A Local and Family History Site - New South Wales, Australia
Bargo River Crossing
Bargo River Crossing
To cross the river in the early years, travellers and settlers had to make a steep descent toward the river, take a sharp turn to the river bed and then follow the line of road which was marked with wooden posts. To cross during time of heavy rain was impossible Due to the heavy traffic on the road, it was the main thoroughfare south, the crossing and road were often in a bad state of repair and the subject of many a "Letter to the Editor" in Sydney newspapers, one traveller writing in 1849:
Bargo River will very soon be completely impassable; how wool teams manage to cross without more accidents (some occur almost daily,) and how the mail delivery still continues so punctual is a perfect marvel. Those who are astonished at railway speed and ariel machines need only take a trip by the fast mail and they will certainly confess that to be conveyed in the dead of night, without fracture of neck or limb over rocks and down precipitous declivities of some few feet may be fairly reckoned among the chief wonders of this wonderful age.
The road was not the only danger to travellers. In the early years the thick bush was a haven for bushrangers, the prevalence of their activities in the 1840s requiring mounted police to be stationed at the river.
It would appear from correspondence between the Colonial Secretarys Office and the Colonial Architect , that plans to build a bridge over the Bargo River were first approved in 1855. The construction was deferred until the final survey for the railway line from Campbelltown to Mittagong was completed as it was thought appropriate to have the road and rail bridges adjacent to each other.. The railway line was constructed through the neighbouring localities of Thirlmere, Buxton and Couridjah and the plans for a bridge at that time were abandoned.
By the 1890s the area was found to be suitable for the growing of poultry, fruit and vegetables but in times of heavy rain, the settlers on the Bargo side were often unable to cross the river to deliver their produce to the Thirlmere railway siding for consignment to the Sydney markets. Serious lobbying commenced for the construction of a bridge over the Bargo and it was announced in September 1896 that a bridge would be built. The bridge was officially opened on 16 April 1898 by the then Minister for Works, the Hon. J H Young.
Bargo River Bridge 1898
This bridge adequately served its purpose for many years but the advent of the motor vehicle and increased traffic which came with modern travel brought about a reputation of danger and delay. The sharp approaches and the bridge itself were the scene of many accidents. On these occasions, and for wide loads, the old river crossing continued to be used.
The old Bargo River Bridge was the last single lane wooden bridge on the Hume Highway.
The Railway bridge was constructed in 1916.
The present bridge was opened in May 1967 by Lady Cutler, wife of the then Governor of NSW, Sir Roden Cutler.
The Reserve at the river was created in the early 1920s on the application of the Tahmoor Progress Association to the Department of Lands and was managed by Trustees until 1934 when Wollondilly Council took control. Council called for applications for a caretaker at the Reserve, four applications being received of which two were considered suitable, Mr Harrie Potter, who had conducted Refreshment Rooms at the river since about 1927 and Mr E McNamarra. who had been living on the Reserve for the past 12 months. Voting was tied three all. The President refused to give a casting vote so the decision was determined by drawing a name out of a hat, Mr McNamarra being the successful applicant.. The caretaker had to pay a weekly fee to Council and provide suitable sanitary conveniences in return for which he had the right to charge camping or parking fees and to sell hot water to picnicers. In the reserve were huts where people could stay, the last of these being removed in the early 1950s. Mr H B (Harrie) Potters property was called The Cliff on the then Highway which ran past the reserve. Besides the Refreshment Rooms he also had petrol bowsers. In 1930 he opened a miniature golf course as an attraction for tourists and locals. The Cliff later became a service station operated by Mr Potters son John. In 1954 Mr John Potter built a new garage named the Open Road which is the current service station near the bridge.
References:Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January 1849, Letter to the Editor. Votes & Proceedings NSW Legislative Council, 1847. Replies to Circular by Matthew McAlister re police AONSW. Correspondence of Colonial Architect to Colonial Secretary, 1855. 2/636. Bayley. W A. Picton-Mittagong Main Line Railway, pp23-24,Austral Publications, 1975 The Picton Post and Advocate, 20 April 1898. Minutes of Tahmoor Progress Association, 25 November 1922 and Picton Post, 8 March 1934.Picton Post, 17 December 1930, 14 June 1939, 10 November 1954 and conversation between Mrs Gwen Potter and the author, March 1997.