Lake Macquarie History

A history of the four bridges that spanned the Swansea Channel at Swansea by Wal Drane

Excerpt from his book A history of Blacksmiths

In the days before the Swansea Channel was spanned at Swansea there were several ways of crossing the fast running blue waters of the channel. One was to wait for an ebb tide and ford the sand-bar at the channel mouth by holding onto your horse or by standing on the bank and attracting the attention of someone on the opposite side to come over and pick you up, usually by a small row-boat. This was known as the "Penny Punt"

In 1881 Swansea acquired its first bridge, built by Messrs A & R Amos the bridge was designed to carry a locomotive, its purpose was to carry or haul stone across the channel for the construction of a retaining wall on the northern side of the channel. This bridge was designed about 1871 and was originally used in a bridge at Black Wattle Bay, Sydney. When it was no longer required there, owing to the reclamation of that area, it was transferred to Lake Macquarie

The timbers for this bridge were cut on the western side of the Lake and hauled around to the entrance at the east side of the channel, via Adamstown, by bullock teams. When the harbour works were completed the rail tracks were removed, the bridge was then handed over to the Public Works Department in 1895 to be used as a public traffic bridge, under their care and control

By 1908, the old bridge needed replacing, and in that year, Messrs. Peter Callan and Sons, Newcastle, were contracted to construct a timber beam bridge, with a steel girder bascule opening span, at a cost of £6,180. This second bridge, comprised 15 spans, including the lifting span, with a total length between abutments of 409 feet 6 inches. Components originally used at Blackwattle Bay in Sydney were also used in this second bridge. It was strongly built; the wood-work in the lifting span towers was a credit to the craftsmen of the day. Painted white, it was an elegant reminder of days gone by. The next two bridges built were sturdy and compatible to the needs of the modern-day traffic, but there was something special about that majestic appearance of the second bridge

In 1956 the second bridge was dismantled and gone forever would be the familiar sights we witnessed while working on the third bridge, such as arguments among the drivers, as to who was first on the bridge and who had the right of way and of and of course the gentleman who always drove his horse and cart onto the bridge claiming right of way, no matter what. He was always good for a traffic snarl and the inevitable visit to the scene by the Law. The rattle of the loose planks on the lift span on a still night could be heard at Blacksmiths. Who could forget our "honorary Foremen" who lined up along the old bridge while we were building the new. They watched our every movement. I won't forget those days, they are just a memory now

To the harassed, inconvenienced travelling public, who at times must have thought that they too, might have to resort to swimming the Channel, the opening of the third bridge was a welcome event. Opened to traffic on the 14th December 1955 by the Hon E Wetherall, MLA Minister for Transport. The bridge was designed to keep the level of the deck as low as possible to reduce the cost of the approaches. For best appearance, it was designed that the counter-weights of the bascular span be below deck level. The bridge was the first to be built by the Department of Main Roads which incorporated underneath counter-weights and a double leaf bascule with an open grid deck.The cost of construction was £280,000. Today the bridge provides two lanes for the northbound traffic

The opening of yet another bridge, built parallel to the third bridge (on the eastern side) has doubled the movement of traffic along this busy Pacific Highway crossing. The fourth bridge was constructed by Transfield Pty Ltd at a cost of $15.5 million, the structure provides two lanes for southbound traffic. This bridge was officially opened by the Hon. Peter Morris MP and the Hon. Robert Webster, MP on the 21st May 1989