Bourke > North Bourke Bridge | Lift Bridge | Plaques | Darling River Gateway Bridge

The North Bourke Bridge is located between Bourke and its closest ‘suburb’, North Bourke. This ‘lift-up bridge’ was designed to allow paddle-steamers to pass through. The bridge was built in England and brought up river in sections by paddle-steamer.
From the original opening of the lift bridge on 4 August, 1883, and subsequent modification in 1895 and 1903, the bridge served as a gateway to inland NSW until the by-pass was opened in 1997.

Now closed to traffic, the bridge is still in use as a footbridge.

Built over 100 years ago, both the North Bourke Bridge that spans the Darling River, together with the Brewarrina Bridge that spans the Barwon River, are the sole survivors of the first series of lift bridges in New South Wales. The modification of the North Bourke Bridge in 1895 led to the improved designs for subsequent lift-span bridge.

Whilst the North Bourke Bridge (1883) is the oldest surviving pre 1915 lift bridge over inland rivers, the Brewarrina Bridge (1888) over the Barwon is the second oldest surviving example of the first series of lift bridges in New South Wales.
Other surviving pre 1915 lift bridges over the inland rivers include those on the Darling River at Wilcannia, NSW (1896), over the Murray River at Tocumwal, VIC (1895), Swan Hill, VIC (1896), Cobram, VIC (1902) and Barham, VIC (1905).

Whilst both the North Bourke Bridge and the Brewarrina Bridge were essentially the same design by Public Works engineer J.H. Daniels, the Bourke Bridge differs in that the lift posts were not connected at their tops by longitudinal elements (ie parallel to the lift span), which allowed the post to deflect slightly inwards during the lifting operation which caused the lift span to jam between the post when nearing full lift.

Source: Bridge signage and NSW Transport Roads & Traffic Authority
– The Brewarrina Bridge over Barwon River

View of the Darling River from the North Bourke Bridge, Bourke, NSW
View of the Darling River from the North Bourke Bridge, Bourke, NSW

There are some interesting information available online for those interested in Australian lift bridges and the North Bourke Bridge:

Information on the above files can be found in the Footnote & References below.

View of the North Bourke Bridge from the north side of the lift bridge, on the western side of the river. At the time of these photos, the river had slightly receded from the huge downpour that was experienced, although the river was still in full flow.

Following images are of the old wooden timber joining the bridge to the land, from the eastern side of the Darling River.

The current road leading onto the wooden section of the bridge, from both the eastern and western side of the river.

Following are views from beneath the bridge of the steel construction, with the Darling River Gateway Bridge in the background.

Following are views from the eastern side of the Darling River of the underside of the bridge.

The main bridge over the Darling River was a very expensive all-iron structure, involving imported wrought iron from England, most of it carted 400 miles from Bathurst with some by river boat from Echuca. It was more than a technical achievement. It was a political statement from successive Governments in Sydney against the poaching of its riches from the wool trade by South Australia and
Victoria. The bridge provided easy direct access for wool teams to the railway in Bourke which arrived in September 1885, thereby avoiding difficult river bank loadings of barges.

Source: Plaquing Nomination for the 1883 Lift Bridge, North Bourke, NSW, Engineers Australia

In 2018, Bourke Council closed the old North Bourke Bridge to pedestrians, citing safety reasons.

Footnote & References

  1. Engineers Australia, Plaquing Nomination for the 1883 Lift Bridge, North Bourke, NSW as a National Engineering Landmark,
  2. Movable Span Bridge Study – Volume 1: Vertical Lift Span Bridges, I. Berger, D. Healy and M. Tilley, March 2015, NSW Government, Transport Roads & Maritime Services / GHD,