Murray's Bridge over the Diamond Creek on the Diamond Creek Trail just prior to demolition and replacement with a new steel bridge.
Heritage advice obtained by Nillumbik Shire Council, following a suggestion by the Eltham District Historical Society (EDHS), is that the original bridge appears to have been a simplified version of the Country Roads Board’s (CRB) standard timber bridge design of the early-to-mid 1920s.
In c1990 Murray’s bridge was renovated with three recycled steel girders as part of a bike/pedestrian path in the reserve. During these alterations many parts of the bridge were removed, and some were replaced.
Heritage advice indicates the condition of Murray’s bridge is poor. The remaining original parts are all in poor condition, with severe weathering, splitting and rot, especially to the stringers retained on the bridge.
Heritage advice is that Murray’s Bridge does not have sufficient significance in the cultural history of the Nillumbik area to warrant inclusion in the Nillumbik Shire Heritage Overlay and also does not have sufficient significance as a rare survivor to warrant inclusion in the Nillumbik Shire Heritage Overlay. There are no indications in the historical record that this site was individually important to the cultural history of this area.
EDHS is comfortable with the heritage advice provided to Council and has worked closely on this project with Council. EDHS has suggested some of the removed timbers be used in the vicinity of the bridge for landscaping and possibly seating, so as to retain these remnants close to the site of the original bridge, which is the last old timber bridge along the lower reaches of the Diamond Creek.
Mary (Sweeney) Murray and John Wright Murray selected 80 acres, Lot C Section 16 and Lot 5 Section 17 Parish of Nillumbik, under an occupation license in 1866. John died in 1867 and freehold was granted to his son John in 1873. The farm was known as ‘Laurel Hill’. John Junior was an Eltham Shire councillor and sometime president from 1887 up until 1897. He added Lot A Section 16 to the farm in ca1888.
John and his younger brother James arranged to rent/purchase Lot B Section 17, across Diamond Creek to the west, in ca1900. It appears that John and James farmed separately for a few years, with a new homestead built for James ad family on the high point of Lot B Section 17 in ca1910. John sold off Lot 5 Section 17 in 1912. When John died in 1912 James took over the land on both sides of the Diamond Creek. The old homestead on the west side of the Creek disappeared. A farm bridge over Diamond Creek from this period may have been located close to the northern boundary of the farm.
John Langlands, owner of the farm known as ‘Ihurst’ on the west side of Diamond Creek to the south of the Murray’s land, died in 1907. In 1909 his land was then subdivided into 100 lots to become the ‘Glen Park Estate’. Other similar subdivisions of nineteenth century farms around Eltham in this period included the ‘Franktonia (or Beard’s) Estate’ to the northeast and ‘Bonsack’s Estate’ between Eltham and Greensborough.
Soon after the opening of the railway extension line from Eltham to Hurstbridge in 1912, Glen Park and nearby residents including James Murray agitated for a railway station or siding to be located half-way between Eltham and Hurstbridge, so that the Glen Park residents who used the railway daily did not have to walk into the Eltham or Hurstbridge stations. Some believed Coleman’s Corner (opposite Edendale Farm) was an appropriate spot for the platform. James Murray was among those who thought the railway should be located on his land, closer to half-way between Eltham and Hurstbridge stations. The Railways Commissioners warned that the locals would have to fund these works themselves.
The Glen Park Estate residents initially had difficulty accessing Eltham by road, with only an old low-level bridge over Diamond Creek at the south end of their estate. A new timber trestle bridge across the creek, now on Wattletree Road, was opened in 1915. Road access to the north was gained in 1927 when the new Murray’s Road, which crossed the Murray’s land, was built.
Residents continued to agitate for a Glen Park station. By 1926 the Railways Commissioners’ preferred site was on the Murray’s land. They arranged an estimate of cost of a full-length platform. The estimate was too much for the locals, who in 1928 argued unsuccessfully for a shorter and hence cheaper platform. By 1929 Murray had agreed to donate the land, but the locals would still have to fund the works. Murray decided, unilaterally it would appear, to commence work on a timber trestle road bridge over Diamond Creek to link the new Murray Road to the proposed station. Late in 1929 he stopped work on the bridge, for reasons unknown, but started work again and completed the bridge in 1931.
There is no further newspaper evidence of the campaign for the Glen Park station until 1939, when Murray and another local, Mr Maxwell, met the Railways Commissioner. The Glen Park locale now included 45 homes on the west side of the creek and 20 on the Eltham side. Most of the residents used the train every day. The Commissioner remained adamant that only a full-length platform could be built for safety reasons. It appears the campaign dissolved at this point. The increasing move to cars may have had an impact. There is no evidence of Murray’s bridge ever being connected to Murray’s Road, or of it having wide use for any purpose by locals.
James Murray died in 1947 and the farm was taken over by his son James (Jim). Jim started to sell off parts of the farm in the 1980s, retaining a few acres around the ca1910 homestead and building a new house there. Recreation reserves were established along the creek. In ca1990 Murray’s bridge was renovated with steel girders as part of a bike/pedestrian path in the reserve. The old farmhouse was demolished in ca2014.
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A theory posted on local community Facebook groups was that the bridge was built in the 1860s and was built to be more robust than was necessary for the movement of cows from one side of the creek to the other. It was suggested the robustness was necessary to support the weight of gold ore being transferred from a mine on Murray’s land to a railway siding near Murrays Bridge (presumably for transfer and processing at Diamond Creek). Perhaps this may have been one of the motivators for Murray, who really knows? Knowing when mining operations ceased on his land and how that fits the overall timeline would be useful but at the time the bridge was built, local gold production was minimal at best.
The known facts are:
• The railway line came to Eltham in 1902.
• The extension of the railway from Eltham to Hurstbridge was constructed in 1912 so no railway line even existed through Murray's property until 1912 and the Victorian Railways maps at the time show no such siding on Murray’s property.
• In 1923 a new company was formed in anticipation of the old Diamond Creek Gold Mine being re-opened. The mine had been previously closed and flooded. It was noted in the press at the time that the mine was within a mile of the railway. Nothing really came of this.
• Construction of Murrays Bridge was commenced by James Murray in early 1929 in anticipation of a proposed flag station being nominated on his land, but work ceased shortly afterwards. The proposed flag station was commonly referred to as Glen Park as the residents of the Glen Park Estate wanted Option 1, located near them with the platform adjacent to Colemans corner. This was probably never going to fly as it was virtually in eyesight of Eltham station. Allandale Road was the third option, but the Commissioners' preferred option was No. 2 - on Murray's property.
• The Railway Commissioners were not going to finance any such station and the works had to be funded by private landowners and residents, hence Murray investing in this himself.
• Murray recommenced work two years later and finished his bridge in 1931 but unfortunately for him, the proposed flag station never eventuated. The bluestone siding you reference may well have been built by Murray as part of the proposed station platform.
• Up until then, apart from the Main Road bridge, which was washed away in 1924, virtually all local crossings over the Diamond Creek were low lying bridges – Kaylocks Bridge at Brougham Street, Diamond Street bridge, Glen Park Road bridge. It is expected that Murray also had a low-lying bridge to connect his land either side of the creek. These were all washed away or severely damaged multiple times in the 1920s. Lessons were learnt, and Murrays Bridge appears to have been built in accordance with Country Road Board standards of the time. Flood damage was ongoing, and even more recently constructed raised bridges kept getting washed away, e.g., the new Wattle Tree Road bridge in 1958 just months after completion. Murray’s bridge was reinforced with steel some 30 years ago presumably to provide additional floodwater resistance, given the history of bridges disappearing in floodwaters.
• In March 1932 it was reported in the Advertiser that there were still some prospectors operating around Eltham North who apart from further scarring the face of the earth over the previous two years had gained significant experience but little gold - hardly a driving factor for constructing a dedicated railway siding and bridge to transfer gold ore.
It is far more probable that James Murray was hoping to have the railway station located on his property and invested his money by building the bridge to lead to it as well as a station platform. Had the station eventuated, it may well have driven up the value of his land for subdivision and new housing estates like the Glen Park Estate. That did not eventuate.
Whilst the bridge was indeed old (90 years), the core structure being completed in 1931, it had been modified substantially from original and hence had no significant historic value – i.e., it was not a representative example of its type, construction, and age.
Given that the bridge was not worthy of saving, the Eltham District Historical Society with Council’s support, and the Eltham Woodworkers group endeavoured to see what suitable sized timbers were salvageable to fabricate a commemorative seat. Unfortunately, the experts at the Woodworkers group were unable to salvage any suitable length/width timbers to fabricate the seat due to the presence of rot.
Last remaining wooden trestle bridge on the Diamond Creek Trail just prior to demolition and replacement
Born digital image (27)