The Lansdowne River, which passes through Coopernook, was a major service route for steamers moving between the Manning River and Lansdowne. In June 1885 the first Coopernook Bridge opened.1 It took two men nearly two hours to open and close the wooden bridge for river traffic.2
As cars became more popular, highways were developed and Coopernook became one of the towns on the Pacific Highway. By the 1930s a new bridge was needed to cope with the growing road traffic. While the replacement bridge was under construction, navigation lights were placed on the river each evening to guide steamers. Wilsie Wilson, champion sculler, was one of the people who did this and in the course of her duty she took photos of the bridge as it was built.3 (See below for these rare photos)
In July 1934 the new steel and concrete bridge was opened.4 It was one of only five bridges in Australia which was a Strauss-type bascule (meaning ‘see-saw’ in French). The design used a system of counterweights, gears and motors to move the span up and down to allow steamers through.5 It took just three minutes for the petrol-driven engine to open and close the bridge.6
The 22nd March 2006 at 3pm marked the end of an era. The Coopernook Bypass officially opened with new bridges over the Lansdowne River four kilometres east.7 With the total decline of river transport, the Coopernook Bridge was dismantled and today only the portal frame exists in a park nearby. Wilsie Wilson’s daughter, Elaine Rose, documented the dismantling of the bridge which her mother had photographed all those years ago.
Author: Janine Roberts
All photos courtesy of Elaine Rose.
The following three photos are of the bridge being built in 1934:
The following photos are of the bridge being dismantled in 2006:
1 Australian Town and Country Journal, 20 June 1885, 15.
2 Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 7 March 1914, 5.
3 Oral history and photographs from Elaine Rose, 2020.
4 Northern Champion, 4 July 1934, 4.
5 I, Berger, D. Healy & M. Tilley, Movable Span Bridge Study, Volume 2: Bascule and Swing Span Bridges, Transport Roads & Maritime Services: 2015.
6 Northern Champion, 4 July 1934, 4.
7 Coopernook Bypass, https://web.archive.org/web/20061004225443/http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/constructionmaintenance/majorconstructionprojectsregional/pacifichighwayupgrade/programdetails/coopernookbypass.html