Crossing The River

Our rivers were once the highways and byways of the region. Settlements and farms were established along and around the four rivers and their estuaries with boats of all shapes and sizes moving people and produce.

Once roads were established, river ferries and punts were used to cross our rivers and eventually bridges were built to connect communities to each other.

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Click to view Close the Gates

Close the Gates

The refurbished boom gate mechanism and pulley wheel from the old Tinonee punt are reminders of the many punts and ferries on the Mid North Coast before the bridging of the area’s major rivers.  The Tinonee punt crossed the Manning…

Click to view A Labour of Love

A Labour of Love

This five metre long wooden model of the historic Killawarra Bridge was built by local bridge worker, Gordon Bithery. Whilst not to scale, the model was based on plans of the original Allan Truss Bridge and illustrates the design, construction…

Click to view Every Detail Recorded

Every Detail Recorded

This large leather-bound book contains hand-drawn cross section technical drawings and construction and maintenance records of sixty six wooden bridges built between 1876 and 1931. The bridges were built over a wide area of the present day Port Macquarie Hastings…

Click to view The Event of The Year

The Event of The Year

This tattered invitation is to the banquet on August 14, 1907 celebrating the opening of Bain Bridge, the first major bridge across the Hastings River.  It was a celebration of a long awaited and hard fought for piece of infrastructure…

Click to view We Hear You!

We Hear You!

This sign, Please blow car horn for ferry service, is a reminder of the historic Rocks Ferry which crossed the Hastings River from the Wauchope side to Redbank. The sign was located on the Wauchope side of the river.   While…

Click to view Cutting the Ribbon

Cutting the Ribbon

This piece of white satin ribbon was signed by members of the official party at the opening of the Dennis Bridge over the Hasting River in December 1961. The ribbon was cut by Mr P D Hills, M.L.A. Minister for…

Click to view Leaving Soon

Leaving Soon

This framed painted tin sign was used at the Frederickton to East Frederickton ferry crossing over the Macleay River connecting Austral Eden and East Frederickton to Frederickton. Dairy produce was brought across the river to the Frederickton Dairy Factory while…

Close the Gates

Close the Gates

Circa 1937 / Learn more on Ehive
The Coroner recommended that a boom gate be installed and this boom gate mechanism and pulley wheel appear to date from that time

The refurbished boom gate mechanism and pulley wheel from the old Tinonee punt are reminders of the many punts and ferries on the Mid North Coast before the bridging of the area’s major rivers.  The Tinonee punt crossed the Manning River from Tinonee to Taree Estate carrying vehicles and passengers from 1860 until its closure in 1949.

The Tinonee punt boom gate was erected after a tragic accident in 1937 when four visitors to the region travelling by car at night drove straight into the Manning River. All four were drowned. The Coroner’s findings included that the driver had not noticed the warning signage on the steep approach and perhaps had thought the ferry lights were on the Tinonee side instead of the Taree side of the river. The Coroner recommended that a boom gate be installed and this boom gate mechanism and pulley wheel appear to date from that time.

The opening of the Martin Bridge at Taree in 1940 and associated re-routing of the Pacific Highway lead to decreased use of the Tinonee punt and to its ultimate demise. These items were abandoned and remained in-situ until their rescue and refurbishment by the Tinonee Historical Society in 2012. They can now be viewed as working exhibits in the garden of the Tinonee Historical Museum.

A Labour of Love

A Labour of Love

Circa 1989 / Learn more on Ehive
Originally intended as a feature over his garden pond, the bridge model is now a popular exhibit at the Wingham Museum.

This five metre long wooden model of the historic Killawarra Bridge was built by local bridge worker, Gordon Bithery. Whilst not to scale, the model was based on plans of the original Allan Truss Bridge and illustrates the design, construction and scale of the first bridge over the Manning River built in 1900-01. Built at a cost of £7,700, the Killawarra bridge was significant in terms of the opening up of the upper Manning area to the rest of the Manning and providing improved access to the North Coast regopn.

The Killawarra Bridge was reported to be one of the highest wooden bridges in the southern hemisphere at the time of its construction and was the first 5 span Allan Truss Bridge built in N.S.W. The bridge was 633 feet long and 63 feet high with the five main spans being 90 feet and two end spans being 92 feet. The strong hardwood used enabled Allan Truss bridges to be built differently to the old wooden truss bridges.

Following the 1979 floods, Gordon Bithrey, the model’s maker was one of six men engaged to undertake major repairs to the Killawarra Bridge and it was during this time that he gained an appreciation of the workmanship and details of the bridge. By 1985 the Department of Main Roads had determined that the ongoing costs of maintaining the deteriorating bridge were high and hat a new bridge should be built. The old bridge was demolished in 1989.

Mr Bithrey built the model in response to the news that the historic bridge was to be demolished. Originally intended as a feature over his garden pond, the bridge model is now a popular exhibit at the Wingham Museum.

Every Detail Recorded

Every Detail Recorded

Circa 1876 / Learn more on Ehive
The streams may have initially been forded but the building of bridges reflects the increasing use of the roads with the expansion of settlement and the need for better access

This large leather-bound book contains hand-drawn cross section technical drawings and construction and maintenance records of sixty six wooden bridges built between 1876 and 1931. The bridges were built over a wide area of the present day Port Macquarie Hastings Council district. The record reflects the spread of human activity in the district with the settlement of the hinterland and the movement of people within and through this area. The streams may have initially been forded but the building of bridges reflects the increasing use of the roads with the expansion of settlement and the need for better access. The book illustrates the extent of the task needed to provide such bridge access over the many rivers and streams which are a feature of this area.

While much has been recorded about the building of the main bridges over the Hastings River (Bain Bridge, the railway bridge, etc.), very little was written about the myriad of small wooden bridges, mostly built before the Hastings River was spanned by any bridge. While the cover of this book is in poor condition, the entries are well preserved and readable and may be the only record of many of these bridges. The pen and ink drawings of the bridges are appealing in their neat detail. The sketches show the profile of the river bed and therefore have possible research potential as a record of the river at the time of construction The book does not record which department created it but it was probably a local council record. Whoever made this record, it certainly took a great deal of time to painstakingly make the drawings and write out the information.

The Event of The Year

The Event of The Year

Circa 1907 / Learn more on Ehive
Over 60 gentlemen, including the local Member of Parliament Mr Robert Davidson, sat down to a sumptuous banquet

This tattered invitation is to the banquet on August 14, 1907 celebrating the opening of Bain Bridge, the first major bridge across the Hastings River.  It was a celebration of a long awaited and hard fought for piece of infrastructure that brought an end to the hardship and inconvenience of crossing a major river in all weathers, often in dangerous conditions and sometimes with loss of life.

The opening of the bridge was attended by a large crowd of Hastings residents, but the banquet that night was a men-only affair.  Over 60 gentlemen, including the local Member of Parliament Mr Robert Davidson, sat down to a sumptuous banquet.   This is a complimentary invitation which would have been issued to one of the dignitaries presiding at the dinner. Otherwise tickets  were five shillings which would have limited those able to attend, when the average daily rate of pay for a labourer was seven shillings. The press reflected gender attitudes of the day by reporting the toast to “The Ladies” for their input into the banquet, and the pleasant sight they made at that day’s function.

The bridge’s linking of the Upper Hastings with Wauchope became even more important when Beechwood’s dominance as a commercial centre was diminished by the coming of the North Coast Railway to Wauchope in 1915. The escalating population of the Upper Hastings was no longer separated by the river from the developing community of Wauchope.

We Hear You!

We Hear You!

Circa 1910 / Learn more on Ehive
In this high rainfall area, the flooding of the Hastings River made ferry operations dangerous and sometimes necessitated the inconvenience of closing the service

This sign, Please blow car horn for ferry service, is a reminder of the historic Rocks Ferry which crossed the Hastings River from the Wauchope side to Redbank. The sign was located on the Wauchope side of the river.   While people could travel by boat up and down the river it was difficult for those who needed to cross the river at any point along its length. After years of debate as to its location, the ferry began operations in 1910 and continued until construction of a bridge started in 1983.

The Rocks Ferry punt was operated using a cable attached at both banks which passed through a large rope-lined wheel on the punt and was initially cranked by hand. In later years a motor was installed on the punt. The ferry is well remembered by those who used it to get to school, to work, for shopping and for transporting goods or livestock. They also remember the inconvenience of finding the ferry on the other side of the river – an inconvenience reflected in the sign’s message.

Using the ferry was not always plain sailing and accidents did happen. At times vehicles ended up in the river while trying to get on or off the punt and taking livestock across could be difficult to say the least. In this high rainfall area, the flooding of the Hastings River made ferry operations dangerous and sometimes necessitated the inconvenience of closing the service. The punt was on occasions washed away down the river by floodwaters. The sign was rescued when the ferry closed and is our only tangible connection to that very important means of crossing the Hastings.

Cutting the Ribbon

Cutting the Ribbon

Circa 1961 / Learn more on Ehive
The opening of the Dennis Bridge marked a major change in the Pacific Highway route impacting the people of Port Macquarie in particular

This piece of white satin ribbon was signed by members of the official party at the opening of the Dennis Bridge over the Hasting River in December 1961. The ribbon was cut by Mr P D Hills, M.L.A. Minister for Local Government and Minister for Roads. The bridge was named in honour of the late Spencer Dennis, the engineer responsible for the bridge design and location.

The Dennis Bridge was a major civil engineering and public undertaking and it took many years of concerted efforts by local politicians to gain the political and financial support of the State Government to have the bridge built at a cost of £473,000. The associated Pacific Highway deviation cost an additional £333,000.

The opening of the Dennis Bridge marked a major change in the Pacific Highway route impacting the people of Port Macquarie in particular. Travellers no longer had to use the Blackmans Point ferry to cross the Hasting River nor travel through Port Macquarie.  The ferry crossing was closed and Port Macquarie was officially by-passed.

There had been earlier conjecture over the site of the bridge with both Wauchope and Port Macquarie keen to have the road river crossing in their towns with Wauchope already having a long established rail crossing over the river. The final site chosen was midpoint between the two, 6 miles from Port Macquarie and 9 miles from Wauchope.

Leaving Soon

Leaving Soon

Circa 1906 / Learn more on Ehive
The first hand operated ferry was greeted with much excitement in 1882 and was operated privately by a tender process

This framed painted tin sign was used at the Frederickton to East Frederickton ferry crossing over the Macleay River connecting Austral Eden and East Frederickton to Frederickton. Dairy produce was brought across the river to the Frederickton Dairy Factory while children used the ferry to travel to school each day.

The first hand operated ferry was greeted with much excitement in 1882 and was operated privately by a tender process. In 1906 the Shire of Macleay took over the responsibility of running local ferries and punts. This meant ferry men were employed by the Shire Council with formalised wages and conditions. The Frederickton ferry service operated until 1973 when bridges over the Macleay River made it redundant.

This sign is a reminder of the important role of ferries in transporting people and produce in the Macleay River Valley and in particular the vital role of  ferry men, the men who operated the ferry in all conditions and at all hours to service the transport needs of the their local community.