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Marine and Riverine Projects:
Wharf for Colonial Sugar Refineries, Glanville, South Australia.


CSR engineers prepared their own design for this wharf, but Monash persuaded them that he could do better. The wharf differed from his other (unbuilt) shipping wharf projects in several respects. The bank sloped towards the river in such a way that the pressure of the ground behind the wharf (Fig.1. below) exerted a larger sliding force, and overturning effect, than in the other cases. The deck that normally provided a working surface was in this case covered by fill. For a second opinion on the complex analysis of forces, Monash called in the renowned consulting engineer and inventor, A G M Michell.

Manufacture of piles commenced in May 1908, and the first main pile was driven on 30 November. Work was slower than expected, due to the hardness of the clay. To hold back the earth behind the wharf, flat 'sheet' piles had to be driven accurately edge-to-edge. This, and the sealing of the joints between them, presented major difficulties. Old timber sheeting from the previous structure had to be cleared by drilling and blasting. By January 1909, construction of the superstructure was under way, and by March a sufficient length was available to permit the unloading of coal barges. Winter conditions, including rain, high tides and floods in the Port River, hampered progress, but the first 'sugar boat' was able to dock on 21 June 1909. The wharf was completely finished by November, and the contract was settled on 13 December 1909.

This project was marked by harmonious relations between Monash and CSR's chief engineer in Sydney; and between his Resident Engineer in Adelaide and CSR's local engineer, who was the effective client.

The wharf was situated in an awkward bend in the Port River. Even before being handed over to CSR, it was subjected to several serious impacts from manoeuvring ships. As with many early reinforced concrete structures, the cover provided to reinforcing steel was inadequate. It was restored with pneumatically sprayed mortar in 1934. Otherwise the wharf performed adequately until 1973, when a burst water main soaked earth fill behind the wharf, which failed under the added pressure.

Contents of this Page

Winning the Contract: [Early Stages] [A foot in the Door] [Investigation & Design 1] [Tender] [Contract] [Investigation & Design 2] Planning: [Programme] Construction: [Pile manufacture] [Pile Driving] [Management difficulties] [Cover] [Progress] [Anchor plate] [Cracks in Piles] [Work continues] [Northern end complete] [Forward Movement] Into Service: [First ship] [Extension of time] [Movement confirmed] [Impact damage] Contract Settlement: [Link] Postscript: [Link]

Winning the Contract.

Early stages

Late in 1905, A B Moncrieff, Engineer-in-Chief of South Australia, visited New Zealand to inspect reinforced concrete wharves being built by the Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia. Passing through Sydney on his return journey (January 1906) he visited F M Gummow, who suggested that he stop at Melbourne to talk to Monash. Gummow urged caution, fearing that "The Chief" would try to poach Monash's specialist knowledge without ever awarding him a contract. However, Monash was keen, with his business partners, to expand into South Australia. Moncrieff's enthusiasm for reinforced concrete must have confirmed their decision to establish the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company (SARC).

In May, Monash learned that the Colonial Sugar Refining Co was planning a replacement in reinforced concrete for its old timber wharf at Glanville. He asked Gummow to contact CSR's Sydney headquarters, to see if there was any chance of business for SARC. Gummow reported that the Ferro-Concrete Co had already made an unsuccessful attempt to get the job, but CSR's own engineers felt quite capable of doing it themselves. Gummow added condescendingly: "they have Marsh on Reinforced Concrete as a text book".

C F Marsh's Reinforced Concrete (Constable, London, 1904) was the first British text on the subject.

SARC was formally established the following month, June 1906, and negotiations were soon under way for the Hindmarsh River Bridge and for city buildings in Adelaide. Further business appeared likely in November, when Moncrieff's Department (possibly also having access to Marsh's text) prepared a preliminary drawing for a reinforced concrete replacement for the Ocean Steamers' Wharf at Port Adelaide. A copy was sent to Monash, asking for his comments and an estimate of cost. He recommended modifications and prepared the necessary specification and drawing. Moncrieff, advised by his Assistant Engineer for Harbours, J B Labatt, disagreed with Monash's ideas and made counter-proposals. This was the start of negotiations concerning this project that were to drag on for years without result.

Monash's real opportunity to break into wharf construction in Port Adelaide came in August 1907, when he learned that CSR was about to call tenders for replacement of its Glanville wharf, mainly in reinforced concrete. As predicted, the specification and drawing had been prepared in its Sydney office.

The CSR Specification included the following. Length 450 feet, breadth 25 feet. Deck 14 feet above Low Water Mark. Reinforced concrete piles 18" × 18" in cross-section, reinforced with eight 1 1/8" longitudinal bars. Pile reinforcement bound with 10 BWG mild steel wire in a spiral with pitch varying from 2" at the top to 6" at the bottom. Every 4 feet a hoop of 1" × 1/8" iron. The pile holes were to be pre-drilled at a diameter "such as to hold pile steady".

Getting a foot in the door

Monash's preferred approach to winning contracts was to apply his specialist design skills to figure out a more economical alternative to the advertised scheme, and so undercut competition from general contractors. For this it was necessary to establish contact with the client, exchange ideas, and come to an agreement prior to the submission, or even the calling of tenders. If Monash could get in early enough, preferably prior to advertisement, this might lead to a private contract - which would ensure that the effort involved would not be wasted. It would also ensure that Monash's intellectual property was largely protected.

The CSR scheme included some timber construction. A preliminary estimate suggested SARC could build the concrete portions for £5800, and the timber portions would bring the total to £7336. This represented £16/6/0 per foot run of wharf, or 15/8 per square foot. Monash then contacted G A Turner, of the CSR Refinery at Yarraville near Melbourne, to ask his advice on approaching CSR's head office.

Turner suggested Monash write to their Chief Engineer, a Mr German, and offered to work out "from the tone of his reply, what course it might be advisable to follow". He thought it likely that German would be receptive. "Our people want a good job, and some way I think can be found to bring genuine economies under the notice of the men who will have to finally pass the cheque for the cost."

In the event, German replied that he saw no point in a meeting prior to submission of formal tenders. Monash therefore addressed his case to Turner, probably hoping that the document would somehow find its way to Sydney.

"Reinforced Concrete has made such strides in Europe that the time is now past when its application consisted in nothing more than the substitution of a new material in structures of orthodox types. Upon the contrary, entirely new ideas of design have taken birth in all the larger fields of construction; and nowadays the types of structures are being recast and adapted to suit the special qualities of the new material, instead of the other way about. Thus, in the field of wharf work, it is not proceeding on up-to-date lines to take a design suitable for, say, timber construction, and merely to substitute concrete for timber, adhering in all other respects to the orthodox idea of a timber wharf. Instead of this, the "wharf" idea has gone overboard, and they are building instead "quay walls"; which while of prohibitive cost if built in old type masonry, are cheaply feasible in reinforced concrete, and much better in every other way than the so-called "wharf".

Naturally, the preparation of a scheme on such lines up to the complete point of submitting a tender for same, is a work of too great an extent to be lightly undertaken, without the slightest prior indication, that any departure from present ideas would be even considered. I am only too well accustomed to the inertia, not to say prejudice, which exists against the adoption of anything modern. People will not usually take the trouble to examine the evidence available of the soundness of new proposals, and incontinently reject a proposition only because it departs from stereotyped ideas. It was for reasons of above nature that I was desirous of learning definitely whether a tender upon some wholly different plan would receive careful consideration at all."

Turner reiterated that he was powerless to help, but he was sure that any alternative scheme offered by Monash would receive careful consideration. He explained:

"A concern in a big way [i.e. a large organisation], with people about it who are supposed to be as good as can be got and are paid for on that understanding, cannot very well retrace its steps openly; but if shewn how money can be saved and how alterations, which it is in their hands to adopt, would forward their corporate desire to be in the front rank in all their appointments; it will be the first to find an easy way to vary its programme. It is a costly thing I know to go into such a matter thoroughly, so as to make certain of the high degree of accuracy in your figures, and it may be unfair to expect engineers to run the risk of doing so on the chance of getting a contract; but so long as business men with a fixed organization have to decide how work is to be carried out, they will stick to their organization at additional cost and do it in the old way; unless the more up-to-date and enterprising engineer decides every now and then that it might pay him to go to some expense to apply the latest practice to the particular thing in question."

Turner was "desirous" that Monash's knowledge should be made available to CSR, but it was up to Monash to find a way to do it.

Investigation & Design 1

To get a ballpark figure of cost, Monash visited the Engineer for the City of Port Adelaide, Thomas Thompson, who showed him the local timber wharves, and ascertained that they had cost about £10 per foot run.

Monash's scheme for Glanville differed from his other wharf projects, and from that of the Engineer-in-Chief's Department. As usual, the structure itself was to consist of a series of lateral frames, or 'bents', formed from a front and a rear pile, connected at the top by cross-bracing (Fig.1). Spaced at regular intervals, the bents would support a horizontal platform. Normally, this would have served as a working deck, but for Glanville it was to be set at a lower level and covered with filling material.

cross-section through wharf

Fig.1. The initial scheme, showing the tension pile with bulbous tip.

The topography also required a large amount of fill further back. To hold it in place, reinforced concrete panels (shown edge-on in black) were to be provided at the level of the cross-bracing, and below this, reinforced concrete 'sheet piles' would be driven to form a continuous surface. The outward pressure of the fill, plus that of the natural ground, would tend to push the bent towards the river and overturn it. This would create an upwards pull on the rear leg, which was therefore designed as a 'tension pile'. It was to have a slight slope, to align it closer to the direction of the tension force, and to ensure a better grip in solid ground. In Monash's first proposal, the tension pile was given a bulbous tip, like a circular arrowhead, to increase resistance to the upward force. To provide yet more resistance to overturning, the structure was to be tied back to 'ground anchors' by buried tie-rods.

An analysis of the forces involved was prepared in the Melbourne office (probably by H G Jenkinson), but the problem was complex, requiring considerable engineering judgment in the estimation of earth pressures and the structural response of the piles, bracing and tie-rods. Consulting engineer A G M Michell, was therefore called upon to perform an expert assessment and analysis.

Submission of tender and justification of design

Monash was obliged to submit a tender for building the CSR design as well as for building his own. He estimated the cost of the CSR proposal as £6894. Adding a margin of 15% suggested a price of £7928, but he decided to tender for it at £8228. He set the price for his own design at a very competitive £5985.

The tenders were submitted on 14 October 1907, accompanied by a 'Drawing of the Alternative Design', an 'Explanatory Memorandum', a 'Description of the Design', and an 'Outline Specification'.

Tender drawing.

Reproduction of the tender drawing, marked at top right "Designed JM. Oct 8/07".
(J Thomas Collection.)

One of the aims of the explanatory documents was to establish the credentials of SARC. These included its links to the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Company and to "Mr J. Monash MCE of Melbourne" who had "devoted himself for the past 11 years to the research, and practical application of construction in concrete and reinforced (or ferro-) concrete". Between them, the two firms had completed a wide range of projects with a value of almost £200,000, many "on a very large-scale". All had been designed and carried out under Monash's personal direction. Some of them, notably the railway bridge at Hindmarsh River, had involved the manufacture and driving of piles. SARC thus had relevant expertise and experience at a professional level; "a staff of foremen specially trained"; and "equipment specially adapted to this class of work". This had been applied in the design of the alternative proposal.

Monash hoped that his comments on CSR's own design would not be taken the wrong way; but he felt obliged to make his point. "The structure, as designed by you, is very much more costly than the one proposed by us, and not in any degree to be compared with the latter as regards real efficiency and durability". He warned there was a danger that inexperienced tenderers might underestimate the labour costs of fixing the "complicated reinforcements", and "the hazardous nature of heavy concrete piling in a tidal River", and that if CSR did the work themselves, they might overlook "the recent heavy rise in the cost of materials". Whilst competitors' propositions might appear on paper to compete with his own in price, he was confident that his would be "in every way superior and more valuable".

The use of earth fill right up to the edge of the wharf, instead of the timber deck proposed by CSR, would save £2000 in timber; eliminate the associated fire hazard; and reduce maintenance costs. At the same time, the weight of the fill above the platform would help resist the overturning forces. The solution should be thought of more as a "Quay Wall" than a "framed wharf". The idea was "neither novel nor experimental". Tension- or anchor-piles were now "very commonly and successfully used in structures of this type on the Continent".

The rigidity of the platform in the horizontal plane would spread the impact from approaching vessels widely, to be resisted by the mass of earth filling. The outward force of the fill would be resisted primarily by the bent, but the system of land-ties was designed to resist the entire outward pressure of the fill, as a precaution. The face panel and rear panel would provide longitudinal rigidity in the vertical plane, making cross-bracing in that direction unnecessary. The platform (9 feet or 2.74m wide) would perform the same function in the horizontal plane.

Further technical details
Design load: 3 cwt per square foot distributed (16.1 kPa), or 2 tons per wheel for vehicles (2.03 tonnes).
Factor of safety 4.
Pile frames spaced at 15 ft centres (4.57m).
Front pile 18" × 18" in cross-section (457mm square).
Rear pile sloped at 1 in 4.
Face wall 5'-9" high (1.75m) supported by "counterforts" spaced at 7'-6" centres (2.29m).
Sheet piles 18" × 18".
Anchor plate: reinforced concrete, continuous over the full length of the wharf.
Upper tie: one 1½" diameter rod (38mm). Lower tie: two 1½" rods.
Minimum reinforcement in members 1%.
Concrete proportions (by volume)
  piles 1:2:2
  other work 1:2:3
  aggregate size ¾" (19mm).

Monash explained that, as he was not sure whether the proposal would be acceptable to CSR, he had not elaborated the design, or shown "all the intricate details of reinforcements &c". However, he was ready to travel to Sydney to confer on "the terms of a full specification, and the working out of all details of every part, to form the basis of a contract, covered by stipulations which will safeguard your interests in every way".

During the critical week when the submission was finalized, Monash was slowed down by "influenza" brought on "through over pressure of work". He apologised to SARC's Managing Director E H Bakewell for not sending the documents to Adelaide for comment and approval, but the estimates and business policy had been checked by Gibson. Monash was "not very hopeful" that either tender would be accepted because he had found CSR "in the highest degree unapproachable for the purpose of my preliminary discussions of the matter". Bakewell sympathised, but hoped Monash had "allowed sufficient profit margin in the estimates to cover all trouble and risk".

The deal is clinched

Within a few days, Monash was invited to travel to Sydney to meet the firm's Chief Engineer, German, and its Adelaide Engineer, E C Stables. Realising that Gibson would be returning from a routine trip on the same train that brought Stables from Adelaide to Melbourne, Monash asked him to look out for the CSR man and if possible "ascertain how the land lies".

It is quite possible that Monash and Stables then travelled to Sydney together, but I have seen no evidence to confirm this.

The meeting with German, on 21 October, proved promising. He said he intended to give SARC a contract, but was not sure yet whether to stick to his own design or adopt Monash's. In the latter case he would require a number of modifications. These included placing the anchorage block further back and supporting it with a row of piles. Believing that the "limestone crust" (Fig. 1) was up to 6 feet thick in places, he wanted 20" diameter holes pre-bored through the rock to allow the tension piles to pass through.

The two parties approached each other warily. Monash did not wish to reveal full details of his design without the promise of a contract, and German was unwilling to promise a contract before he had seen the details. It was therefore agreed that SARC would deposit £400 with the Adelaide Manager for a term of 12 months and then submit a letter, drafted by German, to CSR's Head Office. German would recommend acceptance, and at that point Monash would reveal the details. Within 14 days, CSR would notify which of the two designs was to be adopted. Information supplied by Monash had to include stress diagrams and calculations, and a list of similar projects built in Europe.

After explaining the agreement to Bakewell, Monash commented: "We found these gentlemen very fair, decent and reasonable people". To Gummow, he apologised for being "unable to write very lucidly" due to after-effects of his illness. He sought advice on rock drilling technique and practice, and asked if Gummow would check the wharf design when CSR made its decision. He added that he had found both German and Stables "most reasonable and courteous, and sympathetic, not to say deferential to my views".

Monash told Gummow that his modification of the CSR design had been based on "the ideas expressed in the diagrams which you will find in Emperger's Handbuch, pages 151 to 154, and page 247".

In his reply, Gummow revealed that he had just received a visit from Mr Robertson of the Ferro-Concrete Co, "en route to Auckland", who told him that he had not competed for the Glanville wharf because he had been convinced that CSR would build it themselves.

SARC's Resident Engineer in Adelaide, W W Harvey reported that CSR's local manager, A Astley, and his staff were happy that agreement had been reached. Bakewell expressed surprise that a deposit should be required, as this had not been considered necessary for the Kithers Building. Monash explained that the Kithers contract had been arranged by "private direct negotiation", but the Sugar Wharf by public tender. It was "quite reasonable that the Sugar Coy should require some cash deposit to bind us before releasing from their obligations the other people who had tendered". Five percent was not unreasonable, but Monash would propose that it form part of the retention money.

At the end of October, CSR's Managing Director, E W Knox, formally accepted Monash's design, at £5985, conditional on agreement about pre-boring for the tension piles. Monash the lawyer pointed out that German had previously "accepted" both tenders, leaving only the choice between the two to be decided. Knox's condition with regard to pre-boring meant that neither company was now bound by that previous agreement. Was this what he intended? The wording was sorted out on lines suggested by Monash, formalising the terms of German's acceptance. Monash now felt confident to prepare the required documentation of his design.

For engineers. A G M Michel provided notes on his computation of earth pressures, to accompany his "diagrams of loads and stresses". He had taken Rankine's method for conjugate pressures at depth z. He had added a virtual 3 feet (914mm) of earth above the dock surface to represent the 375 psf (18.0 kPa) uniformly distributed live load. Depth z was therefore measured down from this 'virtual surface'. The theory gave vertical pressure q = wz and horizontal pressure p = wz (1 − sinφ) / (1 + sinφ). Michel had assumed w to be 125 pcf (19.6 kN/m³) and φ as 30 degrees "about a normal value for wet sand, and (judging from the slope of the bank shown in your drawing) a safe value for the mud also". The sheet piling and plate were taken as inclined at 13 degrees to the vertical. Graphical resolution was used to obtain the normal force R and frictional force F acting on the sheeting. Water pressure on the other side of the piling was deducted. The bending moments on the piles were then calculated. Michel noted that the tension in the tie-rods presented "some indeterminateness". To "permit analysis" he had assumed an effective fulcrum, and had bracketed the true forces by making two extreme assumptions. He concluded: "It will be obvious to you that the whole of the calculations hinge on the value assigned to the angle of repose, φ, and you may consider my value, 30°, too small. I think myself that it should be a safe value but I should not like to reduce it without very definite information."

Following further checks on overall stability, and the preparation of "final" stress calculations, a working drawing was prepared showing full type details including reinforcement. Monash summarised the engineering computations for the CSR engineers in a five-page document. He cited examples of wharf construction "upon the principle of surcharged platform and wall" from Frankfurt, Wilhelmshaven, Southampton, and Valparaiso.

Monash travelled to Sydney for a final meeting, and on Saturday 30 November, 1907 wired his office: "Glanville Wharf negotiations completed on thoroughly satisfactory lines. Returning Melbourne tomorrow." CSR had accepted Monash's design at £5985, with some minor additions and modifications at an agreed price. Exploratory bores would be made, and if they proved advantageous, pre-boring of the holes for tension piles would be paid under an agreed scheme. The definitive drawing, specification and draft legal contract were then drawn up by CSR's engineers and solicitor in Sydney.

Limestone crust mystery resolved

In January 1908 Stables reported that four test bores spaced along the wharf showed only a thin crust of soft limestone varying from 2" to 12" thick (51 to 305mm), and lying about 32 feet (9.75m) below deck level. Above and below were layers of stiff clay. It looked as though pre-boring of the piles would not be necessary. Specialist firms that had provided advice and quotations were told they would not be required.

CSR's Adelaide Manager, Astley commented that the situation at Glanville was remarkable, as the general belief was that the limestone layer was almost uniform throughout the district. "The custom in the early years of the Port was to deepen to the top of the limestone, which gave 14 to 18 ft at low water in the channel and wharves … Captain Webb, for over 30 years in charge of the Government dredges, told me that at about 20 ft below low water he had lifted the limestone in flakes or slabs from the bottom of the river opposite to Glanville Wharf as elsewhere. Two years ago new piles were driven at the end of the Copper Company's wharf, [across the river from Glanville]. They found 3 ft of limestone at 35 ft below wharf level, and drove them through it to rest on another layer of limestone at 47 ft. At the next wharf (Queen's) lately removed, they had to blast to get their piles through rock at about 32 ft below deck."



Monash had of course been looking ahead, scheduling the delivery of supplies and the phases of construction. He asked SARC's secretary, Frank Nicholls, to begin ordering materials for concrete, ready for a start in mid-February 1908 or early April. He summarised the construction programme as follows.

Harvey was told that he could start the manufacture of piles as soon as the steel arrived from Victoria. When this was used up, there would be a gap until imported steel arrived, early in June. About 1 August, he could start on the land anchors, and dismantling and reconstruction at places indicated by Stables as not interfering with the operation of the wharf. About 1 September, a start could be made on 150 feet (45.7m) of wharf at the upstream end, aiming to complete this by January 1909. Then Harvey could continue with the downstream 300 ft, and expect to complete work by the contract date. Harvey and foreman Tom McCartney began to familiarise themselves with the site.


On 12 February 1908, Monash sent the first requisition for materials to Gibson: 25 tons of Victorian steel, 65 tons from overseas, 1200 casks of cement, 800 cubic yards of screenings, and 500 yards of sand (382m³), and some 300 pile shoes. He told Harvey that he could expect strict supervision, but as the first piles manufactured would have a long time to mature, he should try to use a little less cement. The aim was to limit the cost of concrete to 1/- per cubic foot.

Harvey was told he should initially use 1 cask of cement to 9 cubic feet of sand and 10.5 c. ft. of screenings. For in situ work, this ratio could be 1:10:15, and for the land anchor plate 1:11:20. The Specification had promised 1:2:2 by volume for piles, and 1:2:3 for in situ work.

To preserve intellectual property, Harvey was told that when he received the drawing showing Type Details, he was to pencil in the reinforcement sizes from the lists included in the Contract. This drawing would be for the sole use of the foreman directly supervising the placing of the steel and was to be treated as confidential.

A Works Diary was to be kept daily, recording work performed, the number of men employed, the day's cement consumption, and materials received. Weekly or fortnightly analyses of wages costs, and a monthly analysis of the cost of concrete were to be prepared, "&c &c &c". All services rendered by CSR were to be paid for under a separate account.


Pile manufacture

When manufacture of piles commenced in March it soon became evident that the materials were unsatisfactory. There was dirt in the sand and clay, and there was slate and stony material in the screenings. Harvey was obliged to stop work while he sorted the matter out with the suppliers.

Attention turned to the casting of the 'bulbs' to be formed at the tips of the tension piles. Harvey complained that they would greatly complicate the formwork, and Monash admitted he had shown them on the drawing "largely to catch the eye of the Sydney Engineer". His later decision to include land anchors had rendered them unnecessary. It proved that CSR were quite willing to omit them. They would make it harder to drive the piles and, by forming a hole of greater diameter than the body of the pile, might lessen the eventual skin friction.

As compensation, both financial and technical, CSR suggested making the tension piles two or three feet longer. Monash tried to avoid this, but there was another reason to extend the piles. The port authorities intended to dredge the river to a depth of 28 feet (8.53m), meaning that its bed would be lower than the tips of the tension piles, as designed. Stables offered his own workers to weld extensions to the reinforcement bars already delivered, in order to lengthen the piles.

A letter from Harvey dated 10 July 1908 shows that CSR was at that time welding extensions to reinforcing rods (using off-cuts from the Hindmarsh Bridge) and even bending rods for SARC.

Modifications were made also to the sheet piling. At Monash's request, the sheet pile directly behind each tension pile was omitted. Although this saved the cost of a sheet pile, it caused problems with driving each section to the correct alignment. Stables negotiated an increase in the size of the longitudinal grooves in sheet piles in the hope of improving the grouted seal between them.

By 1 May, 31 anchor piles, 63 sheet piles, and 10 main piles had been cast. An analysis of concrete costs, showed that SARC were not yet achieving the target of one shilling (12 pence) per cubic foot, the figure to date being 13.65 pence. An error made in the Melbourne office meant that insufficient steel had been ordered from Victoria, and Harvey was obliged to resort to the Adelaide steel market where he found the price cheaper. Pile-making stopped for a while when the gang was needed for a rush job on "Fowler's Floors". Harvey became concerned about the capacity of the old timber wharf to support the accumulating weight of piles.

The first Progress Payment claim for Glanville (£780) was submitted on 8 May. By 3 July, 31 anchor piles, 110 sheet piles, 11 main front piles, 10 main back piles, and 8 other piles had been cast, but work was at a standstill, awaiting the consignment of reinforcing steel from abroad.

By mid-September, the steel had arrived from overseas, and piles were being manufactured at the rate of two per day. Since recommencing the gang had made "nine 35-foot (10.7m) and ten 40-foot (12.2m) front and back main piles" to give totals of 20 of each. A progress payment of £750 had been received "some time ago" and a claim up to 10 September for £1016 had just been submitted.

At this stage, Stables heard reports of serious corrosion of reinforcement in piles in Auckland Harbour. Monash replied that he had heard the same rumours, but thought the problem was due to poor quality concrete.

Pile driving

Attention now turned to the driving of the piles. SARC used the system in which the pile was held in position by a frame, and a heavy weight (known as a "monkey") was repeatedly lifted by winch and dropped, to drive the pile into the ground. Monash deputed Harvey to design the monkey, with advice from foremen McCartney and Evans. Early in November 1908, Harvey and Stables visited the site to agree on boundaries and levels. The pile driving plant and gear were now complete and in position.

CSR confirmed that they wanted the piles to go down 50 feet (15.2m) below deck level to allow for the planned dredging of the river. Monash told Harvey that this was unnecessary from an engineering point of view - and it might prove impossible due to the solidity of the natural ground. The contract required only that SARC drive the piles until they met with a specified resistance. Thus, if it proved possible to drive them to 50 feet, the firm should receive extra payment. If the ground proved too solid, Harvey should drive the piles until their head was "completely smashed", to persuade CSR that the river bank was solid enough to stand by itself and support the wharf.

Later, Monash instructed Harvey on the best way to ensure that both parties recorded the extra time required to drive the piles to greater depth. "If you have already hinted it, the next step would be to engage Mr Stables in a general discussion on pile driving - complain of the stiffness, the length of time taken after test blow is reached, and the absence of any direction in the specification beyond that of reaching the test resistance. Then tell him that under instructions from this end, you are booking the extra time, so as to have the information available for me in the event of my deciding, after consideration hereafter, that we have a valid claim upon the Company. Suggest to him that as the matter of our right to payment or not is one which can be thrashed out at any time hereafter, it would be a proper precaution for him to get the Inspector to note the extra time and agree on same with McCartney, not by way of any admission, but merely so that the facts of the case may be correctly on record. Such conversation will afford ample foundation for any action we may see fit to take when squaring up the job."

At CSR's request, work started first on the portion of wharf that carried the coal stage. Coal arrived regularly once per month, but no sugar would arrive until the end of June 1909. On 30 November 1908, Harvey wired Monash: "Glanville first pile successfully driven to required depth." By 12 December, six main piles had been driven, plus some for the 'return ends', but management problems were looming.

Management difficulties

Within a few weeks, Harvey was complaining to Monash that pile driving work under foreman Tom McCartney was "distressingly slow" - due in his opinion to "want of management shown over the work". Admittedly the clay was "stiff", and some piles had required 400 blows over 4½ hours, but the major hold-up was in the way piles and gear were being handled.

McCartney had been with RCMPC since 1900, and Monash had urged his appointment within SARC as Works Foreman: a sort of roving senior foreman, overseeing resident foremen attached to each project. This was the role that Alex Lynch filled so competently in Victoria for RCMPC. Bakewell was less sure. He was hesitant to contradict Monash's management concepts - but he had found McCartney reluctant to delegate, and unable to maintain good relations with subordinate foremen. He argued it would be better for McCartney to be resident foreman at Glanville, and to have Harvey controlling him and other job foremen directly (Black at Bowman's Building, and Evans at Glenelg).

For his part, McCartney had already complained of foreman Bennett, who had been looking after the Glanville job when McCartney was otherwise engaged. He doubted whether anyone better than Bennett was available, and wanted to do the job himself.

It seems that Harvey had taken action before Bakewell expressed himself. The new arrangement was confirmed by the end of December, with Monash and Gibson giving their approval. Gibson contemplated reducing McCartney's pay in accordance with his reduced responsibilities, but decided to defer, as McCartney was halfway through the piling, and was the only skilled foreman available for the task.

On 8 January 1909, Harvey reported that pile driving was going faster, partly because it had reached an area where the clay was less stiff. Dismantling of the Coal Stage was now in progress. On 16th, an aggrieved McCartney took the liberty of writing directly to Monash, asking, in so many words, what was going on? He had been sent to Glanville and had now learned that a Works Foreman was being sent from Melbourne. Monash referred him to Harvey, and advised the latter to "temporise with McCartney a little and flatter his vanity sufficiently to ensure he will give the Glanville work his very best attention, at any rate until the main pile driving is out of hand".

Cover to reinforcement

Looking forward to construction of the superstructure, Stables reminded Harvey that he had not yet been shown detailed drawings of the design for his approval. He expected to see 2" (51mm) of concrete cover over the reinforcement. Unfortunately, Monash had an over-optimistic attitude to cover, and thought 2" far too much. He objected that the specification did not allow Stables to call for detailed drawings "with the object of disapproving of them if they fail to comply with some new requirement". Drawings already approved showed less than 2 inches cover, so such provision must be acceptable. In members where bending strength was important [for instance, in the beams supporting the deck] he could not afford to lose "any fraction" of the computed factor of safety, so could not agree "to set in the bars 2 inches from the tensile face". However, if Stables was willing to forego his request in the case of members above the High Water Mark, Monash would "concede him an extra 1 inch … in the back lower stringer". If Stables declined this compromise, SARC would expect to be paid about 2/6 per cubic foot for the extra concrete involved.

Monash stated that Monier Pipes with only 1/4" to 3/8" cover (6 to 10mm) over the steel wire had been used in miles of sewers and aqueducts, and "not the slightest indication of any corrosion, after 8 years in some cases" had ever been reported.

Construction progresses to the superstructure

On 28th January, Knox wrote from CRS Sydney noting that the rate at which piles were going in was too slow: only one per day. A failure to complete the job on time would seriously hamper the work of CSR. He urged SARC to speed up, and reminded them of the penalty clause in the contract.

The old timber sheeting piles were proving an impediment. The gang had resorted to boring holes down them with an auger and shattering them with explosives. To make matters worse, Stables was insisting that the new sheet piles be forced into the limestone crust in view of the proposed deepening of the river.

On the positive side, many of the main piles were now in position, and a start could be made on casting the superstructure. This work was bedevilled by the dodging tides that occur on the SA coast, but the gang on occasions worked night shifts to fit in with the tides.

A dodging tide is "an irregular neap tide which ebbs and flows several times a day, at unpredictable intervals, and maintains a constant level for hours". (Morison, S. E., History of United States Naval Operations in WW2, p.151.)

By 15 February, two-thirds of the main piles had been driven; a quarter of the superstructure was complete; and a start was being made on the anchorage system. Next day Harvey reported that the formwork for six more bays was in place, and he was waiting for the right tide to cast the concrete. Trenches for about 100 feet (30.5m) of land anchorage had been opened up, and the driving of piles to support the anchorage block was about to start. Production of sheet piles continued, at the rate of two per day.

Piles under land anchor cause problems and are omitted

The piles intended to support the land anchor were found, in Harvey's words, to be "really going to do more harm than good". The ground was again "very stiff" and the hammer blows shook nearby buildings and made it necessary to line trenches. He recommended that these piles be omitted. Stables agreed, but suggested increasing the height of the anchor block by 12" (305mm) to compensate. Work stopped while the pair consulted their superiors. Monash explained that the piles had been added by CSR's Sydney Engineer merely as "a sort of generous proposal" for giving SARC more work. The cost of increasing the depth of the anchor plate would be balanced by the market value of the unused piles.

Cracks in main piles

Harvey had been surprised to find cracks in some main piles following handling (when the pile was transported and manoeuvred into position for driving). He feared the piles were not being handled as carefully as they should have been. Monash replied that the design was similar to that used by Gummow in New South Wales, with a Factor of Safety in bending of "only" three when lifted. Any impact during handling could thus cause cracking. However, he was confident there would be no problem. "Our universal experience in pipes and tanks is that when in contact with water, such cracks, even if considerable (say 1/16") [1.6mm] in course of time fill up entirely with lime salts. Even if they did not, the access of moisture carrying carbonic acid would be so slight that the action of the surrounding concrete would prevent the formation of rust to any extent causing sensible deterioration." Many piles must crack in the difficult circumstances of marine construction, but he had heard no reports of problems arising after the piles were in place.

Work continues

Work continued through March with only minor modifications. By 3rd, eight bays of the superstructure had been concreted, and formwork was ready for eight more. Tides promised to be favourable for the next week. Fifty feet of land anchorage had been concreted and there were only 13 more main piles to be driven. The wharf in the vicinity of the coal stage was complete except for the tie rods. These could not be installed until the anchor plate had gained sufficient strength. Harvey learned that free filling material could be obtained from the "Deepening Department", delivered in barges alongside the wharf.

Driving of the main piles continued, and a start was made on the sheet piles, but McCartney had slowed down again. He had overheard Stables tell Monash that while the northern end of the wharf had to be ready by the contract date, the southern end was less critical. Monash pressed Harvey: "Is it not possible to infuse more life into this part of the work?", and asked "Does McCartney realise we need monkey for Glenelg? He seems to be going to hang on to it for another 3 weeks". Harvey replied that McCartney was also "hanging on to almost all the timber from dismantling wharf because he can use it for sheeting in trenches, shoring, etc".

Status in April 1909

On 3 April, on a visit to Adelaide, Monash summed up the situation for Gibson.

  1. There had been "Good and satisfactory progress" since his last visit, but the job was "proving very intricate, full of unexpected difficulties, and very costly."
  2. McCartney was working strenuously, and was showing "great energy, enterprise and initiative".
  3. All difficulties that could be anticipated had been solved "as regards design, materials, methods, etc."
  4. It would be difficult to have the wharf sufficiently complete by 30 June to allow the first sugar boat to unload, but "This is indispensible at whatever cost to us". McCartney thought he could manage it.
  5. The immediate cause of "recent and present delay" was "a very inferior not to say dangerous winch now being used for sheet piles".
  6. After a "long and careful conference" with Harvey and Foremen Pratt and McCartney, Monash had decided "not to accept McCartney's hopeful forecast; but subject to approval of Directors to at once duplicate the sheet pile driving arrangements".
  7. This meant that a pile frame, monkey and gear would have to be purchased, costing about £50, plus a winch. These would be "not only useful but most probably indispensible at Glenelg" [Breakwater project].

Gibson immediately purchased a winch in Melbourne.

Northern portion completed to receive the first boat

As work on the sheet piles continued through April, difficulties arose in driving them true to line, especially behind the main rear pile, where it had been decided that a sheet pile was unnecessary. Harvey wrote that "They" (presumably McCartney and Stables) were driving a jarrah batten behind the main pile to guide the adjacent sheet piles. Stables was not too happy, but accepted that jarrah would be "everlasting". Another problem was sealing the joints between the sheet piles. Grooves had been cast in the edges, and the idea was to fill the cavity with fine concrete. Harvey thought this would work only as far down as the low water mark. Below this he intended to resort again to timber battens to cover the joint. On Stables' initiative, a longitudinal beam was added along the tops of the sheet piles, so that more tie-rods could be attached.

Daily work progress reports around this time came from Stables' son, whom Harvey had employed as a 'draughtsman', with Monash's approval, in July 1908. The reports show that he was at this time on site, perhaps acting as clerk to the job foreman.

In late April, as winter approached, casting of sheet piles and wharf superstructure was at times halted by wet weather, high tides, and the arrival of a coal boat that prevented barges coming alongside to deliver fill material. This was the period when storms were causing major problems at the Glenelg Breakwater site. However, by mid-May, Harvey was able to report that most of the northern half of the wharf was complete, there was a good stock of sheet piles, and the earth filling was "coming along well", with four bays up to road level. The port authorities were bringing a Priestman crane to start dredging operations alongside the wharf. Foremen Pratt and McCartney were confident of being able to receive the first sugar boat, due on 1 July.

Monash asked Harvey to keep an eye out for any forward movement of the four bays behind which the fill had been fully built up; but none was yet evident. Clayey fill had been placed immediately behind the sheeting, and there was no sign of leakage through the seams.

On 24 May, Harvey advised that all concreting had been completed at the north end, and a sugar boat was due on 25 June, five days earlier than expected.

Forward movement and cracking detected

At the end of May, McCartney noticed a change in the alignment of the wharf. Those portions behind which fill had been placed appeared to have moved forwards slightly. On investigating below deck he discovered slight cracking, as shown in Fig.2 below. In some members crack D was wide enough to insert the point of a knife.

cross-section through wharf showing position of cracks

Fig.2. Cracks noticed in the framework, May 2009.

Harvey's explanation to Monash was that the framework had rotated slightly, relative to the main piles, due to elastic extension of the tie rods. He deemed the anchorage system "sound". However, the fill material had been "flooded in with water to assist in consolidating it", and so would be heavier and less rigid than had been assumed in design. Regular checks over the following week showed no further deflection.

It was not until 31st that Monash responded to news of the cracks. He was busy with other projects, and had recently lost a battle to retain control of his project for the dome of the Melbourne Public Library. He thanked Harvey for his forethought in sending telegrammed reports, "as these relieved any anxiety I may otherwise have felt as to possible developments not communicated". He felt there was "so far nothing to worry about". It was obvious that some bending had occurred in members "not specially designed" to resist it. He noted that the place to look for accurate evidence of forward movement was at deck level, and not along the coping of the face wall. The small size of the cracks was evidence that the structure as a whole was satisfactorily withstanding the forces applied to it.

As work continued into June, Harvey reported that the concrete was setting slowly due to the cold weather. A start was made on the remainder of the sheet piling at the north end. Thirty-seven more sheet piles remained to be driven, and one timber mooring pile had been driven.

The wharf enters service

The first ship arrives

The 'sugar boat' Vienna arrived on the morning of 21 June 1909. This was to be the first real test of the wharf in the berthing of a large vessel, but the tide was low and the ship grounded before making contact. Dredging had not been completed along the full length of the wharf, so it could not be moved backwards or forwards to allow all the hatches to be worked. However, the fill withstood the road traffic, and CSR had no complaints. When the ship left next day it did subject the wharf to heavy loads, but McCartney found no signs of damage.

On 29 June McCartney left SARC, and Foreman Suffren took over at Glanville.

Extension of time

SARC now formally applied to CSR for an extension of time. Failure to meet the deadline had been due to the stiffness of the clay encountered, which had hampered pile driving; the recent bad weather; and the fact that work on the superstructure could now proceed only at infrequent low tides. Astley, the Adelaide Manager for CSR, was sympathetic. "We fully recognise the unexpected difficulties that you have experienced in connection with the erection of our wharf: and the case for an extension of time seems only reasonable. I assume that fair progress will be made with the completion of the work; and that being so, we will not entertain the idea of imposing a penalty."

Slight movement confirmed

Work on the superstructure continued through July and August as tides permitted, with Harvey carefully watching the phases of the moon. On 19 August, he reported: "got a good low tide this morning". The gang had concreted one bay, but heavy rain had set in, and there was "great difficulty getting the concrete in place". The rain and high tides brought floods in the Port River causing further delays. On 31st, the water was low enough to allow concreting of the end bay. Harvey told Monash, "As soon as the concrete is sufficiently set in these last two bays, sheet pile driving can be resumed and carried to a finish, then the return can be timbered and concreted."

The completed portions of the wharf received some use during this period. On 23 July, a second boat docked without incident, and on 31 August, a sugar boat was alongside unloading, and a coal boat was due to join it in the afternoon.

By mid-July it had become evident that the entire wharf had moved uniformly towards the river, by an estimated 1/40th of an inch (0.64mm), but it appeared to be stationary.

At the end of July, Stables certified a sixth progress payment of £515. He and Harvey expected that it would cost a further £350 to complete the wharf and had agreed that CSR would withhold this, plus the deposit of £400 and the retention money of £200 (making a total of £950) until final settlement. The value of the contract plus extras was estimated at £6715. Harvey commented: "I went into [the extras] with Mr Stables and agreed definitely on some of the principal items which are clear and undisputable. The figure of £6715 is if anything low, I think."

The wet weather of late August and early September resulted in some settlement of fill, and leakage through the sheet piling.

In mid September, Monash spent several days in Adelaide, and on 16th, Astley announced that CSR would release the whole of the deposit and retention money. Suffren reported satisfactory progress with the last of the sheet piling.

Damage to the wharf

S S Urilla

About 9 a.m. on the morning of Sunday 19 September, the structure received heavy blows from the coal steamer Urilla and a hulk laden with coal. The horizontal girder running along the top of the facing wall was fractured. For Captain W Donaldson, of the Adelaide Steamship Co., the problem was the inadequate strength of the wharf. He told his employers: "I regret to report that when berthing at the Sugar Works yesterday morning our starboard bow came in contact with the wharf and cracked about 20 feet of the cement facing. This cement facing is about 4 feet deep and 8" thick, backed by loose earth having two [timber] stringers and uprights 6" thick for fenders. This will always be liable to be broken as the stringers give and the wall does not and has got no solid backing. This occurred on the ebb tide, which caused the vessel to sheer. There is no damage done to the Urilla."

The Adelaide Steamship Co was under contract to Huddart Parker & Co, who held the contract for delivery of coal to CSR.

Stables had a different story. "It was pure carelessness, the vessel being allowed to come in contrary to instructions". "The vessel came in at a sharp angle to the wharf, dropped her anchor on the starboard side, which tended to drag her in more at right angles to the wharf. The anchor failed to hold and she came right in under the coal stage. The vital parts of the structure as far as we can ascertain are undamaged."

In the area where Monash's wharf projects were situated, the Port River runs northwards, takes a right-angled bend eastwards, then makes a sharp curve to run north for some distance. The Glanville Wharf is on the west bank of the first stretch, tucked into the right-angled bend..

Sketch map of Port Adelaide in the vicinity of CSR's Glanville Wharf, located in a right-angled bend of the Port River.

In a later report to Astley, Stables criticized the Captain's account. "The blow was sufficiently severe to throw the Urilla right over and to crush one of the 12" × 12" jarrah fenders." It had broken the top beam and three counterforts. Fortunately for the Urilla the impact had come opposite a bulkhead. A witness had been found, who said the steamer was approaching on a rapidly rising tide and the captain was making headway in order to maintain steerage. He had come within 30 feet of the wharf before the engines were put astern. Stables argued that if the wharf had been timber, the coal stage would have been displaced and repairs would have been more costly. Due to the awkward position of the Glanville wharf, "steamers should be brought to an absolute stop 20 or 30 ft away and then haul alongside; for on the rising tide the current sets strongly from Princes wharf corner tight into Glanville wharf."

The hulk

Stables reported the second strike to Astley. "When the coal steamer was here a large hulk heavily laden with coal while being moved by hand by Huddart Parker & Co was caught by the tide and her stem struck the top longitudinal fender near mid-length of the wharf." In both cases, impact had occurred exactly on the joint between two lengths of horizontal (timber) fender, so the force had not been efficiently distributed along the concrete beam.

Harvey told Monash that in his opinion, there had been only one incident, and that the hulk hit the wharf after being struck by the Urilla.

S S Cape Corso

Just a few days later, Harvey had to report yet another accidental impact. The SS Cape Corso, "which had just finished discharging sugar at the wharf" was being moved by a tug when a rope parted. "The steamer then came in broadside, towards the wharf, but at an angle with it, and struck the timber fender with her bow. The blow was thus very concentrated although the full weight of the ship was not brought into effect." Inspection was hampered by a high tide, but it appeared that once again damage was restricted to the facia and its counterforts.

Financial Damage

CSR was at first reluctant to pay for repairs. They had not yet formally taken possession of the new structure, and so suggested that SARC claim compensation from the Steamship Company. However, by the end of September the wharf was three months overdue, and on 29th Stables advised that CSR would pay. They just wanted to get the repairs completed, as the next coal boat was due in eight weeks' time.


On 3 November, Harvey reported that he had agreed all extras with Stables, except for additional work on the 'returned ends'. Stables was now prepared to take the wharf over. All the old timber had been removed from underneath, and there was only an engine (to be put on a punt for the Port Bridge Site) and other bits to be cleared. Total payment for the Glanville wharf worked out at £7072. On 9 December, Harvey submitted to Monash the 'Final Analysis', setting out the breakdown of actual costs for future reference. The final agreement between CSR and SARC was signed on 13 December.


Lewis records: "The Port Adelaide wharf was of a similar form [to traditional timber wharves] but used horizontal and vertical reinforced concrete trusses and decking and incorporated 1.2 metres of filling to provide gravitational stability. As in all the early structures, cover was inadequate, as probably was the quality of the concrete mix, and corrosion of reinforcement and spalling of concrete inevitably set in. Even so, the wharf performed remarkably well. It was repaired with sprayed concrete (gunite) in 1934 and remained in use until 1973, when a water main at the rear burst and caused the wharf to collapse." [Lewis 1988, p.76.]