Those travelling the popular outback route ‘the Oodnadatta Track‘, will see the Algebuckina Bridge, one of the key attractions along the track.

The Great Northern Railway Algebuckina Bridge is an example of the engineering skills and commitment needed to build such a bridge among the many constructions that are part of the ‘Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail’. The largest single bridge in South Australia and spanning the Neales River, the bridge was officially opened for traffic from January 6, 1892.

Algebuckina Bridge
Algebuckina Bridge

This imposing bridge highlights the engineering skills required to build the Great Northern Railway from 1878-91, when the line reached Oodnadatta. The Algebuckina Bridge, which cost £60,000, spans the Neales River and was officially opened for traffic from January 6, 1892.

Up to 352 men were employed to build this bridge by a combination of daily work and piece work.

Algebuckina Signage
One of the informative outback signs made by Adam and Lynne Plate of The Pink Roadhouse.

Made up of nineteen 30.9 metre spans it is the largest single bridge in South Australia. The bridge was strengthened in 1926 to carry heavier rail traffic. It is on the Register of the National Estate and on the State Heritage Register and forms part of the ‘Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail’.

Algebuckina Area signage
Algebuckina Area signage

There are a number of things of interest including the three graves in an area close to the north end of the bridge, although only one is marked, being that of a young prospector, James Helps, who drowned in the creek during a flood. There is the rusting remains of the 1948 FJ Holden that was hit by a train half way across the bridge as the driver attempted to cross the rail bridge during a flood. The driver survived. Nearby is the surveyed and marked site (1858) of the proposed Algebuckina township, and their are the remains of mine shafts and building.

The waterhole east of the bridge offers a great fishing and camping spot, although during summer, you may want to camp a bit back from the waters edge because of the mossies. The Algebuckina waterhole has never dried up in living memory and is the largest refuge waterhole in the Neales-Peak river system.

Aboriginal Dreamtime
Three large rocks, visible from the plateau on the northern approach to Algebuckina represent frogs in Arabana myth. The story goes something like this:

A group of Water hole frogs set out from Utapuka (Hookey’s waterhole at Oodnadatta), and head down the Neales River to go to war with some frogs from further east. At Algebuckina they are teased by local people, ‘What have you come for, you with the big wide mouths?’ So the angry frogs turned the people into stone. The jumbled rocks are now seen as the people, while the larger boulders are the frogs.1

Google Maps - Neales River, Algebuckina, SA
Google Maps – Neales River, Algebuckina, SA

Google Maps – Neales River, Algebuckina, SA

Algebuckina Bridge – Other Info

Trove – National Library of AustraliaThe Algebuckina Tragedy
The railway cottage at Algebuckina, 25 miles south of Oodnadatta, at wheh a railway labourer named Jack Edward Walsh (21 year3 of age) was alleged to have been shot by a fellow labourer named Charles Henry Anderson at 9.30 on the morning of Monday, April 19. Anderson was committed for trial on a charge of murder by the local Coroner at Oodnadatta (Mr. E. R. Kempe) on Sunday.

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Algebuckina Bridge South Australia with three workers Graves
posted by Jim McNabb – Three Graves Algebuckina Bridge by Roger Sallis

At Algebuckina, some 58 kilometres south of Oodnadatta, a wrought iron bridge carried the former Alice Springs narrow gauge railway across the flood plain of the River Neales. Though no train has passed over it since the new standard gauge route was opened from Tarcoola, the bridge still exists today and has a rather unique and interesting history… (follow link to read more or do a search for the information).

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