered and Crown Lands is processing poll comments by taking suggestions on how best to achieve this.
But it’s hard to say goodbye.
“It will always be history… but you just won’t be able to see the bridge,” Mr. Atwood said.