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T-girder bridges, Part 5.2

Girder bridges replaced prior to 1998, Page 2.

Our original study, culminating in the publication Monash Bridges, concentrated on bridges extant in the late 1990s. Many more T-girder bridges were built by the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Company under Monash's direction. A large number of these were replaced prior to our study, as traffic needs increased. A few were destroyed by extreme floods. This section of our website outlines the stories of most of these bridges.

Lancefield Bridge

Former Location:Over Deep Creek, 4km from Lancefield station.
Former Municipality:Shires of Lancefield and Springfield.
Description:3 × 8.2m.
Activity:Commenced April 1906. Tested 9 Oct 1906.
Status:Replaced 1990s.

Load test of Lancefield Bridge, 9 October 1906. Brochure of the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co., 1907. Courtesy of Mr A G Lynch.

Introduction

This bridge was known to Monash and his colleagues as "Lancefield Bridge". It was situated "at Cantwell's", about 2.5 miles (4 km) from Lancefield railway station. It carried the road to Kilmore over Deep Creek, which formed the boundary between the Shires of Lancefield and Springfield. B M Coutie, Shire Secretary and Engineer for Lancefield was in charge of the project.

Winning the contract

On 20 January 1906, Monash made preliminary notes in response to a call for tenders. Coutie had prepared a design for a conventional bridge employing stone masonry for the piers and abutments, rolled steel joists for the spans, and timber decking. Monash estimated that tenders for this would come in at about £800. He prepared a rough design in reinforced concrete and enquired through Coutie whether the Council would entertain an offer from RCMPC. The response was positive, so he prepared a more careful design, based on that of Brickwood St, Elwood, and calculated a tender price of £617 (basic cost £440, plus margin £145, plus £30 "for luck"). He also offered a version with iron handrails, at £648. The reinforced concrete bridge would provide more waterway at creek level, where it was most needed, and would be rust, rat, and fire proof. The Council would not need to pay a Clerk of Works to exercise quality control, because RCMPC would take full responsibility for the outcome. The PWD would "gladly concur in the adoption of this type of structure". Monash gave only a general indication of the reinforcement at this stage; but included a provision in his specification that full details would be provided to the Shire Engineer "if and when required".

Because reinforced concrete was seen as a specialist, proprietary material at this stage, it was considered appropriate for the supplier to write the specification and submit it with the tender.

The Shire expressed interest, but to convince the more cautious councillors, Monash drafted a written guarantee, to be signed by the successful tenderer, that 12 months from the signing of the contract the bridge would be in good sound condition, "the Contractor taking all risk of failure, collapse, or destruction from any cause within the control of such contractor". Any defects were to be repaired at the Contractor's expense, and if the Contractor refused or neglected to carry them out, the entire contract money had to be returned to the shire. Confident of his own design, Monash may have seen this as a means of scaring off less competent, or confident, competitors. On 17 February, Coutie informed Monash that the Council had accepted RCMPC's tender.

Design and construction

The working drawing was finalised on 10 April. The piers consisted of four columns. The openings between them were arched at the top. The same arrangement was adopted for the abutments, except that precast slabs were placed on edge behind the columns to retain the earth filling. The wing walls were of unreinforced rubble concrete.

Foreman C Christensen travelled to Lancefield on 10 April to meet Coutie and make arrangements for the work in accordance with Monash's detailed instructions. Christensen's daily reports run from 26 April to 12 June 1906 at which stage the engineering work on the bridge and approaches was complete. It was of course necessary to keep traffic off the bridge for some weeks while the concrete gained its full strength.

Disputed load test - delayed payment

In July, Coutie informed Monash that the Council proposed 1 August as the date for a load test, and expected RCMPC to meet the cost and give a guarantee to the owner of the traction engine against damage. Monash's reply was unusually forceful. RCMPC positively declined "to be mulcted" for the cost of the test and refused to guarantee the traction engine. The Specification made no mention of a test, which was proposed solely for the satisfaction of the Councils and would be outside the control of his firm. There was no need to be fearful. The bridge was stronger than the Elwood Canal Bridge which had carried much heavier loads. "We are not likely to embark upon such an undertaking without feeling sure of our design and workmanship." There were hundreds, if not thousands of similar bridges around the world.

In the meantime, Coutie was having problems finding someone willing to risk their traction engine in the proposed load test. Owners remembered stories of the collapse in 1901 of King's Bridge at Bendigo while under test, and of part of a large culvert under construction at Scott's Creek, Springfield, the same year. They were demanding a guarantee of £15 against damage to their machines. Early in September, Monash protested that, as a result of the delay, his firm had so far received no payment for a bridge that had been completed in mid-June, and asked that at least half the contract sum be paid prior to the test.

Damage due to Deep Creek flood of September 1906

Before the Council could reply, on the evening of 8 September, five inches of rain fell in the Deep Creek catchment, and the stream was "quarter of a mile [0.4 km] over the banks". The Melbourne Argus reported on 10th that several bridges, including "the new Monier bridge", had been swept away. Next day it published a letter from Monash stating that although the bridge had been completely submerged it was "in every way intact and uninjured". The flood had reached the top of the handrails.

Lancefield Bridge after the flood of September 1906. Photo: University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. Collection, BWP 24360.

Sent to review the situation, Alex Lynch reported that at the eastern end (at left, above) the earth fill had been washed from behind the abutment, allowing the precast slabs to fall away. On the west approach the fencing had been flattened and was covered with logs. There was slight damage to the upstream girders, from which many small chips had been knocked by impact from floating logs.

Monash demands a progress payment

Lynch also reported that the problem of the test had at last been resolved. An owner had agreed to accept a payment of £6 for the use of his engine. Monash felt it was time to send the two Councils a forceful letter of protest that ended with an offer of compromise.

"As we anticipated, the bridge has received no injury whatever, despite having been completely submerged by flood waters, and heavily stressed by floating logs and debris." The Council obviously expected RCMPC to repair the approaches at its own expense. "I must say at once that my Directors are much incensed at the attitude of your Councils in the past, no notice whatever having been taken of our reasonable request for the return to us of our deposit money held by you, and a progress payment, pending your finding it convenient to carry out a test of the bridge. Moreover, the contract provisions have been construed to the harshest possible extent against us, in regard to alleged defects in the work as left by us, which prove now to have been of a most trifling character. Under these circumstances our Directors are disposed to stand upon their legal rights, which entitle them to disclaim any responsibility whatever for the damage to the approaches caused by the recent flood, or indeed by any freshet in the creek."

He pointed out that RCMPC had not been responsible for the inadequacy of the waterway provided by the bridge spans; or for the choice of road level; or for the design of the approach roads (which included a culvert); or for the shape and size of the wing walls. He reminded the Councils that RCMPC's guarantee did not come into operation until after the bridge had been paid for.

Nevertheless, the firm was willing to share the estimated £40 cost of repairs to the earthworks, even though the volume involved was double that of the original contract. This offer was made on condition that the bridge be tested within three days of completion of the remedial work, and that money due be paid within seven days. RCMPC could thereafter take no responsibility for damage to the approaches caused by future floods.

Marketing value of a successful load test

The Council accepted Monash's terms, and the test took place on 9 October 1906. Foreman E Galway (c/o T Cantwell, Bridge Hotel) reported that it had been observed by Engineers from the shires of Kyneton, Romsey, Pyalong, and Kilmore - as well as Lancefield - who all "spoke in glowing terms".

Monash was of course delighted by the fact that his reinforced concrete bridge had remained intact when all other bridges on Deep Creek (except one?) had been destroyed. He drafted a letter for Coutie to certify that the bridge had proved satisfactory. It stated that with a 15-ton traction engine on the bridge there had been "no measurable deflection", and that when the load was in motion "the greatest measurable deflection was one fortieth of an inch". At the time, Monash was lobbying several councils in the same district to replace lost bridges in reinforced concrete, and the testimony of Lancefield was always mentioned.

A summer setback

In January 1907, as the waters receded to summer levels, the marketing value of Lancefield bridge was suddenly reduced. On 19th Coutie telegrammed: "Want to see you urgently. Worst might happen. Come up tonight." A following letter explained: "The columns of the bridge you constructed are undermined. The concrete at bottom of columns has been washed out, and I do not know what the columns are standing on. Could you come up and see the work and have it fixed up before a scare sets in. I am in a dreadful state. Come up at once. Your reputation and mine are at stake." Monash was probably sceptical and sent Alex Lynch; who reported that repairs were more urgent than anticipated. The footings under the east abutment, struck by the main force of the current, had indeed been undermined. Its columns were almost unsupported and one showed signs of slight settlement. On the other hand, the two pier footings and the west abutment were barely affected. Lynch immediately organised repairs, which were completed by the end of the month at RCMPC's expense.

Conclusion

Monash still saw the story of the Lancefield Bridge as a demonstration of the advantages of reinforced concrete. "Owing to the manner in which the bridge has been designed, and the fact that it is a monolithic structure, we are of opinion that at no time since the flood was the bridge really in any serious danger of permanent injury". He argued that the state of the creek bed, its topography greatly altered by the scouring of soil and rocks, demonstrated the "extraordinarily severe" nature of the flood. This had been exacerbated by the inadequate opening underneath the bridge. He urged the re-alignment of the creek, to keep the flow as straight as possible, and the provision of an extra span to increase the available waterway.

Monash's Lancefield Bridge remained in service until the 1990s.

Another print of the image of the bridge after flood damage can be found in the University of Melbourne Archives Image Collection UMAIC. Search under Record ID for UMA/I/6508. Any enquiries to UMA regarding this image should quote Location Number BWP/24360. A further image, showing a horse and buggy on what is believed to be Lancefield Bridge has Location No. GPNB/1092.


Donovan's & Daly's Bridges, Shires of Romsey and Springfield (unsuccessful tenders).

Introduction

Monash did not succeed in gaining contracts to build these bridges, even though his tender was the lowest, and he had the support of the responsible Shire Engineer and the engineers of the Public Works Department. The story provides an interesting insight into the deliberations of Shire Councillors on technical subjects, and on Monash's efforts to counteract their opposition to reinforced concrete.

Background

In September 1906, exceptional floods hit the Shire of Romsey and surrounding districts. The Argus, on the 10th, reported that two large timber bridges over Deep Creek (Daly's and McCarthy's) had been swept away. In fact, the concrete bridge had been totally submerged, but was still intact. The flood had broken through the approach embankment, and the foundations at one end had been partially undermined, but this was quickly rectified.

In September 1906, exceptional floods hit the Shire of Romsey and surrounding districts. The Argus, on the 10th, reported that two large timber bridges over Deep Creek (Daly's and McCarthy's) had been swept away. It also said that Monash's new reinforced concrete bridge at Lancefield had been destroyed. In fact, the concrete bridge had been totally submerged, but was still intact. The flood had broken through the approach embankment, and the foundations at one end had been partially undermined, but this was quickly rectified.

The Shire had been sailing close to the wind financially. Earlier in the year it had been obliged to suspended payments to creditors temporarily. The Argus for 12th April had reported that "assets which should become available before the end of the financial year amount to nearly £1,850, while the present indebtedness is only £1,000 and £200 more should suffice to carry the council on until 30th September. There should, therefore, be about £600 available for public works." There was obviously a need to keep the cost of replacement bridges to a minimum, and to seek financial assistance from the state government. The task of calling tenders for the new bridges, and preparing designs in both steel and timber fell the Shire Engineer Herbert Crowther.

Lack of funds for projects may be the reason that Crowther wrote to Monash in July 1906 to ask if he knew of any job opportunities in New South Wales. Monash replied in a friendly tone ("My dear Crowther"), but advised that he was unable to help as the Western division of NSW was "to all intents and purposes, a Victorian colony". As a result, his work in that area had not brought him into contact with NSW government engineers at any senior level, apart from a slight acquaintance with Mr de Burgh [in connection with the Barham-Koondrook Bridge project].

Invitation to tender

On 18 September 1906 Crowther wrote to Monash, asking the price of a bridge with two Monier arch spans of 40 feet each, and a central pier 20 feet high. He sent profiles of the creeks at Daly's, Donovan's, and Frost's crossings, and requested estimates by 22nd. The Shires were to have a conference at Romsey at 2 pm on Monday 24th and it would "certainly pay" Monash to attend.

On 21st Monash replied that the deadline made it impossible to give more than a general idea. It would be necessary to discuss with Council their policy regarding bridge construction. For Daly's and Donovan's he proposed girder bridges of the Lancefield type, but with decks raised above the 1906 flood levels, and with better protection of the foundations against scour. This would, of course, mean increased cost: £750 for Daly's, which was on a skew, and £650 for Donovan's which was square to the creek. For Frost's, which "for its size" was "a much more difficult and costly case" due to the almost vertical creek banks, and the great depth to good foundations, Monash proposed a single arch bridge with a clear span of 50 ft and a rise of 6 feet, placing its soffit at least one foot above the 1906 flood level. The cost would be £500. These prices were for contracts let singly.

Monash noted that he would be able to reduce these prices under certain circumstances. He had adopted a low-risk approach, with decks above the 1906 flood level and substantial protection against scour of the foundations. Money could be saved if Council were willing to accept possible immersion during flood and higher risk to foundations. There could be a substantial reduction in price if RCMPC were given more than one contract. Finally, if he were given more time to work on the design, he might be able to pare it down without reducing safety. Monash noted that he was aware of the urgency to re-open the roads cut when the bridges were destroyed. His prices included the additional cost of speeding the work. RCMPC would guarantee the bridges and submit the designs to Public Works Department for approval. Council was invited to send Crowther to Melbourne "to inspect the very large Reinforced Concrete works now completed and in progress in and around Melbourne under our direction" and to further confer with Monash.

Preparation and submission of tender

In October, Romsey Council decided to call alternative tenders for Daly's and Donovan's bridges in timber, steel, or reinforced concrete (referred to as "Monier"). Crowther wrote that he would be in town for the [Melbourne] Cup and would come to see Monash. He added: "Put me on to something good".

Correspondence in the RCMPC files suggests that outline drawings for all three versions were prepared by the Council. If this is correct, it is probable that Crowther depended on Monash for information for the concrete version.

With Crowther's proposals for the steel and timber alternatives published as part of the invitation to tender, Monash and his assistant S J Lindsay were able to estimate the likely price that would be offered by competitors. Their notes show that the timber versions were to have two spans of 52 feet. Daly's bridge was highly skewed, with 53 degrees between the centrelines of the road and the creek.

Monash's outline design in reinforced concrete shows a three-span bridge with haunched main girders of 33 ft span. He designed for a 15-ton traction engine, with 3.75 tons per wheel. He estimated the superstructure to cost £260; tarred road metal £14; and handrailing and kerbs £36. He first considered using columns 24" × 24" in cross-section. The calculations suggested no reinforcement would be required, but he specified 8 bars 5/8" in diameter to ensure integrity. He refined this to columns 24" × 12" with a horizontal cross-brace halfway down, at a cost of £175. Rubble wing walls would cost £125. This gave a total cost for the two bridges of £1222 (including £10 maintenance and £50 provision). To this he added a clear profit of 1/3, or £408. An additional £50 "for luck and sundries" brought the grand total to £1680.

The formal tender price, submitted on 14 November 1906, was £1679-11-6. Details of reinforcement were not supplied at the time of tender, but would be issued within 14 days of signing of the contract. In his accompanying letter, Monash explained that his price was somewhat higher than for a timber bridge, but was well under that for a steel bridge with a timber deck. He pointed out that reinforced concrete was resistant to floods, fire, and decay and was monolithic and rigid. He drew the Council's attention to the survival of the Lancefield bridge, though submerged by flood waters.

The Shires choose steel bridges

On 19 November the Shire Councils of Romsey and Springfield held a joint meeting to consider the tenders. Crowther's prior estimate had been that a timber bridge should cost about £1368, and an iron one about £2130. According to the report in the Romsey Examiner for 23rd, the offers received for the erection of Daly's and Donovan's bridges combined were:

Timber alternative: 
George Diggle of Romsey£1498 3s 8d
Jenkin Bros. of Ballarat£1471 6s 4d
W J Muntz of Alexandra£1425 14s 9d
Samuel Eislen of Bendigo£1365 11s
George Fraser of Melbourne£1245 12s
Iron alternative: 
Jenkin Bros.£2083 10s.
Reinforced concrete alternative: 
Monash Company [sic]£1715 11s 6d.

The figure quoted by the Examiner for RCMPC's tender differs from that in the RCMPC file.

In the ensuing discussion some Councillors questioned the decision to let the two bridges under a single contract. Crowther replied that if they had been let singly, the tendered prices would have been about 10% higher. To test the feeling of the meeting, Councillor Archibald moved acceptance of the lowest tender in timber; but Cr Anderson moved an amendment that Jenkin Bros' tender for iron bridges be accepted. Cr McRae supported the amendment, saying that "they had had enough of wooden bridges, and the only concrete bridge of which they had any knowledge (the one recently erected at Cantwell's [Lancefield] ) had not been up long enough yet to satisfy them as to its stability". Cr Stewart argued in favour of concrete bridges as being "cheaper than iron, and far more durable than wood". Crowther said if concrete bridges were decided upon there would be no uncertainty about the foundation, as it was specified that the contractor had to go down until he came to solid rock. Cr Anderson commented that "if one of the big trees growing along the banks of the Creek were to get afloat and bump up against the concrete bridge it would give it a shake". Responding to a question, Crowther assured the meeting that Monier bridges would be tested at the expense of the contractor, with a load of up to 20 tons in addition to the distributed deck load. Further discussion, involving Cr Anderson, Engineer Crowther, and the Engineer for Springfield, B M Coutie, revealed that the "Monash Company" was not interested in building the embankments and had heavily loaded the cost of this item in its schedule of prices. It was argued that if the Monier alternative were chosen the Councils would be able to save much money by building the approach embankments themselves.

Cr Wilson argued the ridings affected in Romsey shire were not in a position to build iron or concrete bridges. He therefore favoured wood, which would effect a saving of nearly £500 compared with concrete, and upwards of £800 compared with iron. The wooden bridges that had been washed away had stood for more than 20 years, and would have lasted nearly as long again under normal conditions. Moreover, the decks of the new bridges would be 3 feet above the level of the last [exceptional] flood, so that it would take a flood "nearly as big as the one which necessitated the building of Noah's Ark" to damage them. Cr Archibald said he was influenced by financial considerations on the matter. If funds were available he would prefer to see iron bridges. Cr Stafford supported the amendment, and expressed the opinion that there was no timber in the district now suitable for bridge building. Cr Knox disagreed. The piles of the old bridge had lasted well for upwards of 20 years, and there was plenty of timber just as good for piles in "the Mount" yet [Mt Macedon?]. Cr Shanahan reminded the meeting that there would be a grant from the State Government which would probably be in proportion to the proposed expenditure.

After further discussion the Councillors took part in a first round of voting, each eliminating one form of construction. According to the Examiner, the votes were "timber or iron" (1 vote); "iron or concrete" (12); "timber or concrete" (3). They then voted to choose between iron and concrete, with 11 votes for iron and 5 for concrete. Cr Portingale moved that Jenkin Bros' tender for iron bridges be accepted. This was seconded by Cr Shanahan and carried. A further motion calling for work to start immediately with all haste on Daly's bridge was also carried. Crowther noted that the contract required completion within three months from the date of commencement.

On 21st, Crowther wrote to inform Monash of the decision, and admitted that it had been "rather a surprise" to him. According to his tally, 15 councillors out of 26 had voted for steel bridges, and only 4 for timber.

Monash reacts

Monash immediately checked up on the strength of the steel design and found it lacking. He wrote to Carlo Catani, Chief Engineer of the PWD:

"I beg to draw your attention to a very curious proceeding on the part of the Shires of Romsey and Springfield in regard to the tenders for replacing two of the bridges over the Deep Creek washed away by the recent floods. As these Shires are asking for Government assistance in this work, I think it only right to make you fully acquainted with the circumstances.

This Company tendered for the construction of both bridges in Reinforced Concrete for a total sum of £1679 on designs which were in every way guaranteed, and on lines exactly the same as the bridge over the same Creek at Lancefield which withstood the same flood without any injury whatever.

The Councils have, however, recommended for acceptance a tender for bridges with steel girders and timber deck at the price of £2083. A glance at the designs of these bridges will show you on what ridiculously meagre and unsafe lines they have been designed. The main girders 34 feet long are specified to be 18" × 7" and will, under a traction engine load, have a factor of safety of less than 3. [Monash designed on a FoS of 4.] Moreover the manner in which these girders are supported on the piers and abutments and in which the deck is attached to the girders is of the flimsiest description. Note particularly the columns which are only of 1/8 [?] inch plate. Apart from the meagre nature of the design, there is also the fact that the deck is of timber, and therefore perishable.

In spite of these considerations, the Councils are proposing to pay more than £400 extra for the work, doubtless in the belief that they are getting as good a job.

But I confidently submit these facts to you in the belief that you will see that it is in the interests of the Government to object to make a contribution towards structures, which, except for the fact that the longitudinal stringers are of steel instead of timber, offer no better guarantee against total destruction in the event of another flood than would ordinary timber bridges at about half the money. I need only instance the bridge at Beveridge over the same creek, which though it had masonry piers and abutments was nevertheless swept away. In contrast with this the monolithic character of the Reinforced Concrete Bridges with every part bound rigidly to every other part, presents an absolute insurance against future loss, and an entire immunity from future maintenance charges when the timber portions of the structures decay.

I should be pleased to call and see you further on this matter if you desire."


Monash wrote a similar letter for the attention of the Minister for Public Works, adding that "As the lower tenderers we claim the undoubted right to receive a satisfactory reason why our tender should not be accepted, but in addition to this, we cannot without protest allow an inferior construction at a higher price to be adopted, as such a course would undeservedly reflect in the public mind upon the propriety of the class of construction we practise".

The Argus did not report the decision until 24 November. It said the Councils had asked the Government for a grant towards the cost of the work, and the Minister of Public Works had promised to give it favourable consideration. Crowther reported that the drawings had been sent to the PWD for approval, but the contract had not yet been signed.

On 6 December, Monash argued his case in a letter to the Romsey Examiner. It appeared that RCMPC's tender had been disregarded because of a fear that reinforced concrete bridges would not resist the shocks of floating debris carried by floods. The letter continued:

It will doubtless interest your readers, and particularly the ratepayers of the Shires concerned, to be informed that the Reinforced Concrete Bridge erected early this year at Lancefield resisted the most severe treatment of this nature, during the last great flood, without a scratch, whilst every other bridge over the Deep Creek subject to the same action was totally destroyed. The reason is plain that these Concrete Bridges are a monolithic mass, absolutely rigid in every part, instead of being composed of numerous widely differing materials, many of them perishable, more or less loosely connected together; which latter description correctly applies to the type of bridges favoured by the majority of this Conference. It is precisely for the same reason that it has been decided, - as everyone who reads the newspapers should know - to rebuild the City of San Francisco in the same material, as being capable, more than any other hitherto known, of resisting shocks and disturbances of every kind. If this had been recognised, the Shires in question would have been saved the expense of paying some £400 extra of ratepayers' money for decidedly inferior structures, possessing the very disadvantage mistakenly attributed to reinforced concrete."

(This letter was not published until 28th.)

PWD engineers side with Monash

On 21 December, Monash received a call from George Kermode at the PWD. The Department had told the Shires that they should not expect any grant from the Government towards the projects, as the Department did not approve of the designs submitted.

On 7 February 1907, the Argus reported that a further joint conference had taken place. This had been attended by William Davidson, Inspector-General of Public Work, and R I Argyle, M.L.A. for Dalhousie. Davidson said that, as the councils had chosen steel despite having received a tender for reinforced concrete at a much lower price, it was fair to assume that they were not in need of Government assistance. His department considered reinforced concrete the better material. The Councillors felt obliged to return Jenkin Bros' deposit and inform them that the Shires could not proceed with the contract. Jenkin Bros. responded that they had already incurred costs in preparation for the project, and would hold the councils responsible if work did not continue.

Fresh tenders are called

Following a further conference of councillors, it was decided to call fresh tenders for the two bridges separately, in either concrete or timber. Crowther informed Monash that there would be no need to prepare a fresh design, although the spans would need to be slightly greater to provide a total of 100 feet of clear waterway between the piers and abutments. Monash must have asked for a hint of the attitude of the Councillors, because Crowther replied: "It is impossible for me to gauge the opinion of 20 councillors who are concerned in the [business?] of the Bridges but a large number wish to see two substantial bridges erected. They certainly wish to have a tender from you". In a marginal note, he added "In a multitude of Counsellors or Councillors there is no wisdom".

In preparing his prices for the new tenders, Monash allowed for the increase in waterway; abutment plates to retain earth; the separation of the contracts; a longer maintenance period; other uncertainties; and road metal for the approaches. These brought the total cost to £1393, to which he added 40% clear margin, giving a gross tender price of £1950. These were forwarded to Crowther on 3 March 1907 with a letter explaining the increase in price.

The Shires again reject reinforced concrete

On 11th, Crowther returned the documents and the deposit, explaining in an unofficial letter, that "The Council has compromised with Jenkin Bros. and have given them the Contract for Bridges one in timber and one in Steel + £50 Compensation". This outcome was the result of a deputation from the Councils to the Minister of Works, Mr Cameron, in which the Councillors were supported by local Members of the Legislative Assembly, Argyle (Dalhousie) and Robertson (Bulla).

Strathallan Bridge No.2

Former Location:Billabong of Campaspe River, Koyuga Strathallan Bawmawn Road, VR Map 31 D6.
Former Municipality:Shire of Rochester (plus Closer Settlement Board).
Description:Girder, 2 × 8.2 metre spans.
Activity:Tender December 1912. Taken over August 1913.
Status:Replaced.

Strathallan Bridge No.2, still supported by falsework. Parts of a large tree lie in the billabong. Photo: University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. Collection, BWP/24017. A more oblique view taken at the same time has Image No. BWP/24018 and may be seen on UMAIC with Record ID UMA/I/6451.

Bridge No.2.

This bridge was built at the same time as the Strathallan No.1 Bridge and the Strathallan Culvert (No.3). The three structures were included in a single contract. Whereas the piers of No.1 were formed from three tapering columns joined by a wall 4" [102mm] thick, the pier of No.2 was a simple portal frame consisting of a cross-beam supported on two columns. The drawing shows each column with a small spread footing.

Further notes on the Strathallan Bridges project.

The foreman on the Strathallan Bridges project was Alex Edward Lynch, son of RCMPC's Works Manager Alex Lynch. The Clerk of Works was a Mr O'Shea, probably attached to the Public Works Department. There were the usual disputes over quality control of concrete, and over a large 'extra' for a major increase in the size of the footing for Pier 3 of Bridge No.1. (This was made necessary by poor ground conditions, and was approved by the Rochester Shire Engineer, W T Chaplin.) However, relations between A E Lynch and O'Shea seem to have been unusually difficult and they parted with recriminations.

It was Monash's custom to show only the general layout of the reinforcement on tender drawings, without specifying the number or size of bars at a given location, in the hope of guarding his intellectual property. He did, however, send a full working drawing to the site, where it could be seen by the Clerk of Works. Chaplin took the position that he could not properly supervise the project unless he was supplied with full details, and the contract could not be signed by the Shire until that happened. The result was that RCMPC worked for several weeks without a formal contract.

Monash's protests about the conduct of the load test are covered in our article on Bridge No.1. His instructions to J A Laing, whom he sent to observe the test, show that by August 1913 he was well aware of the danger that diagonally inclined cracks, known as 'shear cracks', were likely to appear. He must by now have realised that there was something wrong with the current methods of calculating and reinforcing for shear strength.

In May 1914, Monash was alarmed to learn that Chaplin had designed a reinforced concrete bridge over the Campaspe at Rochester, and was calling tenders for its construction. He reminded Chaplin that he had been supplied with drawings for the Starthallan bridges on the understanding that strict confidence would be maintained. Many other municipal engineers had aceepted this "honorable understanding", and in no case had it been broken. Monash appealed to Chaplin to make his design quite unlike RCMPC's, so as not to publicise RCMPC's hard-earned knowledge to competitors.

Chaplin took offence at the implication that he had cribbed from RCMPC"s drawings, and countered that the system used by Monash was widely known. It could be learned from readily available text-books; and was similar to the Hennebique system. Monash warned that text-book knowledge was dangerous. He knew of two cases where engineers had worked from text-books and produced designs with severe flaws. The exchange was animated, but ended with expressions of mutual respect.


Collins Bridge

Former Location:Carried Bridgewater Road over Bulabul (Bul-a-bul) Creek, near Bridgewater-on-Loddon.
Former Municipality:Shire of Korong (now East Loddon).
Description:2 × 6.1m spans.
Activity:February 1908 to April 1909.
Status:Believed replaced.

Load test of Collins Bridge, mid-1909. Photo: University of Melbourne Archives UMA, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. Collection, Location No. BWP-24432. Another image held by UMA (BWP-24433) shows an oblique view of the bridge. The approach embankment has not yet been built, and the structure of the abutment face wall and one wing wall is revealed.

The first tender

This structure was located near Bridgewater-on-Loddon and carried the Bridgewater-Serpentine Road over Bulabul Creek (also written Bul-a-bul). The responsible municipality was the Shire of Korong, now part of the Shire of East Loddon. The RCMPC files contain notes of a meeting between Monash and the Shire Engineer, P L Edwardes, on 25 February 1908. Edwardes had set the level of the deck above the highest remembered flood level. Monash warned him that the correspondingly tall abutments and long wing walls would make it an expensive bridge - probably more than £500. Was it worth RCMPC's while to put further effort into design? Edwardes encouraged Monash to continue and put in a tender, as the chances of success were good. A leading Councillor who represented the district had urged him to put up "the strongest and most durable structure" possible with the £500 available. Half of the cost was to be met provided by the State Government, so there was a rush to have everything sorted out and approved before 30 June. RCMPC's letter of tender was sent to the Shire on 9 March 1908, quoting £544.

On 13th, Edwardes wrote to tell Monash that the deadline had been extended, so he had not opened RCMPC's tender, but he would like permission to do so. He noted in a postscript that he had just received word that he had been appointed Shire Engineer at Alexandra. Monash, although concerned about industrial espionage, gave his permission. "I know I can trust a professional colleague, but I also know that I cannot trust the ordinary Councillor, especially if he has any friends among the outside contractors. Kindly open the tender and consider the design and if you consider our interests would be furthered by any amendment, I shall welcome your suggestions …"

It was only at this stage that Monash examined the official drawings and specifications lodged by Edwardes at the Municipal Association building in Melbourne. It turned out that there had been a misunderstanding, with Monash believing that Edwardes had wanted a single clear span of 40 feet. With no time to alter his tender, Monash wrote to point out that a reinforced concrete bridge with two spans would be more competitive with the three-span timber bridge described in the documents. He hoped the Shire would take the fire resistance of concrete into account, and noted that a timber bridge in the Mt Franklin Shire had recently been destroyed by fire. Edwardes apologised, but insisted that he had never intended to specify a single span bridge. He enclosed a sketch of a reinforced concrete bridge sent in by a tenderer who had since withdrawn. Monash recognized it as an exact copy of his own design for the Emu Creek Bridge and added: "I question very much whether the man who drew this had the ghost of an idea how to begin to go to work with a detail design of piers, beams and deck. It is on these latter details that the success of the construction wholly depends."

In mid-April 1908, RCMPC's deposit was returned. Monash asked the Shire to also return RCMPC's drawing "as this is our property".

The second tender

At the end of April, Edwardes moved to the Shire of Alexandra. Late in July, the new engineer at Korong, W Stratford Strettle, called fresh tenders for the erection of a "Reinforced Concrete or Steel Bridge" over Bul-a-bul Creek, due by 13 August. Wishing to know what sort of steel design he would be competing with, Monash contacted Strettle, who explained that it would be of concrete slabs cast on buckle or corrugated steel plates. In view of the previous correspondence between Monash and Edwardes, Strettle had allowed for a reinforced concrete alternative with two spans. Monash replied that a two-span bridge would be cheaper than a single-span bridge but that a rise in the price of cement, of 2/6d per cask, made it unlikely that RCMPC's quote would be lower than that of March.

Monash's "Notes for Redesign" to guide his assistant engineers state that the bridge is to consist of two spans 20 feet clear, with a central pier 16 feet wide by 1'-6" thick. The main girders and deck were to be based on those of the St Kilda St Bridge, Elwood, while the counterforted wing walls were to run straight from the abutments, as at the Excelsior Bridge. Judging by the handwriting, the final computations, were carried out by H G Jenkinson. The tender price was £545. Strettle informed Monash on 14 August that it had been accepted.

On 3 September, the Shire Secretary J B Gray wrote to ask Monash if he could push things along by presenting the plans and specifications directly to Carlo Catani, the Public Works Department's Chief Engineer. Monash replied, as he had to others, that Catani had lately expressed his annoyance with attempts to by-pass official procedure. He suggested a more subtle approach: Gray should send the documents through normal channels and let him know when this had been done. Then Monash would drop in on Catani or his assistant Kermode. However, when he did this, Catani had not yet received the documents from the Secretary's Department. Monash told Gray, "I got him to hunt them up", and PWD approval was issued on 14th.

Construction starts

RCMPC's Works Manager, Alex Lynch left Melbourne on 2 October with Foreman E Samson to get him started. Work progressed without major incident until Samson had the formwork and reinforcement ready for concreting the girders and deck. He then showed a little more initiative than was expected of him. He had been told not to place the concrete until Lynch had visited the site to make sure that all was correct. His daily report for 16 November stated, without prior warning, that he intended to place concrete the next day. Of course, the report did not arrive at the Melbourne office until the morning of 17th. There was an exchange of telegrams, but the gang had already started work, and Samson was told to carry on and complete the whole span that day.

Monash wrote a long letter to Samson, patiently explaining how things should have been done, and the futility of sending information to head office too late for appropriate action to be taken. Samson's daily reports had simply stated that he was building formwork for the deck. There was no indication of progress to allow the Melbourne staff to predict when it would be ready for inspection. Monash's tone was reasonable: "While a misunderstanding hereon can be forgiven, we find it hard to understand why upon receipt of my letter of 13th inst. last Monday you did not at once telegraph stating what your program would be … However, this is now too late to mend, and Mr Lynch will come up … to go into matters with you regarding the second span, and the general completion of the work."

Samson replied on 21st, having waited for Lynch's visit. He pushed ahead because the weather had been unreliable and he was worried about the danger of floods, having seen what they could do to a partly-finished bridge. He had thought his letter would arrive early enough to allow Monash to stop the work if necessary. "However I trust that you will understand that whatever my faults may have been I have not willfully erred but have always tried to work job to best advantage."

Lynch reported that work was going well at the site. The south span had been concreted on 18th and 19th, leaving a clean square joint above the centre of the pier. "The only bad point I can discover is that none of the North span girder bars are in place, which will mean that the two spans will be entirely separate." On 23rd Samson reported that water in the creek was rising, but the concrete was safe.

Technical Note. Monash normally made a modest allowance for continuity in calculating mid-span bending moments. Samson's failure to provide continuous top reinforcement for the girders, over the pier, would have rendered the bridge slightly less safe than calculated.

Monash assured his foreman: "I accept your explanation and can appreciate the matter from your point of view. While I consider it a proper course to deal trenchantly with anything that seems to me to deserve criticism, I wish you to understand that the matter ends there, and that, having said what I thought about the matter, I do not wish you to take it further to heart."

On 26 November, Monash requested a request progress payment of £400. On 30th Gray forwarded the contract to him for signature! The bridge was now complete, except for the removal of formwork and falsework. On 7 December, Monash sent the contract, now signed by RCMPC, to Gray. Samson's last daily report was written the next day.

Test and conclusion

Over the next few months unsuccessful requests were made to Gray for further progress payments and winding up of the account. In March 1909, Monash turned to Strettle who replied that he was arranging for a load test of the bridge and that he required a few details to be fixed before payment could be finalised. Monash commented that the test was somewhat late (the bridge had been carrying traffic for four months), and said he was not keen to be represented unless someone from RCMPC happened to be in the district. On 30 June he received from Strettle a photograph showing a traction engine on the bridge during the test, and a postcard showing an oblique view taken from the bank near one of the abutments.

In August 1909, the bridge was hit by floods, and a rumour reached Strettle that it had "gone to pieces", but the damage seems to have been limited to the approaches.