The historic importance of the Fergusson River railway bridge is lost on many travelers along the Stuart Highway.
Located about 20km south of Pine Creek, the Fergusson bridge is a one of the few remaining remnants of a golden age of the Territory.
The bridge, which celebrates its 100th birthday right about now, is certainly the only part of the NT's early rail history still in use.
The bridge is a survivor of the narrow gauge North Australia Railway which was built at great labour and expense in 1918 to take advantage of the gold bonanza flowing from Pine Creek.
The Fergusson tangles up with Cullen and Edith rivers further along its track towards the Daly, which eventually empties into the Timor Sea.
The Fergusson bridge was a later addition to the railway line built to haul the riches from Pine Creek to Darwin.
Work on that early rail to Pine Creek began in 1883 and was opened in 1889.
More than 3000 Chinese, Indian and Singhalese workers bashed through the Top End laying about a kilometre of track each day to first reach Pine Creek.
A total of 310 bridges were needed for the task.
The Fergusson bridge was built in the years of World War One from 1914-1918 as an extension of that original track and was used until the railway line closed in 1976.
It was one of the very few to survive those early days.
The standard gauge line from Alice Springs to Darwin later used that same bridge and it was re-opened to rail traffic from the early 2000s.
The survival of the Fergusson bridge is testament to how well it had been originally designed and built.
It is the only original NAR bridge used on the Ghan line today after it was strengthened and re-used.
Take a look next time you cross, there's no room for pedestrians on the highway bridge so take care.
On the right side heading towards Darwin you can see a large rusting boiler, which was likely used in the bridge's construction.
The railway line was later extended all the way to Larrimah, reaching Katherine in 1917. The town's railway bridge is now a converted footbridge across the Katherine River.
The busiest time for the line came during the panic which followed the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in World War Two.
Military camps were dispersed further down the line, out of the reach of the bomber planes.
It is estimated almost 250 trains ran per week on that line in 1944, the second last year of the war.
Steel work for the Fergusson bridge was ordered from a Sydney company in 1913, its wooden sleepers came from the forests of Western Australia.
Because of the outbreak of war, that steel was diverted to other uses, and a low-level bridge was used across the Fergusson until 1918.
After the gold rush petered out it was the line which helped grow places like Katherine, which had a thriving meatworks and needed to get meat quickly to Darwin.
Even today that rail is pivotal to the NT Government's plans for an inland port at Katherine.
It is not to say the mineral wealth of the area won't be exploited again.
The Fergusson river springs from the area of Coronet Hill's Mary and Little Mary streams on the border of Nitmiluk National Park.
In the early 1900s, Coronet Hill was a producing copper, lead, tin and silver mine and has been explored and drilled many times since.
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