Horseshoe Bridge, Perth

Aerial view of the Horseshoe Bridge in the early 1920s

The Horseshoe Bridge from the corner of Roe and William Streets today

As its name implies, the Horseshoe Bridge is shaped like a horseshoe. It was designed that way so as to allow road traffic on William Street - one of the Perth CBD's busiest streets - to pass over the railway lines to the east of Perth station, while allowing access to the bridge from the two streets alongside the railway line, they being Wellington Street and Roe Street.

Looking south across Roe Street to the Horseshoe Bridge

During the last decade of the 19th Century, WA's Engineer-in-Chief, C.Y. O'Connor had overseen the construction of Perth's suburban railway system, which radiated out from a central railway station in Wellington Street in the city. As the line effectively cut the city off from its northern suburbs, a number of bridges and level crossings had to be built to connect the two areas.
A bridge over the railway had been constructed between Barrack and Beaufort Streets in 1894, a likely determining factor in the choice of Barrack Street as the road along which tram services to the north-eastern suburbs along Beaufort Street were routed. Although a pedestrian crossing over Hutt Street was installed soon after the railway was constructed, it became known as a dangerous crossing for other traffic. By the mid 1890s, there were seven lines to cross and the crossing was often closed as the amount of railway traffic increased. The solution was to build a bridge across the railway at William Street.

The construction of the Horseshoe Bridge in 1903 had a major impact on the role of William Street as an arterial road. Although the bridge was unpopular in some circles, it provided a safe overhead crossing of the railway. It would appear that opposition to the bridge was principally because it was erected at the expense of two pedestrian overpasses. The shape of the new bridge meant that pedestrians had to walk a great deal further to pass over the railway lines. However, the bridge had a favourable impact on businesses in William Street as access between the northern and southern parts of the city was no longer dependent on railway traffic, and there were no more delays at the William Street crossing.

A handsome structure of its period and a very sophisticated piece of urban design, it was accomplished within very tight constraints, well integrated both in form and character with its context and integrating activities other than purely transport ones within its structure. Built by the Pubic Works Department, The Horseshoe Bridge is a classically inspired stucco and brick bridge whose winding form adds vitality to the Perth Railway Station. It creates a meandering boundary to the station forecourt. The bridge has four traffic lanes which, in 1986, carried approximately 18,000 vehicles per day into the city. The eastern footpath gives direct access to both city rail station platforms and first floor level of the station. It also incorporates a bus stop. The main structural elements of the bridge are of steel. The bridge features rendered concrete balustrading with decorative end piers. It is supported by a series of semi-circular arches with rendered decorative treatment. Rendered cast iron swans add local relevance to the decoration. Many of the arches on the Wellington Street elevation have been enclosed with glass, creating shop fronts to the retail spaces behind.

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