The first built by the Union Bridge Company of New York between 1886 and 1889. During this period Dangar Island was leased from Henry Dangar to the American Company for the accommodation of the workforce. The structure of the bridge was assembled on the shore of the river then taken by pontoon up the river at high tide and then guided into their exact positions as the tide ebbed. The bridge had foundations 162 feet deep, the deepest in the Southern Hemisphere at that time.
The old bridge was found to have structural defects in 1927-37. Work on a new bridge began in 1940 but was not completed until 1946. The speed of trains crossing the old bridge was reduced until the new bridge was ready to be commissioned.