Early Tranpsort & Bridges of Yarrawonga Mulwala
Before the railway was extended to Yarrawonga in 1886, paddle steamers plied their way as far as Albury.
They usually transported timber, wheat, wool and general merchandise. Both The Pilot (reputed to be the slowest craft on the Murray River) and The Australien sank in Lake Mulwala. The Pilot’s paddle wheels were raised from the lake and are on display outside the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre, and the Australien is currently being restored in Echuca.
Punts operated between 1850 and 1890, in order to access both sides of the Murray River between Yarrawonga and Mulwala. From 1855 to 1862, a Mulwala hotel owner named McRae built a punt to cross the river at Yarrawonga, however was unsuccessful, as the preferred crossing was via Wahgunyah. From 1874 to 1891, Robert Halburd built Yarrawonga’s best known and most successful punt. His punt crossed the Murray River near where the current traffic bridge stands. In 1879, William Coghill provided another operation west of, and in competition with, Halburd’s punt. However, Coghill’s punt mysteriously sank the following day, and Halburd’s punt remained in operation until 1891, when the first traffic bridge was completed.
Bridges of Yarrawonga Mulwala
Construction of the first (wooden) traffic bridge began in 1889, and was completed in 1891. Three days of celebrations followed. The wooden bridge was located next to the current traffic bridge at the Yarrawonga end, and reached Mulwala near Capri Waters Country Club. Import taxes on goods such as grain products and livestock were introduced at border crossings, and the Colonies of Victoria and NSW had custom houses at all border crossings. The restored Yarrawonga Mulwala Customs House is located in Yarrawonga, beside the current road bridge (next to the Visitor Information Centre).
By 1915, the wooden bridge had become unsafe, and was replaced by the current steel and concrete traffic bridge in 1924. Some of the old wooden pylons can still be seen when the lake is lowered or drained. The infamous dip in the southern end of the current traffic bridge was the result of poor communication between the Victorian and NSW Governments. Construction of each end began independently and at different levels. A redesign was then necessary to ensure both ends of the bridge met, and this resulted in the ‘dip’.
Construction of the first wooden railway bridge across the river began in 1927, and the line to Oaklands, 60km north of Mulwala, opened in 1932. The wooden bridge was replaced by an earthen embankment in 1975, and the last remaining section of wooden railway bridge was replaced by concrete and steel in 1989.