Sunday History Photo / NSW

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 01:50
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A ‘ Great Northern Road ’ was constructed and improved during the mid 18 th century as far as Tenterfield, continuing from the Great Northern Road constructed between Sydney and Singleton in the early part of the 18 th century. However, despite the construction of a parallel railway from the 1850s onwards the progress in development of the road was steady and considerable, especially in the bridging of creeks and rivers. Although bridges had been provided over the majority of streams crossed by the Great Northern Road prior to the establishment of the Department of Public Works, it was this Department who built and rebuilt structures of an enduring type.Some of these include,
The iron and steel Victoria Bridge over Wallis Creek at Maitland (1896)
The timber and iron bridge over the Hunter River at Aberdeen (1893)
The timber bridge over the McDonald River at Bendemeer (1904)
Of these bridges, only the structure across the Hunter River at Aberdeen is still in use by through traffic.
No direct evidence can be traced in the records as to when the Great Northern Road was extended from Tenterfield to the Queensland Border. It has been established that a route from Tenterfield into Queensland crossing the border between Amosfield and Stanthorpe, was the most used until 1924. The downside to that route was that it gave an indirect connection to Brisbane and sections of road across the Darling Downs were difficult in wet weather. In 1924 steps were taken to establish a more direct route between Tenterfield and Brisbane, via Amosfield, Legume and Woodenbong to Mt Lindesay. This work involved the construction of the missing link between Woodenbong and Mt Lindesay, which was carried out by the Department of Public Works and completed in 1929, and the reconstruction of the road between Oakey Creek and Woodenbong – work which was completed by the Department of Main Roads in 1934. New bridges were provided over Kooreelah Creek and Maryland River in 1930 as part of this work and they are still in service today.

On 7 August 1928 the Main Roads Board declared the road from North Sydney via Chatswood, Hornsby, Peat’s Ferry, Gosford, Wyong, Adamstown, Newcastle West, Hexham, Beresfield, Maitland, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Murrurundi, Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes, Tenterfield and Woodenbong to the QLD Border at Mt Lindesay State Highway No. 9 and named it ‘Great Northern Highway’ in May 1929. Less than two years later, in May 1931, the Main Roads Board changed this declaration to omit the section of highway south of Hexham – which became part of the Pacific Highway. On 24 March 1933 State Highway No. 9 was given the name ‘ New England Highway ’ after the vast region of northern New South Wales which it serves. Queensland also adopted this name for the continuation of the road from Mt Lindesay to Brisbane .

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Two notable improvements were affected on the Highway during the Great Depression, involving realignment at Armidale and at First Moonbi Hill. At First Moonbi Hill a third route over the mountain for the New England Highway was constructed, eliminating the “S-bend” route, constructed in the 1870s, and a steep grade on an 11.2km section north from the village of Moonbi . This deviation was built largely by Cockburn Shire Council by ‘day labour’ and was opened on 3 February 1937.
By 1950 a bitumen surface had been provided along the length of the New England Highway from Hexham to Tenterfield, with a 10km section over the Bolivia Range providing the only exception until the completion of a deviation in March 1951. North of Tenterfield, little work had been done to improve the Highway and it remained largely in the same condition as it was following reconstruction in 1934.

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Queensland Main Roads Department had, during the immediate post-war years, completed a new high-standard route from Brisbane via Cunningham’s Gap and Warwick to Wallangarra. This new route saw increasing traffic volumes as interstate travellers avoided the more difficult Mount Lindesay Highway and a need became apparent for a high-standard road within New South Wales that would link Wallangarra with the New England Highway at Tenterfield. An existing road, Main Road No. 374, already connected Tenterfield with Wallangarra but had the disadvantage of crossing the railway line five times in its 9 mile length, four of which were level crossings and the other a narrow overbridge with right angle approaches. Thus, the Department of Main Roads resolved to reconstruct the road throughout its length and work was undertaken by Tenterfield Shire Council.
In 1954, a decision was made by both the NSW and Queensland Departments of Main Roads to re-route the New England Highway from Tenterfield to Brisbane via Wallangarra, Stanthorpe, Warwick and Cunningham’s Gap. The State Highway No. 24 classification, which had been applied to the Tenterfield-Wallangarra road from 1950 to 1954 was transferred to the old route of the New England Highway through Amosfield, Legume and Woodenbong to Mt Lindesay and was named ‘Mt Lindesay Highway’. Queensland followed suit by redeclaring their section of the former New England Highway as ‘Mt Lindesay Highway’. This change, gazetted on 3 September 1954, produced the Hexham-Wallangarra routing that exists today. The New England Highway ’s position as a major through route between Sydney and Brisbane was further reinforced in 1955 with its inclusion in the National Route marking scheme as Route 15. This designation was upgraded in November 1974 when the Highway was declared part of the National Highway under the National Roads Act 1974.

Work during the late 1950s and early 1960s was of a more routine nature, largely involving the replacement of narrow and ageing bridges and the elimination of rail level crossings. Notable bridge replacements occurred at Tamworth , where a two-lane steel bridge over the Peel River , built by the Department of Public Works in 1881, was replaced by a new four-lane concrete structure in April 1965. The last single-lane bridge on the highway was replaced during 1967 as part of a larger project to construct a 6 mile deviation, replacing two level crossings, the last on the New England Highway , three narrow bridges, steep grades and sharp curves between Kankool and Willow Tree. Named the Chilcotts Creek Deviation, it was opened to traffic in December 1968. A heavy vehicle checking station on the deviation at Kankool was later opened in March 1972.
The federally-funded Maitland Bypass was commenced in January 1984 and built in three stages. The first stage connected the existing highway at East Maitland to Parallel Street (the signed Shopping Centre Bypass) near Anzac Street , involving new bridges over the Wallis Creek to bypass the iron and steel Victoria Bridge , built in 1896, and a section of concrete pavement across the floodplain. This first stage opened in February 1986 and was followed by a second stage to Walker Street in December 1986. The third and final stage would involve a new four-lane bridge over the railway line, removing through traffic from historic Regent Street and allow construction of a mall in High Street, Maitland. The construction, by Maitland Shire Council, of a ring road in the town centre allowed construction of the pedestrian mall to commence in April 1988. Prime Minister Bob Hawke officially opened the completed Maitland Bypass in September 1988. Four lanes had now been provided along the length of the highway from Hexham to Rutherford.

The highway through Scone was widened from four to six lanes during 1985,At Tintinhull, near Tamworth , a small realignment was completed in December 1986. The new bridge over the Hunter River at Singleton was a Bicentennial project and eliminated dangerous congestion at the old steel truss Dunolly Bridge . This opened to traffic in May 1986, closely followed in December 1986 by a new bridge for northbound traffic over the Hunter River at Aberdeen , allowing the narrow existing bridge to be used for southbound traffic only. At Bendemeer, a timber truss bridge, constructed by the Department of Public Works in 1904, over the McDonald River was bypassed in December 1985, allowing it to be closed to traffic. A new lower-level structure was then constructed by the Department of Main Roads for local traffic use.

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However, the most significant project carried out on the highway during this period was over the First Moonbi Hill, between Tamworth and Bendemeer. This 5km project was commenced in June 1975 and would be the fourth route constructed over this notorious range. A new southbound carriageway three kilometres long was constructed alongside Laheys Creek while a new dual carriageway deviation eliminated a route down First Moonbi Hill that was constructed in the mid 1930s. The new southbound carriageway was opened to two-way traffic in June 1980, allowing the DMR to reconstruct the existing highway for partial use as the northbound carriageway. This work completed the project in August 1982.

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Reply By: Skippype - Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 05:29

Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 05:29
Thanks for that Doug...Another great Sunday morning read...
AnswerID: 450819

Reply By: OREJAP - Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 08:38

Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 08:38
Thanks Doug. Always look forward to your Sunday post.
AnswerID: 450820

Reply By: Axle - Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 10:58

Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 10:58
G/Day Doug , The main st ofUralla hasen't changed much if at all in the last thirty or so yrs ....LOL.

Cheers Axle.
AnswerID: 450832

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