Father and son connection to Geales Bridge on Scone Road

Red Forbes on the new Geales Bridge.
Red Forbes on the new Geales Bridge.

The recent replacement of Geales Bridge, on Scone Road north west of Gloucester, has uncovered a family connection, with both a father and son from Gloucester contributing to its construction and maintenance 44 years apart.

Thomas Forbes was one of many Forestry workers involved in the construction of Geales Bridge in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Little did he know that years later, his son Kenneth (Red) would follow in his footsteps when the original concrete and timber structure was earmarked for renewal through the former Gloucester Shire Council’s special rate variation funding.

And as testament to how times have changed, the original bridge took Forestry Commission workers five years to complete, while construction of the new Geales Bridge was completed in just seven months.

Claire Shultz, MidCoast Council’s works engineer, discovered the family connection.

“Thomas Forbes was part of the crew who worked on the bridge from 1968 to its completion in 1973. Delivering important infrastructure like this in regional areas back then would have come with many challenges”, she said.

The bridge was constructed with concrete abutments and piers, with the concrete mixed onsite and poured by hand.

Timber was used for the upper structure including corbels, longitude girders with cross girders and longitude decking.

But the crew’s workmanship was put to test when, in 1978, the region flooded and Geales Bridge collected a huge amount of debris.

Related: The historic 1978 flood – the Manning River 

“It held up against the massive strain and pressure from the flood, with the only damage incurred on its approaches.

The extent of the flooding meant that it took three days to clear the debris with heavy machinery”, Claire added.

Following its completion in 1973, Geales Bridge was handed over to Gloucester Shire Council to maintain, and after providing a critical link for communities in the area for almost 50 years, a replacement bridge was constructed in its place.

Thomas’ son Kenneth (Red) Forbes, bridge maintenance crew team leader with MidCoast Council carried on the legacy of his father’s work to complete the project in August this year.

The new Geales Bridge has been constructed using steel girders and a concrete deck.

It is anticipated the replacement bridge will stand the test of time just as its predecessor did, and continue to provide an important link for local communities and the many visitors to the Barrington Tops area.