Before the most recent re-opening of the Sale - Bairnsdale line to restore passengers services to Bairnsdale (Jeffed by Alan Brown in 1993) a most detailed engineering asessment of the Avon river rail bridge was done . The bridge comprises three main sections 5 - 6 wrought iron straight spans on wooden trestles at the Down end, then a number of straight rivetted steel spans on brick and concrete piers arranged on a curve, then finally a large number of wooden and steel short spans on wooden piers on the flood plain at the Up end .
The wrought iron spans are near the end of their serviceable life and subject to both load and speed restrictions . These old spans are supported on wooden piles that present an on going costly maintenance task in moist soil with much rapid deterioration of the wooden piles. The mild steel spans on the brick and concrete piers are adequate for task both load wise with speed restriction largely dictated by the deck being below and within the girders with restricted clearances within the girders on the curved structure . The wooden approach spans are a high maintenance aspect again with decaying timbers and a mix of steel and timber spans restricting both axle load and speed .
In recent years a major project was undertaken where the wooden ballasted deck on the wrought iron and mild steel spans was removed and replaced with a corrugated galvanized steel deck with ballasted track on top .
As minimum improvements the old wrought iron spans and supporting timebers need replacement with modern low maintenance spans, and the large number of timber piles and spans at the Up end need replacement with a a much smaller number of modern low maintenance spans over the flood plain .
Older bridges like this with timber piles and spans the timber is not readily available in good red gum these days, and also the qualified tradesman to build and maintain such bridges are no longer around . The State has plenty of good surplus steel spans ex rail bridges available to upgrade the Stratford approaches like ex Sandy Creek bridge over Hume Weir currently stored at Bonegilla .