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Under the trees beside Watton Street, in front of the Woolworths supermarket, stands the old weighbridge, no longer in use, in a modest space beside the road. For about forty years it served the farmers, carters and drivers of Werribee and beyond, before it was decommissioned in 1975 and its keeper retired.
This weighbridge was not the first. There was a weighbridge here in the 1890s which seemed to be an ongoing source of irritation. After letting it out on an annual contract for a time, which did not seem to be satisfactory, in 1898 the Shire Council decided to lease the weighbridge for three years, and called for applications to be the weighbridge keeper. One applicant was voted against by some councillors because he didn’t live nearby, and another because ‘his late father had wasted all his time in public affairs’. The successful candidate was chosen by a vote of the Council members. But the niggles didn’t stop. The Council had the weighbridge checked again, to satisfy themselves about its accuracy, because a few waggoners were complaining that their waggons must be getting heavier!!
But if the waggoners stopped complaining, the correspondent for the Bacchus Marsh Express did not. [Werribee did not have its own newspaper until The Banner began in 1911.] Within a few years he was on the case again: ‘The Wyndham Shire Council should not set an example for slummocky weighing at its weighbridge by slumming the repairs to it which an expert has advised should be made.’ He insisted that the Council could afford the £42 for repairs out of the fees charged.
When E. C. Robertson & Co. installed a weighbridge beside their new mill, and local dignitaries joined in the opening celebration, the local inspector and weighbridge expert remarked to several of the Councillors that the Shire weighbridge needed new bearings, centre bearers and decking, and an investment of £25 on these would make the bridge as good as new. The Councillors hoped this would dispel ‘a good deal of grumbling among the ratepayers’.
By the 1920s though, there was talk of a new weighbridge, but no action for a long time – the intervention of Depression and war would not have helped.
Then the old weighbridge performed sterling service in a case in the Magistrate’s Court in 1941. A man knocked on a door in Watton Street selling wood, and a woman bought four tons from him. After it was delivered, with a weighbridge docket, she believed she did not have the amount she had paid for, and had the presence of mind to get it taken to the weighbridge and checked. Instead of four tons, she had 12 cwt – well under a quarter of what she had paid for, and her driver, and the weighbridge attendant, were witness to that. She went to the police. Constable Wright brought in three men for questioning who denied any connection with wood deliveries, but a search of the pockets of one of them revealed a fistful of weighbridge dockets. And the woman identified him in a line-up. Justice, and the weighbridge, triumphed!
An unexpected boost to the Council’s confidence in the weighbridge came when the Camperdown Chronicle reported criticisms of the Camperdown weighbridge. When compared with weighings by Melbourne and Werribee (which agreed), the local one was found to register differences of up to 2cwt per vehicle.
The area around the weighbridge – Troup Park – had been a spacious area with garden beds and a fountain, a pleasant recreation spot and attractive entrance to the top end of town. It was named for Mr. Bill Troup, a councillor at the time, and set aside in the years before the first World War. Cr. Troup had personally watered and cared for the flowers gardens and shrubs there. After some years the design was changed, and there was more lawn and less garden.
By 1945 the park was neglected. The Council put in concrete posts to replace the dilapidated wooden fence, and a Werribee Shire Banner editorial urged getting rid of the old weighbridge with its unsightly shed. The Council got the message, and tenders were called in the following year for a new weighbridge. The new one remained in use for almost thirty years – very popular for much of its life, because the charges were lower than at other weighbridges. The last weighing was done, and the weighbridgeman retired, in 1975 (although it was briefly restored to service in September of that year).
In 1982 there was public outcry when much of Troup Park was dug up, and trees and shrubs were uprooted. The land had suddenly and mysteriously been rezoned from ‘reserve’ to ‘road’, and was asphalted over to become a supermarket carpark.
The new(er) weighbridge, No. 328, with its neat brick building housing the bar scales, sits between park and road. On weekdays cars park over the metal bridge, but on Sundays it is easy to read the maker’s name: Hawke & Co., of Kapunda, South Australia. Beside it stand some of the interesting old original trees – palms and peppercorns – tangible reminders, like the weighbridge, of Werribee’s past life.
The Bacchus Marsh Express, 7 January 1905, p.3
The Bacchus Marsh Express, 4 February 1905, p.3
Werribee Shire Banner, 3 April 1941, p.3
Camperdown Chronicle, 18 December 1945, p.1
Werribee Shire Banner, 1 March 1945, p.3
Werribee,” Wyndham History, accessed September 25, 2021, https://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1033.