Como bridge takes the Illawarra railway line across the Georges River between Oatley and Como. The original bridge remained in use until 1972 when the new double line, pre-stressed concrete structure alongside it was completed and began taking rail traffic. The old bridge was saved from demolition as it carries the pipeline from Woronora Dam to the reservoirs at Penshurst, a function that commenced in 1945 and continues today. The bridge is today used as a footbridge and cycleway.
Como Bridge Walk
A leisurely afternoon stroll across the old Como Bridge has become somewhat of an institution for many residents of the St George district in Sydney's south. Spanning the Georges River, the former railway bridge can be approached from either end via a level walking path. A visit to the restaurant or marina at the Como Pleasure Grounds for lunch or a cup of coffee, hire a boat, or perhaps a enjoy picnic in the nearby park make it all the more worthwhile. Easy walk.
Oatley railway station to Como Pleasure Grounds and return - 4 km; Myra Place to Como Pleasure Grounds and return - 2.6 km.
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Como Bridge is one of a number of wrought iron lattice girder bridges designed by John Whitton, Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Railways, and used at a number of locations around the state. The iron members of the bridge were supplied by Cochrane & Co. of Pennsylvania, USA.
By the time the bridgework had arrived by sea, a tent village had been built on the Como bank of the Georges River to house the 200 men employed in cutting the path through bush and levelling the ground in preparation for the laying of the single line track. In the midst of all this activity, stonemasons were forming the piers now encased in concrete that would carry the spans.
When the bridge components were landed at Botany, they were assembled on platforms mounted on barges. The platforms were built to a height where at high tide they would be marginally higher than the piers on which the spans would eventually rest. As each span was completed, the barge on which it had been constructed was towed to Como and positioned at high tide between the piers upon which the span would eventually rest. As the tide fell, the span lowered itself onto the piers at which time a team of men manoeuvred the span into place by hauling ropes attached to each end of the span. Once in its correct position, the span was bolted securely to the piers and the following day the next span was brought upstream and the process repeated.
Constructed under the supervision of Thomas Firth, the 2,195 tonne, 290m long bridge cost a total of 66,000 pounds. It was stress tested with three heavy steam locomotives in January 1886 before being brought into service a week later. Soon after the opening of the Illawarra railway line, train drivers found that the grade up the hill from the bridge to Mortdale was too steep for fully loaded coal trains. A deviation was built around the centre of Oatley in 1905 to reduce the grade for Sydney bound trains to a maximum of 1 in 80. The route taken by the original line is still clearly visible at both ends of the bridge.
Gauntlet track on Como Bridge
The line across the bridge was laid as Gauntlet track. Taking up slightly more width than a normal single track but not as much a double track, Gauntlet track is always four rails of the same gauge, interlaced on the same set of sleepers to allow two way running on a single track bed. Trains running in opposite directions did not share the same track, thus negating the needs for points at either end of what was effectively a single line bridge.
At the Oatley end, the walking path follows the line of the original track. From the beginning of the houses, the line continued north, occupying the narrow strip of land between Oatley Parade and Oatley Avenue. It crossed Hurstville Road near the roundabout and proceeded over the rise to Mortdale station. This section of the original line remains and is visible from Hurstville Road. The two platforms of the original Oatley station are now buried under James Oatley Memorial Park.
The disused Como Bridge Station platform
Como station was built just beyond the bridge alongside the Como Pleasure Grounds, a convenient location considering the popularity of Como as a picnic and holiday destination for city dwellers in the first half of the 20th century. When the new bridge was built, the station was moved some half a kilometre south. The disused station platform still exists and can be seen beyond the cyclone fencing where the line left the bridge.
train to Oatley. Walk south along Oatley Pde; or by car to end of Oatley Pde.
Como Railway Bridge from Illawong