Road Bridge over the Crocodile River
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The following was published in Lowvelder, Friday 30 May 2014:
MBOMBELA - The current rehabilitation of the old bridge over the Crocodile River at Riverside is hailed as a landmark project for future heritage conservation in the province.
In recent years very little funding has been available for the conservation and the maintenance of heritage sites in the province. It is highly commendable that the Mbombela city council has been willing to allocate around R2 million to this project, says chairman of the Mpumalanga Heritage Interest Group, Mr Duncan Ballantyne. Realising that functionality is most probably the main object in this case, such heritage-related projects give character to any destination and will also enhance the tourism potential of the city.
Apart from some smaller railway structures along the old Eastern line dating from the days of the Nederlandsche-Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorwegmaatschappij (NZASM), this bridge, without any doubt, is the oldest construction or structure in the provincial capital that still stands. The fact that this visually pleasing steel and stone structure with its rich history dating from 1903, is still in use after 110 years and will remain so after its restoration, makes it of great historical significance, says Ballantyne.
The funding which has been allocated to this project was made available from service charges due to the municipality by the developer, Halls Properties.
The single carriageway bridge is currently closed for traffic. The original road surface of tar, concrete and sand has been temporarily removed. Some sections of steel troughs above the weight-bearing girders need to be cut away and new insertions welded in. All other surface rust will be removed and cleaned before it will be painted an environmentally friendly green.
Structural engineers working on the project are amazed by the quality of the original workmanship, the durability of the total structure and the fact that it actually remained intact and safe to carry heavy loads after so many years.
Project manager Mr Anton van Wyk of Endecon Ubuntu says the bridge is definitely in need of repair. In future the bridge will carry a load and height restriction. The width of the carriageway will also be reduced to leave space for a pedestrian walkway.
For many years this bridge was the only access the Lowveld and escarpment area north of the Crocodile River had to the Maputo-to-Pretoria railway line. It was constructed shortly after the Anglo-Boer War as an early Milner project. The wife of local mining magnate HL Glynn of Sabie convinced visiting Lord Alfred Milner, former governor of the recently conquered Transvaal colony, that not much would come of that area until the bridge was completed.
Herewith the actual text from Glynn's memoirs:
"After the Anglo-Boer War Lord Milner visited Pilgrim's Rest and Sabie; he rode on horseback to Nelspruit from Pilgrim's Rest and had relays. He called on us and had lunch at Huntington, with his escort of colonels.
"While here my wife mentioned to him that it would be a great boon to the fields if a bridge could be thrown across the Crocodile River at Nelspruit, as the station was on the opposite bank and in summer time if rain was heavy, long delays occurred. He spoke very sympathetically and we got the bridge."
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.