||Echuca and Moama developed around two fords where the Murray banks were sufficiently gentle to allow stock easy access. Two ex-convicts were responsible for creating the townships, James Maiden at Moama, Henry Hopwood at Echuca. Maiden came first and established a punt at Moama about 1845. Hopwood established his punt in 1853 upstream at Echuca (originally called Hopwood's Ferry). The crossing was important in the 1850s because of the market for meat created by the gold-rushes around Bendigo, but with the decline of that market and the slump in cattle prices, Maiden became bankrupt and Moama declined. Hopwood, with Melbourne encouragement, developed Echuca.
Hopwood sold his punt to John Foord upstream at Wahgunyah in 1857 and built instead a pontoon bridge based on a model at the Victorian Industrial Society Exhibition held in the previous year. Ten wooden sections were floated in the river on iron pontoons, with a device to allow the central sections to be swung aside to let river traffic through. In 1858 Hopwood also built a bridge nearby over the Campaspe River, in alignment with the Murray pontoon, which was replaced by a ferry in the 1860s.
The Victorian railway came to Echuca in 1864 and transformed the town into a major river port, with a famous wharf and substantial urban growth in the 1870s. Despite interstate rivalries, a rail link within New South Wales was increasingly advocated and the Deniliquin - Moama line opened in 1876. A railway bridge across the Murray was initially opposed by Echuca, because the railhead would then effectively move to Deniliquin but the railway company built its own temporary low-level bridge in 1876, with a central drawbridge to allow steamers to pass. In 1878 the NSW government built an iron bridge 50 metres upstream.
The Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge proposal was initially prepared for a low level swing bridge but was subsequently amended to a high level structure of fixed spans totalling 1 452 feet in length, providing a single track railway in a 21 foot roadway. A major flood in the Murray during 1870 was a significant contributor to the decision to build a higher, larger bridge. In 1875 the NSW government agreed to the erection of the bridge according to plans prepared by officers of the Victorian Government and which were generally approved by the officers of the NSW Government.
The general design and specifications for the bridge were prepared by William Henry Greene, resident Engineer in the Railway Department. He was also responsible for supervision of the project. George Hay Edwards, Greene's assistant ,was responsible for the bridge calculations and preparation of the drawings based on instructions from Greene. The construction company Halliday and Walker were the successful tenderers for the bridge contract. They were awarded the contract in November 1875 for an amount of 81 225 pounds. The cost was to be borne equally by the NSW and Victorian governments. This bridge, the present road bridge was completed in 1878. The contract had been due for completion in July 1877. A Royal Commission into the building of the bridge considered the appropriateness and cost of the bridge.
Initially only the Deniliquin-Moama trains were allowed to use the bridge: all road traffic had to pay tolls on the ferry and the coach service to Deniliquin was withdrawn. In March 1879 the new bridge was attacked by angry crowds both from Echuca an Moama opening the locked gates at both ends and walking, riding o driving across. The bridge thereafter was a combined rail and road bridge but passengers and freight trains took priority over vehicles. this created increasing delays for cars in the twentieth century and there was agitation for a separate road bridge. There was much debate from the 1960s onward about the siting of new bridge to preserve the highly significant visual relationship of Echuca Wharf and the 1878 bridge. Finally the Victorian government decided to build not a new road bridge but a new railway bride just upstream from the earlier bridge, with minimum disruption to railroad alignments. the railway bridge opened in 1989 and the 1878 bridge became a two-lane road bridge instead. The decision allowed the retention of the existing road approaches and the preservation of the riverscape at the expense of a bumpy bottleneck for motorists.