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T-girder bridges, Part 2.

Extracts from Monash Bridges:
Typology study; reinforced concrete bridges in Victoria 1897-1917.

Concept and History: Lesley Alves 1998. Additional technical input: Alan Holgate and Geoff Taplin.

CAMPASPE: Strathallan Bridge No.1.

Location:Campaspe River, Koyuga Strathallan Bawmawn Road, VR Map 31 D6.
Municipality:Shire of Campaspe, formerly Shire of Rochester.
Description:Girder, 5 × 9.1 metre spans.
Dates:Tender December 1912, test August 1913.
Status (1998):Still in use, strengthened.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Nil.

Photo c1997.


Strathallan Siding was situated in a wheat growing district centred on the Campaspe River, where subdivision of the Restdown and Cornelia Creek Estates for closer settlement in 1906 and 1910 respectively, had brought an influx of population. By 1913 Restdown had 55 households and Cornelia Creek had 90. [1] The two estates were separated by the river, and there was no bridge on the 18 mile stretch between Echuca and Rochester. Restdown, on the west of the river, was cut off from the Strathallan Siding and the farmers had to cart their wheat to Echuca or Rochester. Both settlements boasted active progress associations, which, after campaigning for some time, [2] persuaded the Rochester Shire Council and the Closer Settlement Board of the need for a bridge. In August 1912 plans and specifications for a timber bridge were being prepared by the Public Works Department. [3] Besides the main bridge over the Campaspe, two smaller bridges were needed to span nearby billabongs. The cost of the work was to be shared by the Shire Council and the Board.

The smaller bridges were No.2 with two spans of 8.2m, and No.3, a humble culvert with two spans of 1.6m.

The Shire Engineer, W. T. Chaplin, on examining the plans, suggested that the estimated cost of £2100 could be reduced by changing the design and substituting cheaper wood. However, when tenders were called at the end of December alternative tenders for reinforced concrete bridges were also invited, probably at the instigation of the Shire Engineer. [4] Chaplin had been an early enthusiast for reinforced concrete, having assisted Monash & Anderson in winning the contract for the Coliban Bridge in 1901. Of the four tenders received, only the one submitted by the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. was for reinforced concrete, to a plan drawn up by J. A. Laing. Whether the Company's tender of £1791 was the lowest is not clear, but the promise of durability was a major consideration in the success of the tender, which was selected by the Closer Settlement Board and the Public Works Department. [5] Work commenced in April 1913, under the supervision of both G. Kermode of the Public Works Department and Chaplin. The three bridges were completed by July. [6]

The test and opening, held on 12 August, was a festive occasion, with entertainment provided by the two progress associations. The Shire Council was proud of their progressiveness in adopting modern technology. However there were still some reservations regarding the safety of what they regarded as a new type of bridge. The traction engine was rigged up with a cable which drew the 15 ton test load across on a wagon. Deflections were measured to the satisfaction of the Shire Engineer before the engine was taken onto the bridge. [7] Monash was disgusted that such elaborate safety precautions should be reported in the press in a manner "calculated to inspire want of public confidence in our work and speciality", protesting that "the days when tests of reinforced concrete bridges were regarded as anything but a formality have long passed away". [8] The Argus reported that the engineers for the bridges were Kermode and Chaplin, with the Company acknowledged merely as contractors. [9]

The bridge united the Restdown and Cornelia Creek communities, initiating the formation of a small township around the Strathallan Siding, where a passenger platform was soon to be provided. Township blocks had already been sold and a post office was planned. Strathallan school opened the following year. [10]

  1. Rochester Express, 18 April 1913.
  2. Ibid., 15 August 1913.
  3. Ibid., 27 August 1912.
  4. Ibid., 27 September, 24 December 1912.
  5. Ibid., 18 April 1913, correspondence February & March in Company records, Box 92 File 958.
  6. Company records.
  7. Rochester Express, 15 August 1913.
  8. Monash to Chaplin, 22 July 1913, Company records.
  9. Argus, 13 August 1913.
  10.   Bendigonian, 19 August 1913; Blake, L., Vision and Realisation, Melbourne, 1973, Vol 3, p.847.


Strathallan Bridge is a representative example of the larger reinforced concrete girder bridges designed and built by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. in country areas just prior to World War 1. It demonstrates the principal characteristics of the functional design developed by the Company, and is the largest surviving bridge of its kind. Although it has been strengthened in a manner unsympathetic to the original design, it is still a fairly intact example The bridge has historical significance for its association with the development of closer settlement districts in the pre-war years and demonstrates the necessity for adequate transport links with the railway.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This is a fairly large bridge having 5 spans of 30 feet (9.14 m) with three girders and an overall width of 16 feet (4.88 m). Shear reinforcement covers the full length of the girders. The piers consist of three vertical columns joined by a curtain wall and founded on a strip footing. There is a nominal cross-head: a thickening of the top of the wall with a few longitudinal bars indicated. The abutments consist of the normal column and wall type. The bridge has been strengthened rather unsympathetically with steel cross beams at the western end in recent years. The timber handrailing is [1997] of the type shown in the original design and is typical of that used on country bridges.

This bridge displays the functional design developed by Monash for his larger country bridges from around 1911, and can be grouped with Shepparton Bridge (built 1911, now demolished), the ruined Cremona Bridge (q.v.), and the 3-span Darraweit Guim Bridge (q.v.). It is also of similar design to the much smaller Edgarley Bridge (q.v.) and the town bridge at Wattle Street Bendigo (q.v.). Strathallan Bridge is the largest surviving of this group.

Historic images of this bridge under construction are held in the University of Melbourne Archives Location Numbers BWP/24014 to BWP/24016 respectively.

CAMPASPE: Strathallan Culvert.

Location:Campaspe River, Koyuga Strathallan Bawmawn Road, VR Map 31 D6.
Municipality:Shire of Campaspe, formerly Shire of Rochester.
Description:Girder, 2 × 1.6 metre spans.
Dates:Tender December 1912, test August 1913.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Nil.


Strathallan Culvert, or Bridge No. 3, was built to span a small billabong on the Restdown Estate, approximately 200 metres west of Bridge No. 1, and was constructed under the same contract as Strathallan Bridges No. 1 (q.v) and No. 2. See detailed history under Strathallan Bridge above. Strathallan Bridge No. 2, a two span bridge of similar design to No 1 bridge, was built a bit further west, but no longer exists.


Strathallan Culvert is typical of the many small reinforced concrete bridges and culverts designed and built by Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. just prior to World War 1. Along with its companion Strathallan Bridge, it is a reminder of pre-war closer settlement of the district.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This is a small culvert with two spans of 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m) from centre of pier to face of abutment. Although it is described as a culvert on the original drawing, it has no invert slab. It is typical of the very small bridges built by the Company at the time. The original timber handrailings have been removed.

University of Melbourne Archives holds a historic photograph of this very humble structure with Location Number BWP/24019. A third Strathallan bridge by RCMPC (No.2) was not included in Lesley Alves's survey because it had been demolished. It was a small 2-span structure. UMA holds historic images of this No.2 Bridge with numbers BWP/24017 and /24018.

DELATITE: Benalla Bridge.

Location:Broken River, Midland Highway, Benalla, VR Map 309 P6.
Municipality:Delatite Shire, formerly Shire of Benalla.
Description:Girder: 10 × 12.2 metre spans.
Dates:Tender January 1909, tested February 1910.
Status (1998):Still in use, altered.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Victorian Heritage Register. Register of Australian Historic Bridges.

Photo c1997.


The Benalla Shire Council began to consider the question of repairing or replacing the timber bridge over the Broken River at the entrance to the town late in 1907, when they organised a deputation to the Premier seeking financial assistance. In March 1908 the government offered £3000 for a new bridge, and the Shire Engineer, S. Jeffrey, investigated the cost of a steel lattice girder bridge, reporting to Council that £6000 would be sufficient. [1] As part of his research, Jeffrey visited Monash in his Melbourne office to discuss the possibility of using reinforced concrete with steel lattice girders to span 120 feet of waterway. Jeffrey wanted 44 foot spans and a 20 foot roadway with an extra 4 feet of footpath. [2] This project was just what Monash needed to promote the cause of reinforced concrete in Victoria and further his Company's business prospects. The bridge would be larger than any girder bridge built by Monash. The largest so far was the 5 × 30 foot span Waterford Bridge in course of construction in Gippsland (destroyed by the 1916 flood) and a railway bridge of similar size recently completed at Victor Harbour, South Australia. The longest span in a reinforced concrete girder Monash had built was 38 feet for a single span bridge at Staughton Vale, so the requirement of 44 foot spans presented a challenge. Monash was prepared to build the steel lattice girder superstructure which Jeffrey and his Council seemed to prefer, [3] but obviously he was very keen to build the whole structure in reinforced concrete. "If your Council is looking for a thoroughly up to date structure of a permanent character, likely to show substantial economies, I think it would be a pity not to put before them a reinforced concrete proposition", he wrote to Jeffrey. During the course of negotiations Monash cultivated Jeffrey's interest in reinforced concrete, supplying him with the latest literature on the subject. [4]

Several months elapsed while Council debated the raising of a loan to fund the bridge and the apportionment of the cost between the ridings. [5] Discussions resumed between Jeffrey and Monash in October 1908. Monash and his staff got busy with calculations, and prepared drawings and specifications which he sent to Jeffrey on 26 November. [6] These were handed by Jeffrey to the Inspector for Public Works for approval, along with his own steel lattice girder design, in late December or early January 1909. Following approval, alternative tenders for steel or reinforced concrete were advertised in the Melbourne and Sydney papers on 14 January. Although 9 contractors took the trouble to visit Benalla to inspect the site, only 5 tenders were received, including two for reinforced concrete. (The other tenderer was Wilson & Sly). The Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co.'s tender of £5856, being the lowest, was accepted subject to a 12 months guarantee. [7] Work commenced in February. During construction, problems were experienced with the foundations and with floods, although the difficulties caused by floods were exaggerated to play for an extension of time. Monash, who had left much of the management of the work to Fairway and Lynch[8], was eventually called to Benalla for a special meeting with Council to iron out the problems. The bridge was completed in January 1910 at a final cost of £6532 and tested successfully on 18 February. [9]

Council, considering they had already spent enough of ratepayers' money on the bridge, decided to forego the customary official opening. But many ratepayers wanted a celebration in honour of their 'magnificent' new bridge. It was, after all the largest of its kind in Australia, and they wanted to express their thanks to the Government for the £3300 grant provided. So a group of citizens formed a committee, raised the funds and organised a lavish function for the whole shire. Clearly this bridge was much more than a local asset. It was an improvement to the main Sydney Melbourne road link and thus provided a prestigious landmark for the town. On 24 May 1910 Benalla's civic pride knew no bounds. School children were brought in from the surrounding districts to join the town band in a procession to escort the State Treasurer, Mr Watt, to the decorated bridge. After the Shire President's daughter cut the ribbon, the day was given over to picnics and entertainments. Festivities continued into the night with a banquet and much speech-making, especially by the politicians. [10]

John Gibson, [11] who represented the Company in Monash's absence overseas, reported to Monash that "Jeffrey took all the kudos of the design in a most unblushing manner, and of course my tongue was tied." It was accepted locally that Jeffrey was the bridge's designer and that the Company was merely the building contractor. The reason Gibson's "tongue was tied" was that Jeffrey, with Monash's assent, was taking the credit for the design so that he could claim the engineer's commission of 5%. [12] No doubt Jeffrey did have a part in developing the overall design, contributing a rough sketch and having a say in the outward appearance, but the Company records show quite clearly that Monash was the chief design engineer, assisted by Percy Fairway who did the drawings. However as far as the Benalla community was concerned, it was their bridge, designed by their engineer, and this belief continued up until the time that the bridge was under threat of demolition by the Road Construction Authority in the 1980s. When the National Trust put their case for the protection of the bridge, the local press and historical society quite resented the fact that city people were telling them what they should do with their bridge. Eventually, due to the Trust's efforts, the Benalla community and the Road Construction Authority were persuaded that the bridge was worth saving. [13]

About two years after the bridge's completion, Jeffrey was most distressed to notice, while fishing under the bridge, "very serious cracks" in two of the main girders. Monash's response was, as usual "no cause for alarm". However there was his firm's reputation to consider, so he asked Jeffrey to keep the matter secret. Jeffrey, also with a reputation to protect, readily agreed, and even devised some pretext for keeping a traction engine off the bridge, while the problem was investigated. Fairway inspected the bridge, and found no serious problem with the cracking. [14] Presumably the cracks were patched.

However over the years cracks continued to appear and the girders were strengthened against shear with external steel stirrups bolted through the deck slab. The Country Roads Board reported in 1939 that the problems of this and other early reinforced concrete bridges were due to a limited understanding of shear stresses and insufficient reinforcing in the centre of the beams. The Board also widened the bridge to enable it to cope with the increased traffic on what had become known as the Hume Highway. [15] The additions to the bridge were officially declared open on 14 May 1940. [16]

In 1987 the Hume Highway was re-routed to bypass Benalla. [17] The bridge remains in use on what is now the Midland Highway.

  1. Benalla Shire Council Minutes, 16 December 1907, 13 January, 16 April 1908, VPRS 883, U 13.
  2. Memo 6 March 1908, Company records, Box 68 File 762.
  3. Ibid., memo 6 November 1908.
  4. Monash to Jeffrey 3 July 1908 & 18 January 1909 File 762.
  5. Council Minutes.
  6. Correspondence and memos in File 762.
  7. Benalla Independent, 8 December 1908, 8 January, 9 February 1909. Age, 14 January 1909, Benalla Shire Council Letter Book, VPRS 8804 U 10, p.373, and Council Minutes 29 January 1909.
  8. Fairway was Monash's leading assistant in bridge design and Lynch was his Works Manager
  9. Correspondence and memos in File 762.
  10. Benalla Independent, 27 May 1910.
  11. Gibson looked after the business administration of the Company.
  12. Gibson to Monash, Box 87 File 901[b]; Benalla Shire Council Minutes 16 March 1908.
  13. National Trust File 5744.
  14. Company records, correspondence and memos in File 762.
  15. Country Roads Board Annual Report, 1939, p.35 & 1940, pp 71-2.
  16. Benalla Standard, 17 May 1940.
  17. Road Construction Authority, Annual Report, 1988.


The Benalla Bridge is significant as an early large reinforced concrete girder road bridge and a major civil engineering work designed and constructed by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. At the time of its construction it was the largest bridge of its kind in Australia, and still remains the second largest, both in total length and length of span, of the reinforced concrete bridges built before World War II in Victoria, and probably Australia. The bridge in its widened form demonstrates the increased importance of the main road link between Sydney and Melbourne during the middle part of the twentieth century. The additions, although architecturally and aesthetically sympathetic with the original bridge, demonstrate a later era of engineering technology. The bridge is also an historic landmark for Benalla, and a reminder of the town's importance at a river crossing on the Hume Highway. It has already been appropriately recognised as of state significance.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

At the time of its completion, Benalla Bridge was the largest r.c. girder bridge built so far by Monash, in terms both of total length and length of spans (nominally 40 feet or 12.2 m). It was exceeded only by Janevale Bridge, built about a year later. It has since been widened and strengthened.

The original structure was 25 feet (7.62 m) wide. The piers consist of 3 columns joined by arches which form a cross-head supporting 5 girders. Each column of the river piers is founded on a group of closely-spaced square piles whose heads are encased in a vertical precast pipe filled with concrete. It is believed that this is the earliest extant Monash bridge in Victoria founded on reinforced concrete piles. Monash had previously used concrete piles for the Hindmarsh River Bridge in South Australia in 1907. An expansion joint is provided at the middle of the bridge in the form of two adjacent piers separated by a small gap. This is possibly the first time that Monash provided an expansion joint in a bridge.

As befitted the bridge's prominent place in a large country town, it has some decorative features, including curved corbels at the piers, and it was finished with a coat of paint. The iron handrailing is supported by concrete pillars and decorative iron standards. Lamps were added to the central and end pillars in 1924.

The structure was built before the engineering profession learned to deal with shear stresses in reinforced concrete bridge girders. Shear reinforcement was omitted from the middle half of the span and that provided near the ends proved insufficient. Considerable shear cracking subsequently occurred, and the girders have been strengthened with extra reinforcement, designed to the improved standards of the time. The bridge was widened in 1940 by the addition of 3 girders on the upstream side, to increase the roadway from 20 feet to 30 feet (9.14 metres) and add two footpaths. The additions are architecturally in sympathy with the original design, although there are some slight variations in detail.

The structure of the Benalla bridge is illustrated by several historic prints in the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives with Location Numbers GPNB-1121 to 1126. Celebrations on the bridge are recorded by images UMA/I/5727, /5779, and /5825.

GREATER GEELONG: Staughton's Bridge.

Location:Little River at Staughton Vale, on private property bounded by Staughton Vale Road, Bacchus Marsh Road, McArthurs Road and Hannans Road. VR Map 77 F7
Municipality:City of Greater Geelong and Moorabool Shire
Description:Girder: 1 × 11.3 m span
Dates:Tender June 1907, completed August 1907.
Status (1998):Still in use, though damaged. Limit 2 tonnes.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Nil.


The bridge was built for the then owner of the property Mr F. S. Staughton. Records suggest that Monash's firm obtained a design-and-build contract, with J. S. Sharland acting as consulting engineer to the client. It appears to have been designed by Monash himself in May 1907, the live load being taken as a 12 ton steam roller. In June, Monash tendered £285. This was accepted after minor modifications requested by Sharland. Work commenced on 7 July under foreman Thomas W Wood and was completed on 25 August. An extra cost of £25-10-0 was incurred because abutment works were more extensive than expected. The bridge was tested on 28 September and Monash claimed it as "the largest bridge work of this kind yet in existence in Victoria". [1]

The bridge remained in good condition until some four years ago [c1994] when timber carried by flood-water removed the concrete cover from the middle and downstream beams and tore out some of the main reinforcing bars, bending them at right angles to the bridge. As a result, the web of the downstream beam has separated from the deck over the middle third of the span, and several large blocks of concrete are held in position only by the remaining exposed main bars.

The authors are indebted to Mr Peter F. B. Alsop for locating the bridge and reporting its present condition.

1.  Company records, File 633.


Staughton's Bridge is the third oldest reinforced concrete girder bridge extant in Victoria, after the St Kilda Street Bridge in Elwood (still in use) and the Brickwood Street Bridge, also in Elwood (partly demolished, to leave only a footbridge).

Description and Technical Analysis.

The authors estimate this to be the ninth girder bridge completed by Monash's firms. It has a single span which has been measured at 11.3 m (37'-2", compared with 38'-0" on the drawing). There are three girders integral with a 5 inch (127 mm) deck plate. The width between kerbs is 10'-10" (3.30 m). The hand-rail is very old and may be original. It extends only to the ends of the concrete kerbs. The drawing shows that at each end of the bridge the girders are run into a sort of cross head 6'-2" deep which has bottom reinforcement. This rests on a mass concrete wall 5'-0" deep which is supported at each of its ends by a mass concrete pile cast in a shaft taken down to a firm foundation.

Alan Holgate 1998.

HEPBURN: Excelsior Bridge.

Location:Jim Crow Creek, Daylesford Newstead Rd, Shepherds Flat, R map 59 C6.
Municipality:Shire of Hepburn, formerly Shire of Mt Franklin.
Description:Girder, 2 × 7.6 metre spans.
Dates:Tender June 1908, tested April 1909.
Status (2014):New bridge installed above existing structure.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Nil.

Update. By 2013, corrosion of reinforcement and flaking (spalling) of concrete cover on the outer girders of Monash's bridge led to concern that it would soon be unable to resist heavy modern traffic (T44 loading). A contract was signed to replace the bridge, but the contractor proposed an alternative solution: to build a modern deck with a single span sitting on new abutments just outside the old. This work was completed in 2014. The new deck was placed just above and clear of the historic deck, so that the old bridge now has to carry only its own weight. The contractor repaired its deteriorated girders to assure preservation. Elsewhere, the old concrete was still sound and showed equivalent cylinder strengths between 28 and 47 MPa.


Discussions over the type of replacement for the old Excelsior Bridge at the small farming village of Shepherd's Flat first began in 1901 when Mt Franklin Shire Council considered building a Monier arch bridge, however the new bridge was deferred through lack of finance. [1] The subject arose again in February 1908 when Council received a government allocation of £1000 for the new bridge. The consultant engineer to the Shire, George Maughan prepared drawings for a plain concrete arch and submitted them for approval to the Public Works Department. Maughan who knew Monash from the time the firm Monash & Anderson redecked Davies Bridges in Creswick in 1900, asked Monash for a price for a concrete bridge. Monash replied that it would be difficult to design a bridge for less than £2000 on such a difficult site, but recommended a two span reinforced concrete girder bridge which would provide for double the waterway allowed by an arch bridge. He submitted a design to the Public Works Department at a price of £1145 without the earthworks. [2] Tenders were called on 5 June for either a plain cement concrete arch or a reinforced concrete bridge. [3]

Council favoured the concrete arch culvert designed by Maughan, and wanted to award the contract to local contractors - Clayfield, whose tender was £1100, and Tinetti for the earthworks. They preferred Maughan's arch design over the two span Monash design because they thought that logs coming down the creek would cause scouring and undermine the foundations of the central pier. Also there was a lingering prejudice against the Monier system and councillors remembered the troubles associated with the bridge at Smeaton in the neighbouring Shire (presumably Wheeler's Bridge q.v.). [4] Monash asked George Kermode of the Public Works Department to use his influence with Council. Kermode strongly recommended Monash's design as allowing a larger waterway. [5] Monash was able to show that his design required less expenditure on earthworks, metal and fencing, thus making it the lower tender. Clearly Council felt they were being pressured by the Department into accepting a bridge they did not want, nevertheless they grudgingly awarded to the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. the contract for the bridge and to Mahoney the contract for the embankment. [6]

Work commenced in October with A. E. Jones as foreman. Considerable trouble was experienced in finding a solid bottom for the foundations. The Company's workmen believed that a gold dredge had been through the creek turning up loose gravel. [7] The work was eventually completed by sinking precast Monier pipes as caissons. The bridge was not completed until March 1909. Maughan complained about the appearance of the bridge, wanting a rendered finish. Monash replied, "it is sounder to let the structure speak for itself as to how it was built than to put an artificial veneer over it." For country bridges it was customary to "leave the concrete as it strips from the mould", he said, indicating his preference for the functionalist aesthetic. However he agreed to a thick cement wash to cover any visible defects. [8]

When it was time for the test there was a dispute over who was responsible for carrying it out. Council was under the mistaken impression that it was part of the contract, but Monash countered that it was not "proper" for a contractor to test his own work. Besides, he had such confidence in his work he no longer regularly attended tests. [9] This confidence was not shared locally. A Daylesford man asked to loan his traction engine for the test demanded a £600 guarantee, which Monash refused. [10] The situation was becoming urgent because the old bridge was in a dangerous condition. [11] The bridge was finally tested satisfactorily on 24 April 1909, [12] but there was no official opening celebration. The following August a flood washed away the embankment, but there was no damage to the bridge. Maughan reported to Monash that there was plenty of waterway, but that the spaces between the cylinders needed filling with concrete to bedrock. [13]

  1. Mt Franklin Shire Council meetings reported in Daylesford Herald, 30 October 1901.
  2. Daylesford Advocate, 25 February, 31 March, 30 April, 18 July 1908. Company Records Box 64 File 707.
  3. Age, 5 June 1908.
  4. Advocate, 30 July 1908.
  5. Correspondence 22-24 June 1908, Company records.
  6. Advocate, 18 & 30 July, 10 & 29 September 1908.
  7. Monash to Maughan 25 November 1908, Company records.
  8. Maughan to Monash, 29 January 1909, Monash to Maughan 25 February 1909 Company records.
  9. Daylesford Herald, 31 March 1909, Monash to Maughan 8 & 15 March 1909.
  10. Maughan to Monash 13 March, Monash to Maughan 15 March 1909, Company records.
  11. Advocate, 30 March 1909, Herald, 31 March 1909.
  12. Herald, 28 April 1909, Company records.
  13. Maughan to Monash, 1 September 1909, Letterbook, Company records.

Significance of the original structure
as assessed by Lesley Alves in our 1998 study.

Excelsior Bridge is an early example of a small reinforced concrete country bridge designed and constructed by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. As such it demonstrates a stage in the development of innovative technology. It has historical significance as part of a transport link in what was an important mining and farming district.

Description and Technical Analysis of the original structure.

This small country bridge is of similar design to Gellies Bridge (q.v), built about a year earlier, but shorter and wider. There are two spans measuring 25 feet (7.62 m) from centre of pier to face of abutment, with six girders, and a width of 24 feet (7.32 m) between handrails. The pier consists of three columns, forming two arches at the cross-head and sitting on a strip footing, with a cutwater on the upstream side, in the same manner as Gellies Bridge and Lancefield Bridge (demolished). The abutments are 12 inch (305 mm) walls with counterforts projecting 10 feet (3.05 m). The available drawing shows that the pier and abutments were to have foundations reaching down to rock, but due to difficulty in sinking the foundations, precast Monier pipes were eventually sunk as narrow caissons. The junction of the pier with the outer beams lacks the reinforced corbels used in the Gellies Bridge. The original timber handrail has been replaced by steel guardrails.

HEPBURN: Coomoora Bridge.

Location:Wallaby Creek, Malmsbury-Daylesford Road, Coomoora, VR Map 59 D7.
Municipality:Shire of Hepburn, formerly Glenlyon Shire.
Description:Single 9.1 metre span reinforced concrete girder superstructure on bluestone abutments.
Dates:Commenced August 1909, tested October 1909.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Nil.

Photo: Lesley Alves c1997.


This small bridge caused many headaches for Monash and for the Glenlyon Shire Engineer, George Maughan. The original plan to replace the superstructure with a Monier concrete slab deck carried on rolled steel joists, seemed straightforward enough. Local contractor George Clayfield had been contracted to do the job, with the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. supplying the Monier slab. However Clayfield found that he was unable to complete all of the work and asked Monash to take over the whole superstructure as a subcontractor. Monash responded that he would change the design, cutting out the steel girders and substituting five reinforced concrete girders, integral with the slab, so that they acted effectively as T-beams. The price of the job was agreed at £148. Monash asked Clayfield to seek Maughan's approval for the changed design, telling him "I know Mr Maughan very well, and if you tell him that we will carry out the work and will guarantee it, I think there will be no objection."[1] Monash had already done two jobs for Maughan. His Company had, a few months earlier, built the Excelsior Bridge for the Mt Franklin Shire, where Maughan was also Shire Engineer. About nine years earlier Monash & Anderson had raised the level of the steel girders of Davies Bridge in Creswick, and built a Monier slab decking, probably the first bridge in Victoria to have a Monier deck. Maughan was then Shire Engineer at Creswick. [2]

Clayfield misunderstood Monash, and was astonished when the Company's workmen arrived without steel girders to commence the job on 12 August. He was quite sure that Maughan would not approve of reinforced concrete girders. Maughan did not know about the changed plan, and stopped the work. Monash was furious with Clayfield. He wrote to Maughan, explaining the situation, but Maughan would not allow the work to proceed without the approval of Council and the Public Works Department. The workmen engaged for the job stood idle during ten days of negotiations. Council would not approve the change without Public Works Department approval, and this was not given until Monash went directly to Catani. The plans were approved on 17 August, but it was the 23rd before Council finally gave their approval, after a special meeting lasting 51/2 hours. [3]

The next delay was over finding suitable gravel. Clayfield had assured Monash that he was very experienced with concrete work and knew exactly what was required. But the gravel he supplied was full of soft shale and clay. Eventually the gravel had to be brought from Allendale, adding to the cost of the job. [4]

The bridge was completed and tested in October. Monash estimated that the delays caused by Clayfield's "muddling" had cost his Company £27. Although Clayfield agreed to pay it, after repeated requests from Monash and excuses from Clayfield, Monash had to be contented with £5. [5]

  1. Monash to Clayfield, 29 June 1909, Company records Box 72 File 793.
  2. Company records, Box 11 File 145.
  3. Correspondence 12 to 23 August 1909, File 793.
  4. Monash to Clayfield, 25 August 1909, File 793.
  5. Correspondence over the matter continued between Monash & Clayfield for several months, File 793.


Coomoora Bridge is an example of the innovative combination of an old masonry substructure with the new reinforced concrete technology, and is possibly the earliest extant bridge showing the use of a reinforced concrete girder deck in this manner.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

Coomooa Bridge has a single span reinforced concrete girder superstructure of 30-foot span (9.14 m) resting on older bluestone abutments. There is no shear reinforcement in the middle 6 feet (1.8 m). It is possibly the only extant example of an old bridge redecked with reinforced concrete girders by Monash's Company [1998].

HUME: Gellies Bridge (Emu Creek Bridge).

Location:Emu Creek, Gellies Road Sunbury, VR Map 78 E3.
Municipality:City of Hume, formerly Shire of Bulla.
Description:Girder, 3 × 9.3 metre spans.
Dates:Commenced July 1907, tested November 1907.
Status (1998):Still in use, altered.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Shire of Bulla Heritage Study.

Photo: Lesley Alves c1997.


The need for two bridges to cross the deep gullies at Holden and at Gellies Road was raised at the Bulla Shire Council in March 1906, when it was decided to send a deputation to the Minister for Public Works seeking financial assistance. [1] The case put to the Minister was that the district was attracting a great deal of settlement and tourism. [2] Floods frequently made the existing Gellies and Holden fords impassable, cutting residents off from the townships of Sunbury and Digger's Rest and from the new creamery built by Sir Rupert Clarke. [3] The Government offered £400, later increasing the grant to £500 for the two bridges, however Council could only afford one bridge at a time. Debate over which bridge was more urgent continued in Council over many months. Meanwhile both fords were damaged in the September 1906 flood. Eventually it was decided to build the bridge at Gellies Ford, the deciding factor being that the Holden people at least had a detour to Diggers Rest when the ford was in flood. [4]

In March 1907 drawings for a stone and timber bridge to the design of Shire Engineer, A.F. Daniel, were submitted for approval to the Public Works Department. However, Catani, the Department's Chief Engineer, was not happy with the design. He considered the central pier a "grave defect", and the cost of stone too high. He suggested that a timber bridge could be built for £400, or a Monier bridge for £500. Daniel replied, in defence of his design, that the central pier would be soundly built on a flat rock formation in the creek. He pointed out that all three bridges with central piers built over the Deep Creek had survived the 1906 flood. He also defended the use of stone as a cheap local material. [5] With large deposits of bluestone at its disposal, the Shire had a tradition of building stone bridges. Nevertheless Catani remained unconvinced. After consulting Monash for an estimate, [6] he suggested to Council that a Monier bridge would cost less and be more permanent than one built to Daniel's design. After a long discussion, Council decided to call alternative tenders for three types of bridge - timber and stone; wood with steel girders; and Monier. [7] Perhaps Monash's letter to Council the previous May, drawing attention to the advantages of reinforced concrete for bridge building, also had a persuasive effect on the Councillors. [8] Three tenders were received. The one from the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. being the cheapest at £749, was accepted. [9] Monash's three span design, which avoided the central pier in the creek bed, would have satisfied Catani, however the primary reason for three spans was the limited length then possible in a reinforced concrete girder. At 29 feet, the girders would to be the longest spans yet attempted in Victoria, apart from a low single span bridge of 38 feet still on the drawing board for a private landowner at Staughton Vale. That bridge was completed and tested successfully in October, however its later fate is unknown. [10]

Gellies Bridge was commenced in July 1907 and completed within three months at a final price of £822. It was tested on 11 November. [11] The story, reported in the Daniel family history, that a shire worker refused to drive the steam roller over the bridge for the test until the Shire Engineer stood underneath, [12] is perfectly plausible. Many an engine driver had feared for the safety of himself and his engine during the testing of Monier bridges, particularly since the collapse of King's bridge at Bendigo during testing in 1901. The newest 'Monier' bridge at Gellies crossing, although not the first of the reinforced concrete girder design, was then the largest of its kind to be built in Victoria. The bridges built over the preceding two years at Elwood, Lancefield and Kilmore[13] were all lower and had shorter spans. The shire worker's nervousness over such a large bridge of seemingly revolutionary design was therefore understandable.

Although the bridge was tested satisfactorily, a crack did appear across the width of the eastern pier. Further cracking gave concern to Daniel the following March, however Monash reassured him that cracks of this kind were "nothing more than a dry joint" which would not effect safety, and that the firm would patch the cracks and take responsibility for any problems. [14]

In 1952 repairs to the bridge were carried out by the Cement Gun Co. Pty Ltd, to remedy cracking, spalling and the scouring of one pier and abutment. [15] The bridge was strengthened and redecked in 1965. [16]

  1. Sunbury News, 24 March 1906.
  2. Public Works Department, "Record of Deputation" 1 April 1906, cited in Liew, K.H., Lee, S.Y., Teoh, K.Y., Bridges in the Shire of Bulla Victoria, Architectural Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1963.
  3. Sunbury News, 22 September 1906, 23 March 1907.
  4. Sunbury News, 22 September, 20 October 1906, 23 March 1907.
  5. PWD correspondence 07/436 21 February 1907, 11 March 1907, cited in Liew.
  6. Memo from Catani 18 March 1907, Company records, Box 57 File 638.
  7. Sunbury News, 20 April 1907.
  8. Ibid., 26 May 1906.
  9. Ibid. 11 May 1907.
  10. Company records, Box 56 File 533; the research team has not yet been able to locate this bridge.
  11. Company Records.
  12. Hilton, A, The Daniel Family, Hedges & Bell, Maryborough, 1978.
  13. McIsaac's Bridge, built 1907, now demolished.
  14. Company records.
  15. Liew et al.
  16. Shire of Bulla Minutes, 5 April 1965, cited in.


Gellies Bridge is the fourth oldest reinforced concrete girder bridge in Victoria and the earliest extant example of a substantial country bridge of its type designed and built by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. As such it demonstrates an early stage of technical innovation in the development of reinforced concrete girder bridge technology. Although the bridge has been altered by the addition of a new deck, it is reasonably intact. It has historic significance as part of improved transport links resulting from increased settlement in the district in the early twentieth century.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This country bridge has three spans. The middle span is 30 feet 6 inches (9.30m) centre to centre of pier and the end spans measure 29 feet (8.84m) from centre of pier to face of abutment. The overall width is 16 feet (4.88 m), supported by four girders. There is no shear reinforcement in the middle 9 feet (2.7 m) of span. The piers consist of two columns on individual spread footings, forming an arch at the cross-head, in the manner of the Lancefield Bridge (built 1906 now demolished) and the later Excelsior Bridge (q.v.). The cross-head joins the outer edge of the slab with curved corbels. This design feature contrasts with the angular corbels on the earlier bridges at Elwood (q.v.) and Lancefield. The upstream sides of the piers are finished with cutwaters. The abutments are a simple mass concrete wall tapering from base to the top. The bridge has been strengthened and a new deck built above the old one, and the east abutment appears to have been re-concreted in recent years. The original timber handrailing, typical of country bridges, remains [1998].

HUME: Holden Bridge.

Location:Jackson's Creek, Bulla-Diggers Rest Road, Bulla, VR Map 78 E4.
Municipality:City of Hume, formerly Shire of Bulla.
Description:Girder, 4 × 8.2 metre spans.
Dates:Tender May 1909, test Mar 1910.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998):  Shire of Bulla Conservation Study.

Photo: Lesley Alves 1997.


In March 1906 the Bulla Shire Council contemplated building bridges in place of the fords at Gellies Road Sunbury and at Holden. But, despite a government grant of £500 for the two bridges, Council decided it could only afford one bridge at a time, choosing Gellies crossing as the more urgently needed bridge. Holden people at least had a detour, albeit a long one, to Diggers Rest when the ford was in flood. [1] Shortly after the completion of the Gellies Bridge in November 1907, Council resolved to build a bridge at Holden's Ford. [2] The decision was challenged by one councillor, who considered that Holden people had too much money spent on them and that there weren't enough people needing a bridge, but the matter took on a new urgency when the ford was completely wrecked by heavy rains early in 1908. Council approached the government for a further £400, and was told that the £500 already granted was for the two bridges.

More than a year was to pass before Council finally made the decision to build a bridge at Holden's Ford. In May 1909 alternative tenders were called for a bridge in stone, wood, or reinforced concrete. Monash had kept in touch with Shire Engineer Daniel since the completion of the Gellies bridge, on the expectation of another contract, and the two had discussed designs. Monash first considered a five span design, but decided on a shorter higher four span design that avoided putting an extra pier in difficult foundations. Monash, believing he had a good working relationship with Daniel, requested him to inform him when tenders were advertised. When Daniel failed to do so Monash wrote him a mildly rebuking letter, saying that he was taken by surprise when tenders were called. [3] Perhaps there was in Daniel's forgetfulness an element of resentment over an outside contractor replacing his traditional stone designs with new technology. Nevertheless, Daniel accepted the inevitable. He told Alex Lynch that he and Council were in favour of reinforced concrete, and that he expected the Company would get the job. [4] The Company's tender of £867 was accepted.

The site presented some difficulties. Jackson's Creek was prone to sudden flooding, and the west abutment was a cause for concern. Start of the work was delayed for over a month when the ford was again washed away in September 1909. After work commenced on 15 October it was found that the west abutment and wing wall needed redesigning because of the liability of the bank to wash away. Daniel insisted on deeper foundations and stone packing to give protection from scouring. Monash agreed to do the extra work, with the Council paying for the extra cement. [5] The bridge was completed in December 1909 and satisfactorily tested in the presence of the Shire President and several councillors on 15 March 1910. [6]

An examination of the bridge in 1963 found that it was being damaged by quarry trucks that had recently begun to use it. A load limit of 5 tons was imposed and a ford crossing for heavy vehicles made, presumably on the site of the old ford. [7] The bridge was subsequently strengthened.

  1. Sunbury News, 24 March, 22 September, 20 October 1906, 23 March 1907.
  2. Sunbury News, 21 December 1907.
  3. Monash to Daniel, 10 & 24 May 1909, Company records.
  4. Lynch to Monash, 28 May 1900.
  5. Correspondence, Company records.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Liew, K.H., Lee, S.Y., Teoh, K.Y., Bridges in the Shire of Bulla Victoria, Architectural Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1963.


Holden Bridge is an early reinforced concrete girder bridge, and an important example of a country bridge designed and built by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. The bridge demonstrates a stage in the development of reinforced concrete girder bridge design in Victoria, particularly when seen in relation to its earlier companion, Gellies Bridge. It has historic significance as part of improved transport links resulting from increased settlement in the district in the early twentieth century.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

Like its companion Gellies Bridge, the Holden Bridge spans a deep gully. It has four spans, the inner ones 26 feet 11 inches (8.20m) centre to centre of piers, and the outer ones 26 feet 1 inch (7.95m) from centre of pier to face of support. Four girders support an overall width of 14 feet (4.27 m). The girders are unreinforced against shear in the central third of the span. The piers, consisting of two slender columns joined by a crosshead and sitting on individual spread footings, are a departure from the wide, arched piers of Gellies Bridge and other bridges built around the same time. The piers have only two columns to support the four girders, and the columns are placed between the lines of the inner and outer girders. Thus the outer girder is carried by the cantilever action of the end of the strongly reinforced cross-head. The abutments are in the form of a wall with a thin central panel, tapered from 20 inches (508 mm) to 8 inches (203 mm) toward the top and two outer panels 3 feet (914 mm) thick. The eastern wing wall is of bluestone. The original timber handrailing has been replaced by steel guardrails.

The University of Melbourne Archives holds two historic images of this bridge with Location Numbers GPNB/1127 and /1128.