The official opening ceremony for the new Byangum bridge goes on as Blake Curry, Tim Johnson and Andrew Eddy tuck into lunch
The official opening ceremony for the new Byangum bridge goes on as Blake Curry, Tim Johnson and Andrew Eddy tuck into lunch

Another bridge, another opening

By PETER CATON

DAIRY and beef farmer Chubb Crossthwaite is getting used to attending openings of bridges at Byangum just south-west of Murwillumbah. Admittedly there have been only two in the past 79 years, but he can remember both.

The first occasion was when Mr Crosthwaite was a boy aged six. Back then he saw the "new" concrete-piered, timber-planked bridge replace the old ferry near his family's farm.

Prior to that he can remember his mother warning: "Don't go down on the road. There will be cars coming off the ferry."

Mr Crossthwaite re-called: "There would be two cars".

Traffic is still a problem, with Mr Crossthwaite at a loss to understand why some drivers can't keep their vehicles on the good, bitumen road instead of knocking over his fences.

In fact according to a senior Tweed Shire Council engineer and works manager Bob Missingham, about 3500 vehicles a day now use that stretch of Kyogle Road.

Mr Crosthwaite said he was actually sad to see the old bridge give way to a modern, higher version, but accepted it was necessary.

"She was a great old structure, the old bridge," he said. "In 1954 that was the only bridge left standing after the flood. The rest were gone."

The old bridge, he conceded, often went under water, as Mr Missingham suggested "every time a few cows did something upstream" but he said "at least it was always there".

Although the new $3.5 million bridge may still be impassible in severe floods, it stands more than three metres above the water, just clear of the one-in-five-year flood level.

Uki and South Arm Historical Society research officer MaryLee Connery told the crowd attending yesterday's event that the first bridge opened on July 31, 1926 at a cost of 4000 pounds.

Prior to that a ferry had operated from 1920 - despite being washed downstream in the 1921 flood, with early motorists wishing to cross after midnight forced to pay a surcharge of two shillings a vehicle.

During World War II all the district's small boats were tied up near the bridge ready to be burnt and the bridge destroyed should the Japanese invade.

Because of its low-level design, the first bridge went under water frequently, the first occasion just five weeks before it was completed.



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