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Shepparton Bridge (1913-1960s)

Above. Part elevation, part section, dated 13 September 1912.

Note: The drawing above was extracted from a copy published in The Commonwealth Engineer, 1 August 1913, Vol. 1, pp.20-21. The deck of the bridge was just under 26 feet wide [8m], providing a 20-foot roadway and 4-foot footpath.

Photographs of the completed bridge may be seen by searching the Picture Collection of The State Library of Victoria for Image Numbers: rg004150; rg008886; rg008908; and a00818.

Brief history

Monash's reinforced concrete bridge at Shepparton was built across the Goulburn River in 1913 to replace a decaying timber structure. The bridge led from the end of Fryers St across the river, in the direction of Mooroopna. At that time, the river looped alongside Welsford Street, as shown in the sketch map below. In the 1960s the course of the river was straightened to improve flow, and Monash's bridge became redundant. It was replaced by an embankment.

Sketch map showing course of river at time of construction. Based on a diagram published in the Annual Report for 1969-1970 of the Country Roads Board, Victoria.

Although the bridge no longer exists, the story of its design and construction is worth relating because of the intriguing personal and professional relationships involved. By the time proposals firmed, the Shire Engineer for Shepparton was H F Tisdall, who had worked for Monash eight years earlier, supervising construction of his Stawell Street Bridge at Ballarat. For some time after that, he had served as a travelling representative, marketing the firm's products and services, mainly to the State's municipalities.

The doubtful protection afforded by the Monier patent in Australia had expired in 1910; so in 1912 Tisdall was entirely free to design the new bridge himself as Shire Engineer. However he decided that it would be better to rely on Monash's hard-won experience of the relatively new technology, and with the Council's approval, invited him to act as consulting engineer.

The role of Consulting Engineer would include inspecting and assessing the site; surveying the topography and soil conditions; deciding on the number of spans and placement of piers; calculating the required proportions of concrete components and the size and disposition of reinforcement; preparing cost estimates, drawings and specifications; calling and assessing tenders from construction companies; and finally supervising the work of the appointed conctractor, to ensure compliance with the specifications.

The arrangement was curious because Monash, as a director and chief engineer of the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Company, had always maintained that both design and construction of reinforced concrete should be carried out by a single firm - that it was specialist work that could not be entrusted to general contractors. However, despite his strong links with the RCMPC's factory and construction team, his engineering practice was consituted as an independent business. There was no legal or contractual reason why he should not act as a consultant in this case. Also, he must have seen the invitation as an opportunity to maximise the chance that RCMPC would win the contract to build the bridge. He was careful to inform the Shire Council that RCMPC would probably enter a tender for construction of the bridge, and added that if they won the contract he would not claim his fee for design, as this would be part of the tender price.

The drawing and specification prepared by Monash and his assistants gave no details of reinforcement, making it possible for prospective tenderers to use patented systems of reinforcement for which they might have licences. It meant, however, they would have to work out the details for themselves, and take full responsibility for the safety and durability of the structure. Monash ensured that the design published as part of the specification was generously dimensioned, and included cast-iron cylinders as pile-caps rather than the economical Monier pipes that he intended to use, should RCMPC win the contract.

In the event, RCMPC's was the only tender received. Obviously, Monash could not now act as both consulting enginer and contractor, so the Council appointed Tisdall with the title of "Supervising Engineer". It also appointed a Clerk of Works to overlook proceedings on site on a daily basis, despite Monash's objection that it was unnecessary.

It seems that Tisdall hoped to re-establish a friendly personal relationship with his former employer, and invited him to stay at his home while on visits to Shepparton. However, Monash politely deflected his approaches. As work progressed some tension developed between them, due to the inevitable conflicts between client's representative and contractor.

When work started on the foundations it was found that the ground was weaker than had been suggested by the rudimentary site investigation, and that it would be advisable to deepen the abutment blocks by four feet (1.22m). Although contracts at the time would normally treat this as part of the Contractor's risk, most contractors would argue for compensation, nonetheless. However, with Monash's name so closely linked to the project, he was determined that the final price should be the one he had quoted: he wanted no "extras". He therefore proposed to Tisdall that the cost of the extra concrete be reduced by including lumps of stone (spawls) in it, to reduce the volume of cement and sand required.

The evidence in RCMPC's archives suggests that Tisdall initially gave verbal approval for this; but then decided or was persuaded that he must enforce the letter of Monash's own specification, which permitted spawls only in the abutment wing walls. This prompted Monash to appeal to Shepparton's Shire Secretary, (Captain) Charles Nugent, to try to use his influence with the Councillors. Their response was to confirm that Tisdall must obtain their prior approval for any deviations from the specification. Monash declared that this situation was intolerable and would lead to "inordinate delay". He noted that he and his foreman preferred to deal with the Clerk of Works who was more willing to adopt a give-and-take approach. He urged the Council to give Tisdall either full powers, or none at all.

Nugent's rank was presumably in the Citizen Military Forces.

The resulting tension gave rise to rumours of malpractice, and Monash travelled to Shepparton for a meeting with the full Council to defend his reputation and argue his point of view. The Councillors confirmed that he had their complete confidence; but continued to insist that all applications for variations be submitted to them. It was made clear that Tisdall's only role was to certify quality and quantity for the monthly progress payments as work was completed. Matters remained in this unsatisfactory state, with Monash continuing to rely heavily on Nugent for support, advice, and at times action, throughout the remainder of the project. After some initial sparring, the foreman and clerk of works negotiated minor issues amicably on a daily basis.

Once the foundations had been completed, construction of the superstructure proceeded reasonably smoothly, and the bridge was nearly complete by June 1913. Part of the old bridge then had to be removed to allow construction of a new wing wall, so traffic had to be directed onto the new structure a few weeks before it could be formally handed over to the Council. The load test took place on 14 August, 1913. The final winding-up of the contract was delayed for some months by the high level of the river, which prevented the removal of temporary timber work, and application of a coat of mortar to the pile caps. Disputes about minor matters brought further delay, and the final cheque was delivered to RCMPC early in April 1914.

Detailed history

How the contract came to RCMPC

First approach

On 1 March 1910, the then Shire Engineer, Blair McKay, wrote to Monash: "I am recommending my Council to erect a Reinforced Concrete Bridge over the Goulburn River at Shepparton in place of present wooden Town Bridge which is worn out and I should be greatly indebted to you if you could let me know the approximate cost of a R.C. structure after the style of Benalla Bridge which you showed me when I called at your office". Monash was happy to do so, but warned that any quote could not be binding until detailed design had been completed. The actual price would be influenced by the time of year at which the contract was let, because the Goulburn River was subject to severe flooding. McKay supplied a sketch cross-section of the river bed, and noted that work would probably commence in the summer because the Council had yet to arrange finance.

First design and estimate

Monash's first thought on commencing design was that, if he made the centre span 50 feet long (15.2m) he would have to build only one pier foundation in the water (under summer conditions). However, he had so far limited his spans in reinforced concrete to about 40 feet (12.2m). He concluded: "All things considered, I do not think it prudent, at present juncture, to jump our practice up to 50-foot spans."

The Public Works Department had specified a clearance of 300 feet (91.4m) between abutments, to allow for discharge during floods. Monash proposed seven spans of 42 feet (12.8m), providing a clearance of 294 feet. Another foot could be added to each span if the PWD insisted on its 300 feet.

Monash decided to make the deck and girders similar to those of his Janevale bridge. This suggested a cost for the Shepparton deck of £824. Turning to the piers, which were relatively "very high", he decided: "we must spread these for stability against heavy floods and I propose a framed pier after the type of Thebarton, but based on 3 legs, i.e. 3 cylinders, with a good spread". At this stage, the "cylinders" seem to have been envisaged as a sort of sunk pile, formed from large-diameter Monier pipes placed vertically one above the other, as at Maribyrnong. Pier superstructures, if similar to those at Thebarton, would cost about £480, and their cylinder foundations about £150. The abutments would need to be "somewhat deeper and wider than Janevale". Allowing for a 50% increase gave a cost for the two of £162. The abutments would be founded on "pot holes" 3 feet square in plan, sunk to the level of the clay, and filled with concrete. For these he allowed £216. A further £80 was allowed for road surfacing and kerbs; £180 for transport of materials to Shepparton; £150 for temporary staging and contingencies; and £375 for handrails and "other ornamentation".

Note. To form a sunk pile in this manner, a large-diameter concrete pipe would have been stood vertically on the ground, pressing on a metal cutting ring of the same diameter. A workman inside the pipe would excavate material within the circle, allowing the cylinder to sink into the ground. A second pipe would then be placed vertically on top of the first, and so on, until the desired depth was reached. The interior of the cylinder pile would then be filled with concrete.

On 5 March 1910, Monash submitted preliminary quotes for three alternative treatments:

With plain timber handrails£3100-3200
With plain steel and iron handrails£3200-3300
With architectural effects (like Benalla)£3400-3500.

These prices included margins of £800, £850, and £900 respectively.

State and Shires reach agreement on funding for reinforced concrete

Following representations from the Council, the Minister for Public Works, W L Baillieu, visited the old bridge on 16 May 1910. The Argus reported that its dilapidated state "has caused considerable anxiety to the travelling public for some time past".

Shortly before Monash's bridge opened, an article appeared in the Shepparton Advertiser of 11 August 1913, remembering the condition of the old timber bridge. It "brought the heart into the mouth of many a mortal and quaked him with fear as its timbers shook when he passed over in a conveyance or dray. Sometimes a piece of the decking would start up as if in protest ... And sometimes horse or pedestrian would trip, and the question of damages and suing the Shire Council would at once take possession of the aggrieved individual's senses. Blackstone, the jurist of old, had pointed out that a corporation has 'neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned'; and the temptation of 'going for the Council' often went no further."

Engineers of the Public Works Department (PWD) had estimated that the life of the timber bridge could be extended by some years at a cost of £800 or £900, while a new "up-to-date" (i.e. reinforced concrete) structure would cost £4000. Baillieu promised to bring the matter to the attention of Cabinet, and urge the Premier and Treasurer to visit Shepparton at once. The Shepparton Council had hoped that the adjoining Shire of Rodney would contribute an equal proportion of the cost, but the Rodney Council argued this was unfair because the bridge lay entirely within the Shepparton boundary.

Eighteen months later, in November 1911, Shepparton councillors, accompanied by their new Engineer, H F Tisdall, inspected the old bridge and declared it unsafe and beyond repair. They enlisted the help of George Graham, a local notable, currently Minister for Agriculture, who contacted W H Edgar, the Acting Minister for Public Works. This group arranged a further inspection of the bridge, together with Carlo Catani, the Chief Engineer of the PWD, and confirmed Baillieu's previous assessment. By now, the cost of a reinforced concrete bridge was being quoted as £4,500. Edgar promised that, if the two shires each contributed one-third, he would recommend that the State Government find the balance. Within a few days, the ratepayers of Rodney Shire met in protest, demanding that any money available be spent instead on repairing the road between Mooroopna and Shepparton.

Wrangling between the two Shires and the Government over their relative contributions continued for several months, with deputations back and forth between the parties. Confusion over the estimated cost of the bridge, and the amounts expected from the two Councils, is reflected in the newspaper reports. Baillieu, back as Minister of Public Works, stated that he had no record of Edgar's promise, and that "strong representations" would have to be made to promote the project within Cabinet, ahead of competing claims. Graham appears to have lost his temper and was reprimanded even by the Shepparton Councillors for his discourteous remarks about the Rodney Shire.

"No record" of Baillieu's promise: Herald 17 Jan.; "strong representations" Age 18 Jan.; "discourteous remarks": Argus 28 Feb. All 1912.

On 28 February 1912, The Argus reported that the Minister of Public Works had agreed to contribute £1,500, and had promised to advance the balance required by loan at 6% on a 33-year basis. Shepparton Council agreed to contribute £2,000, and asked Rodney Council to raise the remaining £1,000. Rodney agreed to do so, on condition it could repay the loan over a shorter period.

The Shire Engineer and Monash negotiate their responsibilities

On 10 March 1912, Tisdall felt able to write to Monash to inform him that "our bridge is nearly assured". It was time to sort out their professional relationship. The protection afforded to RCMPC by the Monier patent had always been questionable, but it had expired in 1910. Tisdall was definitely free to design the bridge himself and supervise the calling of tenders, for which he would receive a fee of 5% of the value of the project. However, he wrote that he would prefer Monash, with his "expert knowledge", to carry out the design, and also hoped that RCMPC would win the job, because its "experienced men" would do "better and quicker work" than less experienced contractors. The only problem was that this would deprive Tisdall of his fee. [It would also deprive him of the satisfaction of having a bridge to his name, but on the other hand relieve him of much of the work and responsibility.]

Note on values. Five per cent of £4500 is £225. This was a significant amount, consistent with the specialist knowledge, effort, and responsibility involved. When Monash was looking in September 1909 for an engineer to head the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company, he told a prospective applicant that the annual salary would be from £300 to £350 upwards. The position was described as administrative head of "a fairly large construction and general contracting Company, dealing with all kinds of civil engineering projects", whilst "the man selected would have to have a good general knowledge of civil engineering design and practice; but a first class capacity for organisation and administration of industrial works would be essential".

Monash suggested that one solution would be for RCMPC to prepare the drawings and specifications, but allow Tisdall to take the credit for them, as had occurred in the case of the Benalla Bridge. However, in that case, RCMPC would feel obliged to make the dimensions and specification somewhat conservative, to guard against the possibility of an inexperienced contractor winning the job with a recklessly low bid and producing lower quality work. This in turn meant that if RCMPC won the contract, they would expect Tisdall not to stick to the precise detail of the design, because RCMPC, with its greater quality control and its willingness to provide a solid guarantee, would be able to refine it. An alternative arrangement would be for RCMPC to guarantee that, if it won the contract, it would pay Tisdall 2.5% for copies of the drawings and specifications.

Pending agreement on this matter, Monash asked Tisdall to send him a precisely surveyed profile of the river; cross-sections of the ground near the abutments; and information on the underlying soil obtained from holes dug ten feet deep (3.05m) into both banks.

In his reply, Tisdall noted that he counted himself as one of Monash's pupils. (He had worked on the Stawell St bridge and had acted as a roving salesman for RCMPC.) This had equipped him for major responsibilities as an executive Engineer supervising the construction of bridges across the Western Main Channel of Victoria's irrigation scheme. He would be happy to receive drawings from RCMPC that he could approve or modify; but he would not wish to claim any kudos. He noted that a recent fruitless project, for RCMPC to build a bridge at Nalinga, had shown that he and Monash had different approaches to design. Tisdall thought it possible to design the superstructure of a bridge without knowing the profile of the waterway or the nature of the foundation. For Shepparton, he favoured "straight parallel girders of, if possible, fifty feet span". For the foundations and piers, he was "inclined to favour [precast] driven piles with rather more reinforcing than is usually allowed, of as large a diameter as can be conveniently manipulated". He concluded: "As the actual site has not yet been decided upon, I cannot give any further notes".

Monash replied cordially, but repeated that he could not make much progress until he had "a proper section of the site", including "soundings, and a few trial pits" to determine subsurface conditions. To optimise the structure he needed to be able to work out the relative cost of substructure and superstructure - and for this he needed to know the length of the columns and the type of foundation necessary, as well as the length of spans. Fifty-foot spans "would be very costly indeed, owing to heavy dead load". Forty-foot spans would be advisable. To provide the specified gap between the abutments, there was a choice of "six spans each 51'-8" with five piers, or seven spans each 44'-4" with six piers, or eight spans each 38'-9" with seven piers". Monash implied that a smaller number of spans would look better and would influence the choice of ornamentation. He was sure that eight spans would prove the cheapest arrangement, "because the cost of the extra piers will be much more than saved by the saving in the superstructure". Reinforced concrete pile foundations would be advisable "if the ground is at all uncertain and there is no rock near the natural surface". He assumed that Tisdall would want a "handsome" bridge, so the number of spans would be a factor in deciding the general lines and ornamental features. He suggested they visit the site together, preferably after the Easter camp of the Militia.

Monash was at this time preparing for what he described later as "eight days of hard work at Military Manoeuvres". Also, on 11 March, his fellow director John Gibson, who played a large role in managing factory operations, material supplies, and logistics, for both RCMPC and the South Australian operations, had left for an extended overseas trip. This threw an additional heavy burden onto Monash.

Late in March, Tisdall fixed the exact location for the new bridge - directly alongside and to the north of the old one. Here he expected to find good clay foundations. Again, he urged Monash to adopt 50-foot spans, to lessen the danger of flood-borne debris becoming caught between the piers and forming a temporary dam. (This debate had arisen also during design of the Waterford Bridge in 1907.)

Monash is appointed as Consulting Engineer for the project

Monash is asked to quote his fees

On 26 March 1912, Shire Secretary Charles Nugent sent Monash a formal request to quote his terms for acting as consulting engineer. He replied that the normal fee for preparing plans and specifications for a project of this size was 2½% of its value; but if the Shire Engineer was willing to survey the site and explore the foundations, this would be reduced to 2% of the lowest tender. Monash added: "It is my duty, however, to inform you that I am connected with the Reinforced Concrete Company which will doubtless tender for the work, and it would not be right for me under such circumstances to accept any fee for the design in the event of my Company securing the work". In view of the fact that contractors might elect to use one of the patent systems of reinforcement available, Monash proposed to design the general layout and dimensions of the concrete work, specifying only the percentage of reinforcement to be used in each member. However, the contract would hold the successful contractor to a "stringent guarantee of strength and efficiency". This would ensure fair competition while providing satisfactory protection for the Council.

On 12 April, Tisdall at last sent Monash a profile of the river bed. Referring to the Easter manoeuvres, he hoped, "now the war is over", that Monash would be able to inspect the site before the river rose from its low summer level. He offered accommodation at his home during the visit.

The Shepparton Council checks RCMPC's previous work at Benalla

Several days later, Monash received a letter from the Shire Engineer of Benalla, S Jeffrey, who had taken credit for the design of the reinforced concrete bridge built there by RCMPC, and completed in 1910. Several councillors from Shepparton, accompanied by Nugent, had inspected the bridge and left a number of questions for Jeffrey to answer in the light of his experience. Would he recommend the use of reinforced concrete for the Shepparton bridge, or would he advise using steel for the superstructure or even for the entire bridge? If he favoured reinforced concrete, did he have any suggestions regarding its design? What did he think about the cracks that had appeared in the Benalla girders?

Accepted design procedure at the time did not provide adequate reinforcement to guard against 'shear' cracks: diagonally-inclined cracks occurring near the ends of beams in buildings, but extending well out from the supports in bridges, due to the moving loads.

Jeffrey and his councillors had their own doubts about the safety of the Benalla bridge, and seized the opportunity to suggest that its strength be demonstrated by subjecting it to a more severe load-test than that used when the bridge was accepted in 1910 (a 16-ton traction engine). If Monash showed his confidence by guaranteeing to make good any damage, the Shepparton councillors would surely be convinced.

Monash confidently advised Jeffrey: "In the light of the Practice and experience all over the world, there is no question that Reinforced Concrete has completely ousted steel construction for bridge work, and the selection of the former method requires no second thought. Even supposing minor errors of design have occurred in some existing concrete bridges, far worse and disastrous errors have occurred in many steel bridges, yet this has never been considered a reason for discarding steel construction in favour of stone or wood." If the Shepparton Council chose reinforced concrete, he would ensure that "any tendency for weakness in shear in the central zones of the main girders will be fully guarded against". He assured Jeffrey that, based on his considerable experience, "the cracks existing in the Benalla Bridge are of no significance as regards the strength or life of the structure".

The bridge has in fact lasted to the present day, although extra shear reinforcement was added.

Monash meets the Councillors and firms the preliminary design and costs

In May, Monash was invited to meet the Council to discuss the project. He arranged to travel by the evening train on Thursday 9th, arriving at 8.30 p.m. for preliminary discussions that evening. He spent Friday inspecting the site prior to further discussions, and left by the 5.30 p.m. train to Melbourne. This allowed him to prepare a fresh estimate as follows:

Bridge itself£2990
[Total basic cost:]£3300
[Cost allowing for contingencies:]£3500
[Total price before administration:]£4500
2½% for drawings and specs125
2½% for supervision125
Clerk of Works 26 weeks @ £378
[Administration charges:]328

Monash proposed a series of steps that the Council could take at its monthly meetings to keep the project on course:

Monash's appointment as consulting engineer is confirmed.

On 31 May, Monash received official confirmation of his appointment, and was told to proceed with the design. He immediately initiated detailed design computations for the foundations.

Detailed design is commenced as final questions of finance and contract administration are resolved

Fresh information regarding the site

Shortly after Monash had produced his £4828 estimate, he received more detailed information regarding the site. Tisdall had at last sent a surveyed profile and the results of his subsurface investigations. Instead of the "stratified clay beds" he had expected, he had found that the material had been "river deposited". Where clay did appear, it was of a "potholey nature", the potholes having been filled with "a bluey white substance which is neither true sand nor true pipe clay". He advised Monash to inspect the exploratory pits, and "put in an appearance before the Council table on Monday week". Monash warmly commended Tisdall for the thoroughness of his survey, and agreed that since the river bed appeared unstable, it would be essential to use driven piles for some of the foundations. He also warned Nugent that there would be extra cost in resisting potential scour of the eastern abutment, on the outside of the bend in the river. This meant that it might be necessary to dispense with ornamentation if the price of a reinforced concrete bridge were to be kept within the specified range of £4500 to £5000. However, he assured him that it would still be much cheaper than a steel bridge at the site, which would cost about £6000.

Technical note: Because of restricted funds, it was assumed that load would be carried partly by the piles, and partly by the base of the pile cap, acting as a spread footing.

State funding becomes doubtful

Late in June (1912), with the process only two-thirds completed, the Councils' plans for financing were undermined. They had understood Baillieu to say that the funds required from the Councils would be advanced by the State Government out of trust funds, at a low rate of interest. However, Cabinet, confronted by competing claims, had resolved simply that, "conditionally on the Shepparton shire contributing £1500 and the Rodney shire £1000, the Government would provide £1500 and advance £500 to the Shepparton shire" (The Age 26 June). Informed of this position by the PWD, the Shepparton councillors protested that if they were to supply the money out of revenue, all the Council's other work would be brought to a complete halt.

Monash negotiates for PWD approval

Submission of the specifications was delayed for a month while Monash analysed the catchment area and river hydraulics to convince the PWD that six spans of 40 feet, plus overflow channels, would cope adequately with the likely magnitude of floods. Part of the problem had been in arranging meetings with Kermode, who was "a very busy man", but by mid-August he finally approved a width between abutments of 240 feet (73.2m). Monash then sent the drawing and proposed specification to the Council, explaining that:

The price would be about £4500, though instability in labour conditions and in the price of cement made it hard to predict. Engineering and supervision charges would be up to 5%. Because of the difficult foundations and the depth of the river bed, the price could not be reduced without "seriously detracting from the beauty and dignity of the design".

Meanwhile, Monash had drawn up an "Agenda" for his staff to prepare to versions of the design. One, upon which tenders were to be called, was to be somewhat conservative; with generous dimensions, and with cast iron cylinders for the pile caps. The other, upon which RCMPC would base its own tender, would employ Monier pipes from RCMPC's factory for the pile caps, and have member dimensions pared down for maximum efficiency.

The Councils and PWD formally approve design and contract documents

The draft tender documents were approved by the Shepparton and Rodney Councils at the end of August, clearing the way for preparation of detailed drawings. Monash asked for a further delay, because the chief engineer of the PWD, Carlo Catani, was on leave and Kermode was overloaded and spending much of his time up-country. He would aim to have the drawings ready for the October meeting of council. Tenders could then be returnable by the November meeting, and work could start in December. He argued that the delay would not be "an unmixed evil" because the existing flooded condition of the river "would be likely to frighten tenderers and cause an enhancement in the tender price".

Monash instructed his assistants to make the tender drawings still more conservative, and forwarded them to the PWD. Kermode's only major demand was a change to the specification, requiring the successful Contractor to submit details of his proposed reinforcement to the PWD for approval. Final official PWD approval for the design was at last received by Monash on 11 October, allowing him to proceed with the calling of tenders.

Monash argues for a Bulk Sum contract, rather than a Schedule of Rates

There was then a further delay of several weeks during which the documents were mislaid and found, and Monash persuaded the Council to adopt a Bulk Sum, rather than a Schedule of Rates, contract. He argued - through Nugent - that bulk sum contracts were "the invariable practice" of the PWD and most municipalities in the State. A schedule of rates format would involve "all sorts of complications and constant hourly supervision and recording of measurements by those administering the work". This would render the Council liable to "all sorts of disputations with the contractor as to the correctness of the quantities", and the final amount to be paid "would be a quite uncertain quantity". On the other hand, with a bulk sum contract, "the amount is definitely ascertained from the outset, and, provided no changes are made in the scope of the works, there can be no possibility of disputes or claims, as the contractor has to take all risks of every kind in connection with the work". Schedule of rates contracts were only justifiable in cases where the extent of the work could not be foreseen, or where changes were expected. However, at Shepparton, the work to be done simply meant "the Bridge complete or nothing", and the "scope and extent of the works [was] completely defined in every particular".

Monash did not wish even to prepare a list of quantities, for that would "saddle us with moral responsibilities for their correctness, and would be specially impracticable, having regard to the manner in which the specification has been drawn, wherein the particular methods of reinforcement have been left to tenderers subject to the guarantee clauses introduced". It was better to "leave tenderers to arrive at their idea of the value of the work as a whole in their own way". This was the custom of the PWD. "Nevertheless, of course, the successful contractor will be required to submit, in the usual way, a schedule of quantities and rates, by which variations from the contract, should such occur, can be valued."

Note: A decade earlier, confusion over the nature of the contract between Monash & Anderson and the Shires of Corio and Bannockburn for the Fyansford Bridge project landed the partnership in serious financial trouble. On that occasion the partners argued that they had been operating under a Schedule of Rates contract, and claimed payment for a large amount of extra work carried out in the foundations. The Shires argued that they had been led to believe before awarding the contract that it was on a Bulk Sum (fixed price) basis, with all risk to be borne by the Contractor. A single judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria agreed with M&A; but his decision was overturned following an appeal to the full Court. The case received wide publicity and created a perception within municipal circles that RCMPC had a policy of maximising its profits by finding reasons to perform "extra" work.

RCMPC wins the contract as the only bidder

Calls for tenders appeared in the newspapers on 2 November 1912. Rival contractors Pickles & Smith showed an interest and asked RCMPC to quote the price of precast reinforced concrete piles; but later withdrew in favour of tendering for a drainage scheme at Shepparton that would use RCMPC's Monier pipes. No other enquiries are mentioned in the RCMPC file. Monash arranged for company secretary Newbigin to sign and post the tender, as he felt it would be inappropriate for his signature to appear on both the consultant's drawings and the tender documents. He reminded Nugent that if RCMPC won, he would forego his 2% fee for design (about £90), and asked that the Council take this into consideration in assessing bids. If RCMPC's tender was only slightly more than the lowest, the Council should still consider choosing them, because Monash would then be "personally responsible for the faithful execution of the design as prepared by myself, and as arranged for with the Public Works Department".

The ceremony of opening tenders took place on 25 November 1912, and RCMPC's was the only one received, at £4552. On 6 December, Monash sent his first requisition to RCMPC's factory, for reinforcing bars for the concrete piles. On 7th, Nugent sent formal acceptance of the tender. The Shire President and Nugent were in favour of dispensing with a Clerk of Works, and appointing Tisdall to certify progress payments. However the full Council insisted that a Clerk of Works be appointed, and also asked for full details of all reinforcement, as required by the specification.

Tisdall sent RCMPC an account for his detailed topographical and sub-surface survey: ½% of the contract price, amounting to £22/15/0d. Monash explained to Managing Director John Gibson that he had given Tisdall the job because his advice to Council had facilitated RCMPC's success. He added that the payment might "placate" Tisdall, suggesting that some tension had arisen.


Appointment of Supervising Engineer, Clerk of Works, and Foreman

As Monash had now become the Contractor rather than the Consultant, the Council appointed Tisdall as "Supervising Engineer", with the task of ensuring that the specification and drawings were adhered to, and of certifying satisfactory completion of the work as it progressed. A local man, James H Dainton snr, was appointed as Clerk of Works to represent the Council on site from day to day, with a salary of £4 per week.

RCMPC selected A E Jones as their foreman, and his daily reports to Monash commence on 19 December 1912. His first tasks were to get the scrub cleared, establish a site office, and scout for local tradesmen and labourers. He expressed concern that at one end the new bridge would slightly overlap the old one, leading to difficulties in construction. Monash promised he would come "as early as possible in the New Year to give you [a] Bench Mark for levels and Centreline, and generally discuss the whole lay out of the job".

Strangely, Monash first learned of Dainton's appointment from an article in The Age newspaper. He wrote to Jones: "… you might let us have your summing up of this gentleman, and as to whether he is likely to give any trouble". Jones replied that Dainton was "A man of fairly wide experience [in] wood bridge and mass concrete work. Have not quite got his weight yet. He insists on gauging [the concrete] to Specification … Would like to see you about this when you come up." However, a day later he added: "C. of Wks: Will I think, give little trouble".

Monash sets out the bridge

Monash travelled to Shepparton by the evening train on Wednesday 8 January 1913, having courteously declined the Tisdalls' invitation to stay at their house overnight. He explained that he needed to stay at the hotel in order to confer with Jones that evening. He spent the following day taking levels over the site, setting out the new bridge, and holding discussions with Jones and Tisdall.

Monash stayed at the Court House Hotel in Shepparton (SLV image).

Foundation problems test the arrangements for contract supervision

Workers were opening up the foundations at the time of Monash's visit. He and Tisdall decided that the earth was weaker than suggested by the trial pits, and agreed that the abutment blocks should be taken four feet (1.22m) deeper than shown on the drawings. Already they were proposing a variation from the contract. Normally, RCMPC would have claimed payment for the extra work. Monash wanted to avoid this, having argued so strongly for a Bulk Sum contract that would throw all risk on the Contractor; but at the same time wished to minimise the extra cost to RCMPC. He therefore asked Tisdall to agree that large lumps of stone ('spalls') could be added to all unreinforced concrete work, so as to reduce the amount of sand and cement required - cement being a major cost item. To make further saving, he proposed that the procedure for mixing the components of the concrete, as set out in his specification, should be streamlined. Monash left Shepparton believing that Tisdall had full power to approve these measures, and that he had done so.

After Monash's departure Tisdall realised, or was informed, that the terms of his appointment did not give him the power to single-handedly approve variations. He wrote that RCMPC would need first to gain the approval of the PWD to the change, after which he could pass on a recommendation to the Council. Monash's reply was: "I do not relish the idea of having to run to the Public Works Department and your Council for every trifling variation from the strict wording of the specification. I think it is ridiculous to expect me to do so, and if the job is going to be administered on lines such as these, it is going to be an intolerable position for everybody concerned." If Tisdall had no power to run the job on the customary "give and take principle", it might be best for Monash to adopt whatever course he thought best for the integrity of the structure, and trust that Tisdall and Dainton would acquiesce. If RCMPC could not be given some sort of "quid pro quo", RCMPC would no longer offer to do additional work free of charge. The letter ends with the assumption that Tisdall will concur with Monash's sentiments and that their pleasant relationship will be maintained.

Comment. Most contracts of this type place ultimate responsibility for the safety and integrity of the work on the contractor, who therefore has the option of going out on a limb and ignoring the instructions of the client's staff. The relatively forceful terms of the letter are not unusual in the early days of a contract, as representatives of client and contractor spar to test each other's resolve. It was probably intended to be read by the Councillors.

Monash's attitude was restated in a letter to Jones. "I am extremely anxious to have no extras on the job of any kind, and Mr Tisdall has no authority whatsoever to order extras … I have just received a letter from him in which he pretends that he now finds that he has no authority to 'vary the specification', which means that we will still have to battle through as best we can the two points which we thought were settled, viz:- spalls in mass concrete and gauging of concrete."

When Tisdall requested that RCMPC men carry out maintenance work on the old bridge as an extra to the contract, Monash told Jones it would be wiser to lend him the men and let him pay them directly from Council funds. "Of course you will not have a row with Mr Tisdall over day labour; but you can quietly explain the position to him."

Insufficient friction between piles and soil

Above: Drawing of a typical river pier of the new bridge (applicable to Piers 2, 3, and 4). The land piers, Piers 1 and 5, had simple rectangular pile caps running the full width of the pier, rather than the cylinder caps shown above. (From the Commonwealth Engineer, Vol.1., 1 August 1913, p.21, courtesy of UMA.)

While the Shire and RCMPC had been getting to know each other, wooden piles had been driven into the river bed ready to support the temporary 'staging' or working platform (below, at bottom of photo). This had revealed a lower coefficient of friction than had been expected, between the sides of the pile and the ground. A number of 15-foot (4.57m) reinforced concrete piles for permanent support had been cast, and by the end of January, Jones was driving them ready to support Pier 5 on the west bank. He found a similar problem. Monash was "disconcerted", as previous experience in similar country had given him "every reason to expect stiff driving". Skin friction between the piles and the ground could not be relied upon to carry the intended load.

Above: Early work on Shepparton Bridge, with the old timber bridge behind. In left foreground can be seen the piling rig (with ladder) for hammering the reinforced concrete piles into the river bed. Temporary staging provides a rudimentary working platform. Lengths of large-diameter reinforced concrete pipe lie ready to serve as pile-caps for the river piers. Photo: University of Melbourne Archives, Location Number BWP/23979a. A full-length side-on view of the timber bridge has Location Number BWP/23980.

The ideal response to the problem would have been to provide more piles under each pier, or to use longer piles. However, this would have brought work to a halt for several weeks while steel and cement were delivered to site, and the new piles cast and cured. Monash declared this option "not to be thought of". He took advantage of the fact that the base of the pile caps would bear on the soil and provide extra resistance, not included in the original calculations. Fresh comptuations showed, in fact, that the entire load of the pier could be borne in this fashion.

It was still necessary to convince Dainton, who had demanded that 18-foot (5.49m) piles, intended for other foundations, be used in place of the 15-foot piles. However, he was eventually persuaded by Jones that 15-foot piles could be used, so long as the "foundation" [base?] was lowered by two feet (610mm). To comply with the letter of the contract documents, Monash told Jones to make sure that the piles "pulled up" as required by the Specification.

Technical Note. Piles driven into soft ground without reaching rock are capable of resisting imposed loads by means of friction between the vertical surfaces of the pile and the soil. In Monash's time, they were driven by raising a hammer ("monkey") of a certain mass, and allowing it to fall through a specified distance. With the first blows, a pile moves easily into the soil but, as its depth increases, the penetration caused by each blow (the 'set') decreases. Formulas based on experience link the mass of the hammer, the drop, and the final increment in penetration, to the load the pile may be expected to carry.

With these issues resolved between Foreman and Clerk of Works, there was a brief scare when Tisdall announced that he would personally observe the driving of the Pier 5 piles "from start to finish". However, on the Friday in question, he was obliged to attend to matters elsewhere in the Shire. The resistance of the piles proved to be better than feared, and satisfied Dainton, with a 3/4" (19mm) set for a monkey drop of 4'-0" (1.22m). Unfortunately, Jones delayed until the Monday before sending the good news to Monash who, with Works Manager Alex Lynch, spent an anxious weekend "in a state of readiness" to travel to Shepparton to deal with Tisdall's "warlike attitude". Monash asked Jones to convey RCMPC's appreciation of Dainton's "fair and reasonable attitude" … "and assure him that we will strive in other directions to please him".

Monash attempts to resolve the Supervision issue

The narrow shave at Pier 5 persuaded Monash to write confidentially to Nugent in an attempt to resolve the problem of supervision. He described the relationship that had developed between RCMPC, Dainton, and Tisdall as "full of delicacy". He explained that he wanted to avoid friction and maintain existing "pleasant relations"; but a conflict could occur at any moment. He and RCMPC were willing to make sacrifices to avoid extras and maintain their reputations; but the cost of generally deepening the foundations was significant (about £50). If Tisdall really did have no power to negotiate variations to the Contract, it would create an intolerable situation:

"It would be impossible to conduct a great public work if the strict provisions of the specification, for good or ill, could never be varied, even if all concerned thought that variation desirable and in the interests of the work. It is impossible to run such a job except on the give and take principle, because, as the works develop, extras unexpectedly arise, which can best be met by setting them against harmless deductions in other places."

If RCMPC could deal solely with Dainton, there would be no trouble on either side. He was "a thoroughly practical and experienced man". The interests of the Council would be safe in his hands; and yet RCMPC could be sure that he would not ask for anything unreasonable from them. Yet Monash was willing to see Tisdall given sole discretionary power which would exclude the need to refer to the Council on "small trumpery matters of detail".

In conclusion, Monash asked if Nugent could give him some clues about the Councillors' perceptions, and their likely reaction to his request.

Nugent reported that the Councillors were particularly sensitive to this proposal (which they thought had originated with Tisdall) because a similar request had been made some time ago on a project carried out jointly by the Shire and the State Water Supply Department. Following public controversy, the Council's Engineer and the WSD Clerk of Works (also an engineer) had been removed from the job at the request of the Department. In the present case, the Shire President noted that Monash, when acting as Consultant, had insisted that the Contractor should take all risk and responsibility for making proper foundations. The Shire would much rather pay for an extra, than agree to a deviation from the Specification. It had placed a limit on Tisdall's powers specifically to prevent him from unduly interfering in the work - and now that he had been appointed Supervising Engineer there was little chance that he could be superseded, especially by the Clerk of Works.

Nugent urged Monash to talk directly to the Council to avoid misunderstandings, as he thought Tisdall was not good at "placing or explaining" matters. He concluded: "This Council is solely of opinion that if your specifications are carried out a good job will be done, and are against any alteration suggested by either Mr Dainton or Tisdall".

Confusion continues

Despite Nugent's letter, Monash told Jones that the situation was still unclear regarding the Council's chain of command and "the two concessions that we tried to get passed through" - the use of spalls and the method of gauging the concrete. He felt that an attempt to pursue these issues in writing might stir up trouble; yet he had no time to visit Shepparton to sort the matter out informally. He asked how often Tisdall visited the site, and whether he tried to "boss" Dainton, or give "interfering instructions". He urged Jones to try diplomacy and persuade Dainton to "quietly acquiesce".

First request for Progress Payment

Early in February, Monash requested a first progress payment of £400 to £500 towards RCMPC's investment in pile manufacture and driving, earthworks, temporary staging, and stockpiling of cement, steel and other materials on site.

Disagreement over the positioning of piles below Pier 3.

A few days later, a dispute arose because one of the stay piles of the existing bridge interfered with work on the foundations for Pier 3. It proved impossible to drive the piles to support the upstream cylinder in the pattern shown in the drawings. The only practicable arrangement would be eccentric to the cylinder centreline, although still within its circumference. Dainton considered this unacceptable. Jones argued that the difference would be negligible. Monash backed Jones and assured him that the PWD would consent to the change, "so you can go right ahead without reference to Tisdall or Dainton in this respect, politely telling them that those are your orders". He added that at both the Benalla and Maribyrnong bridge projects RCMPC had made similar changes which had proved "in every respect satisfactory". At the same time, he urged Jones to be more independent, and "battle through" such conflicts as far as he could, calling on Monash and Lynch for support only when deadlock appeared unavoidable, as they were both very busy.

Further discussions on supervision

Monash's letter crossed with a report from Jones that Dainton was still insisting on precise observance of the specification. However, he thought the matter could be left "until the taste of the job fails to tickle the local palate", after which he and Dainton would surely "rub along" well enough. Tisdall was now giving little trouble, seemed unsure of himself, and did not issue instructions.

In mid-February, Monash replied to Nugent's letter, saying it was evident that Tisdall had "unwittingly", misrepresented RCMPC's position by saying that they wanted to use spalls as a substitute for broken stones. The intention was to use "rubble concrete"; and then only in massive portions of the work, such as the deepening of the foundations. This was the practice in all bridges, of which RCMPC had built over 100. It was "really better and stronger work than ordinary concrete".

There was now no need to discuss whether RCMPC should be paid extra for deepening the foundations ("I hate 'extras' in any form"). However, it was necessary to be flexible in the interpretation of the Specification. Councillors must be aware that if it were "to be read strictly as written, without the possibility of any commonsense modification to suit varying conditions, it must be read strictly both against the Council as well as against the Contractor, which means that the Contractor is entitled to be paid for any work not specified or shown that may prove requisite".

The issue regarding rubble concrete was merely an incident that drew attention to the "intolerable position" regarding supervision. It appeared that Tisdall had been appointed "to enforce strictly and to the letter every word and every line of my specification" regardless of the situation. It was "most anomalous" and left room for "the exercise of most unreasonable and unreasoning tyranny". Monash declared he had written the specification "in good faith" believing that it would be administered by himself or an Engineer with customary powers of discretion.

"We, as Contractors, have a moral right to ask that this contract be administered in the same give and take spirit that prevails in normal conditions, and that the Council would appoint an Engineer with ordinary powers and discretions. I raised the question with you solely to avoid future trouble. If such should now arise, I can hardly be held responsible. You may be perfectly assured of a good sound job, but there is every reason to fear that in achieving it, there will be squabbles over unessential details arising from the fact that the Engineer will, in the endeavour to make the most of his very limited authority, pursue the letter and not the spirit of a specification to which he was no party, and which I have grave doubts if he has sufficient specialised knowledge and experience to interpret correctly and fairly."


In mid-February Monash valued the work done, and materials delivered so far, at £850, and requested a further Progress Payment of £600.

Kermode, of the PWD, made a surprise visit to the site and examined the situation at the upstream cylinder of Pier 3 (where it was proposed to use an eccentric layout of piles). Jones feared trouble, but Monash assured him that Kermode was "entirely friendly towards us, and, while requiring every assurance of good work, will not raise petty points against us".

At the end of February, a sub-contractor, J. McAuliffe, was appointed to carry out the earthworks for the approach roads to the bridge.

A breakdown of actual and anticipated costs prepared on 10 March reads:

Clearing site, getting plant and tools to site, setting out temporary staging etc£417
Concrete piles (68) driven340
Abutments & wing walls west [£]222, east [£]312534
Piers, to underside of deck 5 @ 2621310
Superstructure 6 spans @ 2461488
Roadway and pathway surfaces114
Approach works233

RCMPC's foreman Frederick Bloom, building a bridge over the Goulburn upstream at Cremona, was asked to send warnings of floods and freshets to Jones, about 80 miles downstream. This would provide two or three days' warning of their arrival.

Monash meets the Council to discuss procedure

On Monash's return from the Militia Easter Camp at the end of March, Nugent informed him that the Shepparton Council wished to see him "in regard to the method in which the work is being carried out". He replied that he was very busy catching up with the backlog of design office work, but assured Council that he was prepared to take personal responsibility for "everything that has been done on the works", about which he was fully informed by daily reports. He mentioned that he now had the support of Kermode, regarding the use of spalls. All work had been carried out to the satisfaction of Dainton, the Clerk of Works, seeing that Tisdall's only role now was to issue certificates for progress payments. There would be "no departure from the specification in any particular, except in cases where it is in the best interests of the stability of the work". The Council was "protected by the absolute guarantee" given by RCMPC "in respect of the work as a whole and every part of it". Nevertheless, Monash would be pleased meet Nugent and the Councillors. He pointed out once more that it would be better for all concerned if the Council formally ruled either that Tisdall had no power to intervene between RCMPC and Dainton, or that he had "full discretionary power to settle all questions without further reference to the Council".

Jones delivered the letter by hand on 31 March 1913, and a special meeting of Council was arranged for 7 April. The letter was read out, and Monash reinforced its contents verbally, adding that "there was never a contract without some modification or variation occurring". The situation at Shepparton was unique in his 20 years' experience of public works. All projects encountered some unforeseen problems. Rigid adherence to specifications and "dictionary exactitude" would make work impossible. Where mass concrete was more than 2 feet thick, rubble concrete was better than normal concrete. This was a view shared by Kermode of the PWD. Monash had his reputation and that of his firm to maintain.

The Councillors asked a few questions and then went into committee. When they returned, the Shire President explained that, although "they had unanimously accepted Colonel Monash's explanation … they could not see their way clear to accept the suggestion that they should delegate their powers to the shire engineer". The Shepparton Advertiser reported that "Colonel Monash then thanked the Council and retired."

The meeting was reported in the Shepparton Advertiser of 7 April 1913. The Council also decided on the share of the cost to be borne by each of the ridings of which the shire was constituted. After lively discussion, the total estimated cost of £5000 (including approaches) was divided as follows: Shepparton Riding £1050; South Riding £800; North Riding £400; Dookie Riding £150; Kialla Riding £100.

Back in Melbourne, Monash wrote regretting that the Council had refused to grant Tisdall full powers, as prescribed in the Conditions of Contract. In view of this, and for its own protection, RCMPC would be obliged to "decline to recognise any orders or instructions given by your Engineer unless also referred to and formally ratified by the Council". He insisted this policy was in no way hostile, but was taken simply to protect RCMPC's vital interests. (Privately, he told Jones that the aim was "to justify us and yourself in future entirely ignoring any drastic instructions that Mr. Tisdall may give, such as wanting to stop the work, or wanting any of the work pulled down".)

Substructure work continues, interrupted by high water

In the meantime all work on land was nearing completion, but work on the river piers had been hindered by floodwater. The level in the Goulburn River at the site was influenced by the level in the River Murray (now low) and by the operation of the gates to the irrigation channels. Jones contacted the caretaker at the Goulburn Weir to see if flows could be modified to assist RCMPC. He told Monash he planned to keep the best of the workforce going as long as profitable.

Driving of the piles had progressed, but with some difficulty. Sunken timber buried in the bed of the river (debris from previous floods) proved an obstacle, and had to be removed with the aid of the piling rig. The tops of the piles were ending up two feet below water, which reduced the impact of the monkey.

The third claim for a Progress Payment, on 22 April, shows 56 piles driven, and 12 ready to drive. The abutments and their wing walls were nearly complete. Piers 1, 4, and 5 were complete, and the formwork and reinforcement was in place for the girders and deck of three spans. High winds were occurring, and Jones feared that they might damage the partly-completed works. Especially susceptible were the two parts of Pier 3, which was divided into two slender blades, to permit expansion and contraction of the deck either side.

Jones continued to be worried by the threat of new floods, as the superstructure formwork was now supported by a forest of props (see e.g. the photograph of Waterford bridge under construction [link]). These would snare floating debris, block the flow, and be subjected to destructive overturning forces. A week later, one bank of the main Goulburn irrigation channel broke away near Murchison, and the working platform at the bridge site was temporarily four feet under water. Fortunately, no great harm was done.

Construction of deck spans commences

On 21 May, Monash claimed a further £940, reporting that all piers were complete, Spans 1 and 6 would soon be complete, and Span 5 would probably be finished by the time of payment. Some concreting had been done on Spans 2 and 4. On 26th, Jones asked permission to remove the props from under Span 1 so that he could use them elsewhere. In view of the delicate political situation, Monash advised him to leave some props near mid-span because, "with the amount of attention that has been concentrated on this bridge, the smallest amount of sagging or even the faintest cracks would cause a lot of unnecessary talk".

June brought further flooding. Monash advised Jones that as soon as the water had receded below the pile caps, he should "get every available plasterer and labourer on the job" to apply the specified finish to the concrete before the next flood arrived.

Completion and load-testing

By mid-June, most of the bridge was finished, but the Mooroopna approach and the upstream wing walls at both ends could not be completed until portions of the old bridge had been removed. This required the diversion of traffic onto the new bridge prior to fulfilment of the contract. Tisdall argued before Council that the bridge should be load-tested prior to the diversion. Also, he wanted to add a train of two waggons behind the 15-ton traction engine required by Monash's specification. After discussion, the councillors seem to have left this question in abeyance, whilst agreeing that RCMPC could divert traffic when it suited them. Monash told Jones, early in July, to get as much work done as possible free from interference by vehicles, and then "quietly" divert the traffic. As a courtesy, he should invite the Shire President to be the first to drive his trap over.

The early diversion of traffic made the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremont redundant, and the Council decided to forgo it. Traffic was diverted on 30 July 1913. On 31st, Monash was finally able to declare the work complete. He explained to Nugent that the youngest concrete was now six weeks old, and he was keen to see the load-test take place so that he could claim final payment and hand the bridge over to Council. He was, however, concerned that Tisdall was still proposing a heavier test load, although this now took the form of a roller dragged behind the traction engine. Monash explained to Jones that if this were too close behind the prime mover, it would be possible for the load on a single girder to exceed the specified design load. Although the bridge had excess capacity, the extra load could cause slight cracking which, though insignificant in itself, might "cause alarm among ignorant laymen and form the subject of silly discussion", especially in a settled district like Shepparton where they were so many "wise-acres".

Of greater concern was the possibility that the opportunity might be taken to roll the asphalt by passing the traction engine five or six times over the bridge. This would "greatly increase the severity of the test". "My policy has always been, in connection with testing, to let them get the load on, make their observations and get the load off and the steam roller on its way home as quickly as possible, because all the time the test is under way is a time of tension, with everybody on the alert for the slightest thing to criticise." For these reasons Jones should use "other means of haulage, say horses", to roll the asphalt before the official test took place. Tisdall would then have no excuse for attaching the roller; but if he did, Jones was to be frank and object that the test would be more severe than that stipulated in the specification.

By now, Nugent seems to have been effectively in charge. He proposed the use of an 11-ton traction engine pulling a 4-ton roller, perhaps believing this would be equivalent to a 15-ton engine. The roller axle would be 15 feet (4.57m) behind the main wheels of the engine. Jones suggested that the roller make a single pass each way along the bridge, down the centreline, without stopping, and Monash agreed to these terms.

Ironically, an unofficial test took place on 11th August, when an eleven-ton traction engine pulling a "heavy" waggon and a 2-ton chaffcutter passed over the bridge as part of normal traffic. Jones reported "slight jarring vibration" and a very slight permanent impression in the asphalt, but no damage to the bridge.

The official test finally took place on 14 August "in the presence of representatives of the Shepparton and Rodney shires, the Shepparton Urban Waterworks Trust, and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, and a large number of the public" (Argus, 15th). In the event, the roller was loaded with six casks of cement, producing a combined weight of 15 tons 7 cwt, but "the structure was pronounced to be safe and substantial". Jones reported that "Everything went off satisfactorily in spite of Tisdall and about a dozen of the Shire talent including about 250 disappointed spectators".

The project tailed off gradually as minor matters were cleared up. It was arranged for Jones to quit Shepparton, leaving "a reliable local man" to visit the bridge once a day to monitor settlement of approaches and repair any damage to the asphalt. (The man selected was named William Wilson.)

On 24 June 1913, Monash had advised that the bridge was "on the eve of completion" and requested a progress payment of £1000. The total value of work completed was then about £4450. Payments so far had been £2850, the deposit held by Council was £227, and so there was an amount outstanding of £1827. Thus a progress payment of £1000 would leave £827 still with the Council as surety.
A report in the Shepparton Advertiser of 11 August 1913 listed the final break-up of finance as "Total cost £4552 10s, of which the Government has contributed £1500; and Rodney Shire, £1000; the rest being paid by Shepparton Shire."

Final tidying-up of work and contractual matters

Several matters remained to be cleared up. Tisdall maintained that RCMPC should bear the cost of removing the tree stump that had hindered operations in the bed of the river early in the project. He saw this as part of the Contractor's risk. Monash maintained that it had been discovered only because of the decision to deepen the foundations (which he attributed to Dainton), and that there had been no real need to remove it in any case. He wanted the Council to pay for it under a separate job heading, so as to avoid the opprobrium of an 'extra'. The high level of the river still prevented rendering of the pile tops and removal of some falsework. Since completion of the bulk of the work, some defects had begun to show. Provision for drainage of the approaches had proved inadequate, and there had been some scour of the embankments. The asphalt surfacing had suffered under the action of traffic, and Tisdall argued this was because it had been applied under rain. There was disagreement over the starting date for the six-month 'maintenance period' during which RCMPC would be responsible for remedying defects. Jones put the case that it should be counted from the date on which the bridge was first used by traffic. Tisdall argued that it should start from the date on which the work was certified complete.

To move matters along, Monash requested a further progress payment. He predicted that the final account for the bridge contract would be for £4582. A payment of £1000, added to previous payments, would leave the Council with £100 as surety. Monash emphasised that he was not charging for the "large amount of extra concrete" that had been placed in the foundations of Piers 2, 3, and 5, "at the request of Mr Dainton". He recalled that Tisdall had at first agreed to the use of spalls, to compensate for the additional volume, but that this had been disallowed by the Council. However, he did claim payment for the cost of removing the tree stump. After due consideration, the Council backed Tisdall regarding the stump. It also decided that the maintenance period should start from 25 August for all work completed before the diversion of traffic; and should start from the date of official completion for the rest of the work.

Monash was not content to let the matter rest, and negotiations continued through late October, at which stage he proposed the dispute be submitted for arbitration by the Engineer of Roads and Bridges of the PWD. He did not want to disturb "the amicable relations which have prevailed throughout"; but felt very strongly "that an injustice is being done to us".

At the end of December, William Wilson reported that the water level had dropped sufficiently to reveal the decking of the temporary platform. RCMPC started to put the final touches to the bridge in January 1914. Tisdall now demanded that they also clear away all accumulated flood debris, and restore the approach embankment. Monash protested that RCMPC had fulfilled their contractual obligations by clearing debris at the start of the project. Also, the original provision for drainage had been approved by the shire engineer and the PWD, so its inadequacy was not RCMPC's responsibility. Furthermore: "You will find that the maintenance referred to in the contract is strictly defined, and is limited to defects in materials, workmanship or detailed design, being causes within our control, and does not relate either to the inevitable wear and tear on the structure after put into public use, or to the action of Nature". However, he authorised Jones "to do any small amount of work running into a pound [sterling] or two in order to keep this young gentleman quiet".


After yet more negotiations, Monash offered to fix the drainage if Council handed over the remainder of the retained money and relieved RCMPC of all further responsibility. The Council replied that they had not changed their position regarding the stump and that the asphalt had to be restored; but despite this they had pleasure in paying the full amount claimed, because of the very satisfactory manner in which RCMPC had performed and carried out the work and the very cordial relationship that existed between itself and Monash, as Engineer for the bridge. The Council declared itself "very pleased with the structure, which, as it now appears, reflects credit on your reputable engineering skill and ability".

RCMPC obtained a quote for the drainage work from a local contractor, T Dyas.

In acknowledging the cheque, on 8 April 1914, Monash replied "I desire to express my sincere appreciation for the kindly and courteous expressions contained in your letter, and I am very pleased that your Council is satisfied with my efforts to serve their interests. I desire to take the opportunity to make my personal acknowledgements of the uniform courtesy received by me and members of my staff at the hands of your Council and its Officers."