Website Banner. John Monash: Engineering enterprise prior to World War 1.

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Introduction of Monier concrete to Victoria, Australia.

Photo of Joseph MonierThe Monier system of construction was patented in 1867 by Joseph Monier, a French manufacturer of garden ware who made planter pots of coarse mortar reinforced with a grid of small-diameter iron bars. (Monier established a business in Paris, but was born in Saint Quentin-la-Poterie north of Nîmes in 1823.) The technique and patents were gradually extended to cover, amongst other things, arch bridges. (Photo courtesy structurae.) These applications were forcefully developed and promoted in the German-speaking world by a number of licensees, amongst whom G. A. Wayss became dominant. W. J. Baltzer, a German immigrant working for the New South Wales Public Works Department, was kept informed of these developments by his brother and in 1890 returned to Germany to gather information. Back in Australia he tried unsuccessfully to interest his superiors in the new technique; then joined several businessmen to obtain licences through Wayss to cover the Australian Colonies. Their vehicle was the firm of Carter Gummow & Co which, after small trial projects, obtained contracts to build two large arched sewage aqueducts over Johnstone's and White's Creeks in Annandale, now a suburb of Sydney. These were completed in 1896. Baltzer moved across to become effectively the Chief Engineer of the company.

It is probable that the firm reinforced normal professional interest in the new technique by promoting it through engineering societies and journals and at exhibitions. In 1897 Baltzer described the system to the Engineering Association of NSW; and Carter Gummow's stand at the Engineering and Electrical Exhibition in Sydney was given extensive coverage in the 'Building Mining and Engineering Journal'. In September of that year W. C. Kernot, Professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, mounted an exhibition on the subject aided by his counterpart from Sydney. Gummow let it be known he was in Melbourne and available for interview. Monash was at this time preoccupied with his role as an advocate in a number of legal disputes requiring engineering knowledge, and was absent from Melbourne for long periods. Anderson recognised the opportunity for the partnership to establish itself as Carter Gummow's sole representative in Victoria and took the first moves to effect this. Late in September 1897 he met Gummow and initiated negotiations over the future relationship of the two firms and the role which the partnership would play in the building of the Anderson Street Bridge across the Yarra in Melbourne. Simultaneously he began to promote Monier concrete as an option for replacing the decaying timber bridge at Fyansford near Geelong, using the product of the local cement works.

Monier appears to have sold his patents in various territories outright and died in poverty in 1906.

Features of a typical Monier arch.
Sketch.

Casting (turning) a typical Monier arch.
Booth Street, Bendigo.

Load-testing a typical Monier arch.
Booth Street, Bendigo.

Engineering drawings for a typical Monier arch (Ford's Creek).
Longitudinal: half section, half elevation.
Cross-section: half behind abutment, half at centre.

Basic method of calculation for a typical Monier arch (Upper Coliban Spillway Bridge).
Explanation and sample tabular calculation.
Plot of thrust line.