Taking a punt to cross river

June 22, 2017

Historic: A picture showing the Cobram Punt between Cobram and Barooga in 1893.

The Cobram Barooga Punt was operating from 1889 till 1902, before the first bridge was built, and was operated by the Cobram Punt Company Ltd.

The punt measured 6m by 24m and weighed 80tonnes when loaded.

It was christened ‘Cobram’.

A fare was charged as following: pedestrians one penny (one cent), horse and rider three penny (three cents), gig or dray six penny (five cents), wagon one shilling (10 cents), wheat wagons one penny per bag and a load of 80 bags cost five shilling (50 cents), cattle three penny (three cents) and sheep half a penny, or in numbers in excess of 100, one farthing per head (quarter of a cent).

The punt conveyed itself across the river by the aid of cables and winches, and on occasions these fouled with passing paddle steamers and barges.

On the Victorian side, you can still see where the bank has been cut away to allow access for wagons to board the punt.

In most summers before the weirs were built the river became very low, and there was a regular forging place beside the punt.

To save tolls, vehicles crossed there, and the Anderson’s coach to Berrigan often crossed there with mail and passengers.

Of many drought years, perhaps 1902 and 1914 were the worst.

In 1914 it was possible to cross the river simply by removing boots and socks.

The river did not quite stop running, although it did further down at Swan Hill where it only percolated through the sand.

Three years later in 1917 the river rose to its greatest level.

Both Barooga and Cobram were completely flooded.

Before Federation in 1900, NSW and Victoria were opposed to one another.

NSW claimed to be a free trade colony, but had border duties with Victoria.

There was a Customs Office on the NSW side of the border and duty had to be paid on many items.

It was said that a store on Barooga Station would sell men’s hats for 8/- and in Cobram they were twice as much at the time as a result.

After the 1917 flood, residents paid for and built a small wooden bridge between Barooga and the main Murray drawbridge.

This was known as The People’s Bridge.

This was replaced by a new concrete bridge in recent times.

The punt stopped operating after the new Cobram drawbridge was built.

Cobram residents tried for many years to have the railway brought to town and then extended across the Murray to Barooga, to draw commerce from the Riverina, but Tocumwal was more successful, and has the railway bridge and line extending into NSW.

●The Cobram Historical Society meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 8pm at the Old School House Museum in Punt Rd. All welcome.

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