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JM and the Barham-Koondrook Bridge
Detailed account.

The need for a crossing from Barham to Koondrook.

Map of the Riverina District showing towns mentioned on this page.

Location of the bridge and relevant parts of NSW (The Riverina). (For links from Kerang to Melbourne see rail map.)

The Kerang New Times, in a Supplement to its edition of 11 October 1904, declared that the lack of a bridge at Barham had "retarded the development of the surrounding district, as well as the "backcountry" further inland for many years past". At the time, there was no fixed crossing between Echuca and Swan Hill, a distance of 99 miles. An old punt had been available at Barham-Koondrook, working restricted hours, but pastoralists were reluctant to use it. It was slow, and the "knocking about" that sheep received lowered their market price. Pastoralists from NSW normally drove their stock to Swan Hill for consignment by rail to Melbourne, and sent their wool to the railway at Echuca. Stock coming from the Diamantina in Queensland by way of the Paroo River to Ivanhoe went either via Hay to Deniliquin, or via Balranald to Swan Hill. However, a route from Ivanhoe to Maude (not yet a declared stock route) and thence through Moulamein to Barham would have better water and grass and be 100 miles shorter. "Settlers" north of the Murray wanted an easier crossing for their produce on its way to southern markets and for necessities coming in the other direction. Shareholders of the Koondrook-to-Kerang Tramway also had an interest. Its manager said there were some 200 new settlers within a radius of 50 miles of Barham for whom Koondrook would be the natural outlet for their produce, and the settlement of the Riverina would continue to grow. Commercial and banking interests in the Barham-Koondrook area added further weight to the campaign.

The New Times saw Kerang, at the junction of stock routes leading from NSW via Swan Hill and Barham, as "the central emporium for the flocks and herds of the interior". "Mobs of Queensland cattle which formally went to Wodonga to be sold, mostly to western district buyers, will find a much more convenient market here, with a much less distance to travel to their destination after the sale. The same district's supply of store sheep can also be drawn most directly from this market, as well as those required in the central areas of the State."

Lobbying over more than 10 years resulted in a visit to the district in June 1900 by E. McCartney De Burgh, bridge engineer of the NSW PWD and Carlo Catani, Chief Engineer of the PWD of Victoria who heard the evidence given above. The New Times gave credit for this to J M Chanter, MLA as leader of "the movement". The NSW PWD had resisted pressure so far on the grounds that there was insufficient traffic to justify construction of a bridge, but in January, the Premier of Victoria had offered to pay half the cost of the bridge if New South Wales would pay the other half. (Victoria had paid the entire cost of the very similar bridge recently built at Cobram.) The two governments had reached agreement, but then NSW had had second thoughts. Its government had finally given way to heavy pressure from Victorian politicians, "other prominent residents, and public men".

For de Burgh, see ADB.

The Bridge.

Engineering elevation showing lift span in centre and trusses either side, plus small end spans. Includes section through river bed showing supporting structures.

The design by the Roads, Bridges and Public Watering Places Branch of the NSW PWD. This diagram is based on the original tender documents in the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co Collection, University of Melbourne Archives.

The Kerang New Times noted that the height of the banks at the location of the bridge meant that it was possible to provide reasonable clearance beneath the fixed spans without greatly building up the approach roads. The river at this point was 270 feet wide. In the centre would be the lift-span, 58ft 4in long, allowing for the passage of paddle steamers. On either side would be truss spans 104 feet long, then shore spans 30 feet long employing simple timber beams. All piers would rest on piles driven into the river bed. At the central piers (Nos. 2 and 3) mass concrete pile caps would support a pair of metal cylinders (see also photo below) braced together and filled with concrete. Each cylinder would support a 'tower' of trussed metal construction. These would take the weight of the deck and guide it as it travelled up or down, activated by wire cables running over large pulleys at the tops of the towers. The tops of the towers would be connected by a series of trussed metal members to provide stability. The weight of the lift span would be counterbalanced by lead weights enclosed in cast-iron boxes, totalling 36 tons as installed. The New Times stated that the span could be raised and lowered by one man using a hand winch.

2015 photo by Chris Miller showing the lift span, river piers, and adjacent truss spans.

Photo courtesy of Chris Miller 2015.

Historic images relating to this bridge may be found in the University of Melbourne Archives Image Collection UMAIC. Search under Record ID for UMA/I/6265, 6269, 6270, 6271, and 6590. Any enquiries to UMA regarding these images should quote Location Numbers BWP/23836, 23841, 23843, 23844 and 23845 respectively. Further images held by UMA have Location Numbers BWP/23837 to 23840 and BWP/23842.


The NSW PWD, the authority responsible for the provision of the bridge, referred to it as the "Barham-Koondrook Bridge". M&A, from a Victorian perspective, referred to it as the "Koondrook Bridge" or, more often, simply "Koondrook". I have generally followed their practice.

First tender by Monash & Anderson.

M&A's first tender was withdrawn after political and bureaucratic delay squandered the chance to work in low water during the summer of 1902.

In April 1902, Monash approached contractor V J Saddler for financial support, and asked F M Gummow, of Gummow Forrest & Co in Sydney, to obtain copies of the drawings and specifications. Gummow advised against JM's suggestion that Monier pipes be used instead of metal cylinders for Piers 2 and 3, as the PWD considered them more susceptible to damage by barges.

In May, Monash spent evenings at the office calculating quantities. He wrote to persuade J E Cowley, proprietor of the Eureka Ironworks at Ballarat, to fabricate the riveted wrought iron and steel work that would make up half the cost of the bridge. "The whole contract has been drawn up so as to make it easy for the various classes of workmanship to be manufactured in different places and brought together on the spot. From many points of view, the contract offers very great advantage to us [M&A] and we are very anxious to tender." JM explained that the bulk of Cowley's work, about 100 tons, would be in wrought iron - largely ordinary boiler work that would take up "very little room" in his yard. It would not be required for the first nine months of the contract, giving Cowley five or six months to assemble it in his yard. The workmanship would be "of an exceedingly simple character".

JM continued: "The only planing specified is at the ends of plates, angles and tees, or at butt joints. There is no planing of edges. Hydraulic riveting is not insisted on." All holes in plates 3/8" and under could be punched 1/8" less than size, and the rest drilled out. This applied to 30 tons. There was very little forging in the whole job - not more than 5 tons - and that was "only joggling of web stiffeners etc".

Furthermore, the parts would not be bulky or heavy. There was much repetition, so patterns could be used many times. JM offered: "If you could not see your way to touch the job on other terms, we would be prepared to indent the raw material - you to take delivery in Melbourne, work it up and deliver at Ballarat Railway Station. We could also guarantee prompt settlements". He suggested a meeting in Melbourne or Ballarat to go through the drawings. These were "so clear and detailed that the job would present very little difficulty." Cowley was persuaded.

When full plans and specifications arrived from GF&Co, Monash spent Sunday 18th at home working on the project. His next step was to contact the Tramway to obtain a quotation for transport of materials and plant from Kerang to Koondrook. The weight of wrought and cast iron, timber, cement, and miscellaneous contractors' plant would be between 300 and 400 tons, with no single piece exceeding 3 or 4 tons. It would arrive in full truckloads spread over a period of several months, probably two or three trucks at a time. JM asked for confirmation that the Tramway could take any of the Victorian Railway rolling stock, so that transhipment at Kerang would be unnecessary, and that their quote would include any fee for use of the Government trucks. He also checked whether the Tramway had "crane power" available at Koondrook for "easy loading into wagons".

On 28 May, Monash took the 4.40 p.m. express to Ballarat East to spend the evening in consultation with Cowley. Rather than send the plans in advance, he preferred to "bring them up and point things out". He added: "We note your difficulty about the rates of wages. In point of fact, the provisions in the NSW contracts are not nearly so stringent as those in Victoria …"

After returning to Melbourne, he completed the Schedule of Rates for the Contract and sent a copy with his regards to Cowley and his wife. With good prices quoted for timber to be used in the bridge, he had "real hope" of winning the contract. However, Cowley returned the Schedule with certain prices for metalwork increased, adding £100 to the tender price. JM made an oblique protest, trusting "that this addition will not affect our chances" and spent the evening of 12 June in the office completing the tender documents. The Lump Sum Tender, for £9,472-14-6d, was posted on 14th. Monash wired GF&Co. "Understand Tender Board meets at 2 pm Monday and that name of lowest tenderer is announced immediately, though this does not mean acceptance. Could you send a messenger, then telegram us?"

The reply arrived on 16th. M&A's tender was the lowest. (The others ranged up to £14,000, as reported later in the Geelong Advertiser.) Monash wrote immediately to de Burgh, apprehensive that he might consider M&A unable to handle the job. He explained that, as the partnership had not carried out work in NSW before, "we apprehend that it will not be improper for us to acquaint you with our standing and experience in bridge construction … We claim to have unrivalled experience in [this] branch of Engineering in this State, and enclose a list of bridge works carried out by us in various capacities since 1884."

JM listed as referees: William Davidson, Inspector General of Public Works for Victoria; Stuart Murray, Engineer for Water Supply; C E Norman, Chief Engineer for Existing Lines in the Victorian Railways, and of course Gummow Forrest & Co. The list of bridge works (Appendix 2) makes interesting reading. M&A make no claim in this context to have designed or built the Anderson Street (now "Morell") Bridge over the Yarra River, though such a claim does appear in the article they helped prepare for the Kerang New Times Supplement of 11 October 1904.

Monash warned Cowley that, though he had high hopes, it would be best not to initiate any work at this stage. He told Saddler that he expected a clear return of 10 per cent of the tender price. "I estimate that apart from the cash security of £475 which has to be found in 14 days - the utmost working capital required will be about £500 for the first 6 months, and another £350 as the job draws to a close - during the last 9 months." Saddler's partner Baxter had promised support "on a business footing", and JM would visit him the next day if convenient to discuss matters. Monash tempted the gods by telling Gummow: "The contract involves about £6500 worth of work about which there is no risk and the cost of which is definitely ascertainable. As we have counted upon a clear profit of £1000 the job should be in every respect perfectly safe." He asked his friend to put in a good word for M&A, "owing to our being absolutely unknown to the New South Wales Department" and asked him to stress their "very large bridge experience in Victoria, extending over 18 years".

This activity coincided with a scare over the safety of the bridge M&A were building over the spillway of the Upper Coliban dam [link]. June 16, 1902 must have been an exciting day for M&A.

Government indecision over finance.

A week later, Monash wrote to the NSW PWD asking for news. He told Gummow: "we are naturally anxious lest some sinister influences are at work to influence the Department against formally accepting our tender. We can glean nothing here which throws any light on the matter." The delay might not be significant; but he did not want to run the slightest risk of losing the job. He asked Gummow to seize any opportunity to find out what was going on, as GF&Co probably had "readier access to the Officers of the Department than any one else". In reply, Gummow cautioned JM not to count on the job - with two governments involved, delays would be inevitable. He soon learned that the Department's engineers had recommended acceptance, and the delay was at ministerial level, probably because the Victorian government had to be consulted.

In Victoria, it was impossible to get much information because William Davidson, Inspector General of Public Works, was absent. Two other tenderers had received their deposits back; but Monash still advised Cowley not to commit to any action. "We feel the delay even more than you can, because until this matter is settled we do not feel free to commit ourselves to any other work, as this contract would occupy all our time and resources for some months to come."

By 1 July, JM was obliged to ask his main financial backer, David Mitchell, for an extension of credit. Shortly after, he was able to tell Saddler the delay was due to a "squabble between the Victorian and NSW Governments as to the procedures to be followed in sharing the cost of the contract". However, the Victorian Minister had now formally approved acceptance and NSW should not be far behind. On 10 July the Melbourne Age prematurely announced that the job had gone to M&A. Still there was no official news, and after yet another week, Monash told the NSW PWD that in addition to preventing him from tendering for other work, the delay meant he might not be able to hold suppliers to their original quotations. "Obviously we cannot commit ourselves to ordering raw material, nor indeed to taking any steps in connection with the Contract until we are assured, either of the actual acceptance of the tender, or of the definite prospect of its early acceptance." On 4 August the NSW PWD replied that they were waiting to hear from the Victorian Government, and would urge it to expedite the process.

Monash continued as best he could with preparations, obtaining quotes from suppliers of gravel and sand. He told D G Rattray, manager of the Tramway, that M&A would probably be crushing granite at Pyramid Hill and forwarding 1000 tons of crushed stone to the bridge site. Rattray had quoted 3/- per ton from Kerang to Koondrook, but JM told him the Government Railways had quoted only 2/4 per ton for the 24 miles from Pyramid Hill to Kerang. Rattray brought his price down to 2/-.

The Bank of Australasia now reminded Monash of his difficult financial situation. M&A's excess limit of £120 had expired at the end of July. JM explained that the NSW PWD was still holding the Preliminary Deposit of £95 for Koondrook, and as the anticipated receipts from the job were not yet flowing his financial position was awkward. However, payments from other projects, expected the following week, should see him through.

Cowley also expressed impatience. Monash replied: "We are quite as much embarrassed as you are by the extraordinary delay". The Member of Parliament for the Koondrook district declared that the hitch would soon be removed, but John Cullen MLA called at M&A's office with news that the Premier of Victoria (W H Irvine) had indicated his acceptance at the end of July, and placed the blame on the NSW Government. Cullen advised that another letter be sent to the NSW PWD. On 6 September, the Age reported a public meeting held at Koondrook to press for action.

Monash was now "thoroughly disgusted" and noted that if approval were not given immediately, M&A would not be able to work in low river, and would be obliged to modify their price. Nevertheless, he continued with his planning. Rattray was asked whether there was truth in a rumour that a good supply of basalt or granite existed near the railway about 12 miles closer to Kerang than Pyramid Hill - and could he refer M&A to anyone owning a traction engine with a belt wheel for hire, for driving a timber buzzer, stone crusher, &c?

M&A withdraw their first tender.

On 8 September, Monash set out the facts for the PWD. The tender had been in their hands for almost 3 months. M&A's price had assumed reasonably prompt acceptance "so that, by proceeding diligently with the bringing together of the raw materials, and with the necessary preparatory work" they would be able to complete all work liable to be affected by floods during the summer months (late 1902 and early 1903). This was no longer assured. "We therefore find it necessary, in justice to ourselves, but with great regret, to intimate that we are not now willing to proceed to the execution of the contract, except upon some equitable modification of the contract price to meet the altered conditions to which we have called attention."

A few days later, Cowley sent some newspaper clippings stating that Cullen was still hopeful of progress, but JM replied that Cullen "has frequently called upon us, and has assured us that he has seen the Ministers of both States, who had assured him "it would be all right" ", but "as nothing whatever came of his prophecies, we are inclined to doubt whether Mr Cullen exerts much influence in that direction". M&A could do "nothing else but keep pegging away at the NSW Govt, hoping for an early settlement of the matter".

September 25th was another interesting day for the partners. The Age reported that NSW had formally decided to go ahead with the Koondrook project, while the Full Supreme Court of Victoria announced, on appeal, that M&A were not entitled to payment for some £2000 worth of 'extra' work they had put into the Fyansford Bridge. The loss to the firm would be considerably more than this. Anderson had just arrived from New Zealand for a three week visit, and JM's diary records: "scene in office".

Finally, on 27th, the NSW PWD blithely advised M&A of its formal acceptance of their tender. Sixty-five weeks would be allowed for construction and "the security required herein is a Fixed Deposit Receipt, in favour of the Secretary for Public Works, for the sum of £475".

Monash politely thanked them, but pointed out that "no notice appears to have been taken of our letter to you of September 8th … While not desiring to place your Department in any difficulty, we must emphasise the position … We feel sure that the Engineer for this work will support our contention that it will not be possible to complete the river piers in the coming Summer, so as to escape the risk of floods. Our cofferdam would now require to be designed in expectation of a higher river, and the works would have to be designed with due provision for risks consequent thereupon." The extra cost was estimated at £450.

Monash now contacted Saddler, first discussing the advisability of taking the Fyansford case to appeal in the Privy Council in London; then setting out his estimate of the capital required for Koondrook.

JM's analysis was as follows.

Contract Price£9472 
20% Retentions1895 
Total payments accruing before Final £7577
Estimated total cost of all work,
   assuming cash payments for all supplies
Assume also additional capital to meet
   delays or other contingencies
Total expenditure 8450
Shortage of capital before final payment £873
Amount of cash security 475
Total financial facilities £1348
Say in all£1500 
This will be required approximately as follows:-  
At once for deposit£475 
For the first six months working525   total £1000
After 6 months and to end of job500   total £1500

JM's diary entry for 10th reads: "Early to see Gibson, + anxious day with D. Mitchell + the bank."

After a further meeting with Gibson, he was able to tell the bank on 14th that "Mr D. Mitchell will call in, probably at 2 pm today, to sign a guarantee for £1000". This would raise M&A's overdraft to £2000.

Anderson, passing through Sydney on his way back to New Zealand, found that the PWD's engineers had recommended renegotiation of the contract to allow for the higher costs of winter work. However, the Minister was insisting that the job be readvertised. Gummow and others strongly advised M&A not to oppose this. Monash was on that day based at the Criterion Hotel in Rushworth, Victoria. Telegrams flew between him and Anderson, whom he told: "Use your own discretion absolutely, provided we are not disqualified re tendering. Saddler concurs".

Monash now had to break the news to all his prospective suppliers, including Cowley and Haughton's the timber merchants; and hope they would cooperate in re-tendering. He also asked for the Preliminary Deposit of £95 back, at the PWD's earliest convenience. However, the wheels of bureaucracy continued to turn, and on 25 October 1902, the PWD declared that as M&A had failed to deposit the security of £475 and execute the contract, the acceptance of their tender was annulled. There was no mention of returning the deposit. A week later, an officer of the Victorian PWD served a formal notice of Annulment. After a further request from M&A, the Preliminary Deposit was finally received on 5 November.

M&A submit a second tender.

The NSW PWD called for new tenders at the end of November 1902. Monash resumed the task of re-organising supplies. He asked Haughtons to re-tender for red gum, tallowwood, and ironbark or grey gum sawn; ironbark or grey gum as round logs; red gum piles; and hewn ironbark. He asked Rattray to re-tender for haulage and W Moylan of Pyramid Hill for new prices for supply of stone - and for the sand "now said to be available" there.

JM told Cowley: "Our price is now known, and although we do not in the slightest degree wish to influence you to cut down your prices formerly given, it would be in the right direction if present market conditions would enable you to do so." Careful checking suggested the weights previously calculated for metalwork were about 5 to 7 per cent high.

Roberts & Sons of Bendigo expressed interest in tendering for the metalwork, but Monash's reply was evasive. "We have not yet definitely decided whether we will re-tender, as we have been thoroughly disgusted by the humbug and delay of the [NSW Government] and the conditions of the season are now entirely altered from what they formerly were."

Some days later he sent a fresh Preliminary Agreement and amended Schedule to Cowley, noting that the quantity of work was slightly reduced. "The principle reason for this is that … the machinery has been entirely redesigned and much simplified, the winch being now placed on a platform near the top of the tower, and all the long shafting is done away with." However, there was little change regarding the quality of work. "Your former prices for the various items have been entered in pencil, and we trust you can see your way to re-tender on the same rates."

Monash then contacted Saddler. "After a great deal of delay and circumlocution, the New South Wales Government have again called for tenders for this bridge, and they close next Monday. I have had all the quotation (upon which I formerly tendered) re-confirmed, and my cost price estimate is practically the same as before, except as to the coffer dams which, owing to expectation of higher river, are somewhat increased. I will have the Schedule completed by about Tuesday, and I will then call on you to discuss the proper figure to tender etc. The preliminary deposit required will be about £100."

The new estimate of cost was £8435-19-00, and Monash set his tender price at £10,345-17-10d. He asked Gummow if he would repeat his "former kindness by sending a messenger to the meeting of the Tender Board" and "favouring me with an early intimation of the results of the tendering".

Saddler, perhaps because of his wider experience, considered the tender to be on the low side. JM told him: "In deference to your wishes I have increased the total by £150 - but after carefully considering the matter, I feel sure it would be unwise to go any higher than that". He went round to Saddler's office to collect the preliminary deposit of £104 and have him sign the necessary papers.

On 15 December 1902, JM noted in his diary: "Get news of being lowest for Koondrook. Spend evening at office designing Koondrook coffers". Confirming Saddler's opinion, competing tenders were well above Monash's figure. The figures relayed by Gummow were:

Pickles & Smith12,379
G T? Coates12,413-13-00
S M Stanscome ?? [sic]12,445

Monash could have added another £1500 to his price and still beaten the opposition. Gummow wrote: "We trust the contract will prove a great success to you".

JM told Cowley that he hoped to place an order for the metalwork soon. He wired the good news to Anderson in New Zealand and told GF&Co: "As the River Murray is still very much below Summer level, there is a good prospect of our being able to get the river work done this Summer, if the Government accepts our tender promptly, in which case, the job at our price will be a most satisfactory one." However, it was not until 31 January 1903 that the NSW PWD told M&A formally of the acceptance of their tender. Time for completion was again 65 weeks.

Delay on the home front. Saddler pulls back.

Now that it had come to the crunch, Saddler proved reluctant to part with the money for the security deposit. Monash was obliged to ask the NSW PWD for an extra month's grace, and this was approved on 4 February. He wired Saddler, at the Queensland Club in Brisbane, "Extremely desirable immediately order materials enable complete river work this summer. Shall I proceed." A following letter set out his arguments:

For the river piers we will require about 50 red gum piles and about £100 of timber for sheeting of the coffers. The man who is to supply these was in town and undertook to have them on the ground [on site] in 14 days if promptly ordered. The river Murray is running at the present time fully 2 ft below summer level, and there is only 2 ft of water at the site of one of the piers. If we can get in the necessary material promptly, it will be quite an easy matter to entirely complete the river work before May, up to which month there is practically no risk of a high river; and this would enable this part of the work to be carried out pretty well at half the cost that I have estimated on. It would, therefore, be a distinct saving to push on with this part of the work at once … If we let a month go by without anticipating matters by ordering the material, it is doubtful if we can get both piers completed this Summer, and this would lead to delay later on.

I have also now received an official letter from the Engineer for Roads & Bridges asking me to explain our arrangements for carrying on certain portions of the work, and it will be necessary to reply to this without undue delay.

From your last telegram I fancy you still have some lingering doubt as to whether the price of £10,345 is a safe one. I must assure you again that I regard this as a splendid price for the job, showing at least 20 per cent clear profit on outlay. The greater part of the work in value consists of materials for which I hold definite quotations and contracts and the figures stand approximately as follows:

The whole of the metal work£3500
Railway Freights500
Cement, Stone, &c.   800

This sum will cover the whole cost of the bridge except the local work of putting together. The Tambo Bridge which we recently completed at Tambo was nearly double the length of this one, and the total local cost was only £1400. As you will see from the above, there is the sum of £3745 left available for all local work, wages, &c., so that even if the Koondrook local expenditure rose to £1700, which I do not think likely, there would still be fully £2000 of a margin unaccounted for, for supervision, contingencies and profit. I regard the job at this price not only as a safe one but as one with a handsome margin of profit. I reckon upon your getting this letter on your return from the North by the 10th or 11th instant, and will anxiously await your wire as to whether I should proceed with the work.

Two days later, JM wired again. Saddler, now in Sydney, told him to go ahead if he had to, but he would prefer to have the reasons for haste explained personally when he reached Melbourne.

In the meantime JM continued to organise. Haughtons were contacted for prices on "inferior timber for temporary works". M&A could get their own men to hew it, but wondered whether Mr Arbuthnot [at the Koondrook mill?] would be prepared to quote for this at a low rate. The materials required included round piles with a 14" head and a 10" toe, ranging from 35 to 27 feet long; walings and stringers; sawn sheeting; and barrow planking. He sent a rough list of metal parts to Ballarat, based on the first tender, so that Cowley could get an idea of prices from his suppliers. He also opened correspondence on technical matters with de Burgh, but the PWD engineer reminded him that M&A had not yet executed the contract. Pending appointment of an officer to Koondrook he was willing to receive letters from JM, but would hold on to them. "I shall be glad to hear from you when the documents are signed."

Monash noted in his diary for 13 February: "Saddler humbugging re Koondrook greatly disturbs me". There is an enigmatic entry for 19th: "Discovery re Koondrook finance misconception". The entry for 20th reads: "Interview Saddler re Koondrook. Evening at home working on Koondrook finance". It was obvious that Saddler was not coming to the party.

JM summarised the situation in a letter to his friend and solicitor, George Farlow, appealing to him to reach a compromise deal in the Fyansford case and thus release badly-needed capital to M&A.

The cursed bad luck which continues to cling to me has landed me in another unexpected and grave difficulty. You remember my having recently rejoiced at getting the Contract for a "large" bridge over the Murray. This contract is fraught with possibilities of financial returns which would go a long way to lift us out of our difficulties inside 12 months. I was operating with Saddler's cooperation, and on his express undertaking to finance the contract - in terms, to lend £700 for about 8 months, to enable me to secure a profit of at least £1500. At the eleventh hour he has declared his inability to find the money - has had heavy losses &c (I have no reason to disbelieve him - the fact itself is however told you in confidence). The result is to land me in the risk of losing the Contract with its prospective profit, and also incurring the damaging discredit of throwing up the job. I have therefore been most assiduously engaged in hunting up support elsewhere. I have been subjected at the hands of several people to much humbugging and delay - half promises, and withdrawals. I have great hopes of accomplishing my purpose tomorrow. I have been holding myself in momentary readiness to proceed to Sydney to sign and complete preliminaries since Monday, and everything has been contingent on the developments of hour to hour. The matter is very grave, and it entirely depends upon the character of any arrangement that I may succeed in making in this matter, whether I will be able to meet my engagements within a reasonable time or not. If I can continue with this Contract, I can make definite engagements based on weeks and months - if not, I will be entirely at the mercy of any pressure that may come upon me. I have been hoping against hope that you will have been able to take some action on my letter describing my interview with Cussen. If you can only bring about a rapprochement so that the whole or part of the £450 in Court and the £500 security is saved, I could by that means satisfy the most pressing claims - viz: the litigation incubus. All others can and will wait. I will advise you further how the matter progresses. Yours in haste, John Monash.

No doubt Saddler was, as Serle notes, "temporarily short of funds"; but an important factor must have been his judgement, later proved correct, that JM had underestimated the risks of the project.

A G Shaw steps in as financial backer.

JM's new hope was local contractor A G Shaw. An agreement signed 26 February 1903 states he had agreed to lend M&A £520 to cover the Deposit required by the PWD. This was on the following conditions:

  1. M&A to take Shaw in as a partner in this contract,
  2. Shaw to provide from time to time cash for working capital not exceeding £500,
  3. M&A to assign the £520 Deposit to Shaw as soon as possible,
  4. M&A to superintend the job and all Engineering,
  5. M&A to lend all available plant without hire,
  6. Nevertheless, an allowance to be made to M&A for legitimate wear and tear as might be arranged,
  7. Shaw to get interest at £6% per annum on money outstanding, and to credit M&A with interest received on the deposit,
  8. M&A to get £5 per week as salary for services,
  9. Shaw to have access to all partnership documents papers &c,
  10. M&A to procure such consents on the part of the NSW Government as might be necessary to place Shaw in the position of secured creditor for £520 and further advances,
  11. Profits on the contract, after paying all expenses to be divided equally between M&A and Shaw. Monash to procure Anderson's consent to this within one calendar month,
  12. "Agreement embodying preceding claims and such other claims and provision as may, in the opinion of Shaw or his solicitor be necessary for assuring him the position of a secured creditor in respect of the £520 and for advances, and the position of partner to the said contract and profits and also all such other documents as in Shaw's opinion or that of his Solicitor shall be necessary to make his legal priority unassailable, and give him the right at law to sue in his own name the New South Wales Government."

NSW PWD and M&A sign contract.

Monash's diary entry for 26 February 1903 records "Settle with Shaw. Leave for Sydney". The signing of the contract with the NSW PWD probably took place the next day. Monash took with him the Power of Attorney that Anderson had provided when he had moved to New Zealand in May 1902. This document enabled Monash to carry on the day-to-day business of M&A. It was duly stamped by the authorities in accordance with the Stamp Duties Act of NSW.

The M&A project file on Koondrook contains what is either a copy or draft of a document drawn up for Anderson to give his consent to the agreement with Shaw and to authorise JM "to execute on my behalf without further communication with me all such agreements and documents as the said A G Shaw may desire executed in accordance with Clause 12 …" The copy in the file, dated late August 1903, cites a J W Mackisack as witness but carries no signatures.

Events gather pace.

Monash was now informed that J Benyon A Reed, who would act as the NSW PWD's Resident Engineer on the project, would call at M&A's office in Melbourne on 9 March. He had previously been R.E. for the similar bridge at Cobram. JM went to Ballarat for a two-day conference with Cowley, then on to Koondrook on 12 March, to make his first visit to the town in connection with the project, arriving on the 6.30 p.m. train. He spent all next day with Reed at the bridge site and returned to Kerang with him to spend the evening in talks. The pair then went back to Ballarat for an evening conference with Cowley on 16th. It appears that JM's wife and daughter visited him at Koondrook between 14th and 16th.

Meanwhile, Gibson was building up supplies of cement for the foundations and piers of the bridge. M&A bought a barge for use on the Murray from the executors of the late John Cringhall, paying £10. A confusion over the words "hewn" and "sawn" in the PWD Specification was sorted out with de Burgh, who explained: "It is I know the practice to saw girders out of red gum where the trees are of very large girth, but in the case of Ironbark where the girders are usually made by squaring off a tree of about 20 inches diameter we would not take a sawn stick in which grain and heart might run close to the side of the girder in some places." He was pleased to learn that Allan Taylor & Co. would be supplying the timber, as his Department had found them very satisfactory.

In later letters de Burgh informed JM that "the plans and specifications of the Koondrook bridge have been forwarded to London" and that arrangements had been made to test the material to be supplied by David Colville & Sons of Motherwell, Scotland. He was relieved to find that M&A would be obtaining plates for the pier cylinders immediately, and that they were did not form "part of the Scotland order".

About this time, Monash finally realised that the City Engineer of Ballarat was resolutely opposed to the use of a Monier arch for his Grant Street Bridge project, and suggested to Cowley that they join in a tender for the steel version of the bridge, as designed by the City Engineer.

M&A commence work.

Repeat of engineering elevation with components labelled.

Thus, a full year after first responding to the PWD's advertisement, M&A were able to start work. The first task was to drive into the river bed the piles that would support the piers: 12 each at the "land" Piers (1 and 4), and 26 each at the "river" Piers (2 and 3). This work was to be done mainly from the barge. At Piers 1 and 4 a timber structure would be erected on top of the piles, to support the superstructure. At Piers 2 and 3, cofferdams in the form of rectangular boxes, 32 feet long and 9 feet wide internally, were to be temporarily erected to surround the tops of the piles. The cofferdams were to be formed by driving 9" × 5" planks vertically a short distance into the river bed, and joining them by horizontal timbers to make a reasonably watertight wall. The water could then be pumped out of the box so that the tops of the piles could be cut off just above the river bed, and concrete poured to form the pile caps. While this heavy work was in progress, Cowley would be steadily forming and assembling the metal parts required for the bridge.

Outline plan of cofferdam and pile cap. Each end of the pile cap, on which the cylinders will sit, is supported by 9 piles 3 by 3. The central portion has 8 piles 4 by 2.

Plan of a cofferdam (brown rectangle) for a river pier.
Layout of piles shown as light brown dots.
Outline of future concrete pile cap shown in green.

April 1903.

The Kerang Observer of 8 April reported the ceremony surrounding the driving of the first pile. A gala day had been declared, with a half holiday for schoolchildren. The Shire President, Councillor P J O'Donnell, officiated. Despite inclement weather, he and the Shire Secretary, Shire Engineer, Rate Collector, and Resident Engineer J B A Reed were taken by boat to the barge. Mr Reed made a speech, but his voice failed to reach the shore. The Shire President then released the weight ("monkey") on the pile-driver and the pile was driven 3 inches into the bed of the river. What the Observer called the "after-ceremony" could not take place at the Koondrook Hotel because of a local tragedy, so the party went to Reed's temporary office where "an almost historical tree stump was utilised as a forum". The Shire President apologised for the absence of Mr Monash; provided a history of the agitation for the bridge; and thanked all who had contributed, describing himself as one of the earliest. Others had been J M Chanter, President of the Barham Progress Association, Mr O'Sullivan, Mr McColl, Mr Cullen, and Mr Taverner. The President gave a technical description of the future bridge, then J F Mullen spoke on behalf of commercial and banking interests.

On 15 April, Monash paid a working visit to Koondrook, and on 21st went to Ballarat with Reed. On 28th he noted: "Much rush + a headache. Unsatisfactory Koondrook progress … Fyansford case settled".

Against Anderson's "fighting instincts", JM had decided not to risk an appeal to the Privy Council in London over payment for the Fyansford Bridge and, anxious for capital, had made the best deal he could with the Shires of Bannockburn and Corio.

May to December 1903.

Slow work.

There is little to report about progress at the bridge site for the remainder of 1903. The main task was the monotonous driving of piles into the river bed and driving the sheeting around them to form the cofferdams. The sheeting required cross-bracing and strutting. This work was seriously affected by the unusually high level of the river and for a long period was "practically at a standstill". Monash went to Koondrook on 26th May, staying several days and expressing concern about the first cofferdam at Pier 3. A diary entry in June shows he was again "very worried and anxious re coffer". In July, Monash was obliged to decline an invitation to visit Mansfield to see the site of the proposed Ford's Creek Bridge and discuss his tender. Instead, he went to Koondrook, staying with Reed and his wife at Kerang on the way back.

Questions arose over the quality of cement being delivered from David Mitchell's works; but NSW Government tests proved, in JM's words, "highly satisfactory from every point of view". At the end of October, local landowners objected to Christensen taking earth from the river bank. Monash was in Mansfield (at Bremner's Hotel) at the time, and M&A's clerk John McNaught decided to call on the Surveyor General to check that the firm had the necessary permission. He was told that the Minister of Lands had blocked action pending an investigation, so wired Christensen to halt excavation. Monash was not pleased, but accepted an explanation from McNaught of "how matters happened in their order". Work on the embankments was temporarily halted by the NSW PWD's indecision about the layout of the NSW approach to the bridge, but in September it announced it would stick to the original plans, and the way was clear for M&A to start embankment work in earnest.

Cash flow.

One of Reed's jobs as Resident Engineer was to authorise progress payments to M&A, as materials were delivered to site (and thus became the property of the NSW PWD) and as portions of the work were completed. Progress Payments are of critical importance to contractors, reducing the amount of capital they have to borrow to finance their work, enabling them to pay suppliers and subcontractors. The first two for Koondrook were sanctioned on 2 and 29 May for £597 and £679 respectively. Cowley, of course, was incurring expenses in the fabrication of the metalwork and was dependent on payments from M&A to pay for labour and materials. Monash was able to pay him two amounts of £100 in June. M&A's third progress payment, for £912, was authorised on 9 July and Cowley was sent a further £200 at the end of the month. Payment 4 was authorised on 18 August for £545 and No.5 on 22 September for £469. Monash passed £100 of this on to Cowley. The 6th payment was authorised on 20 October for £386-10-0 and the 7th on 30 November for £373. Of this, £100 went to Cowley at the end of December.

Thus, by the end of the year, M&A had received £3,961-10-0, but there had been heavy outgoings for the barge and other equipment, the site office (with its red gum framing!), timber for piles, sheeting, walings, etc, cement, freight for most materials, and wages for nine months. He had also passed at least £600 to Cowley.

The slow rate of work meant slow returns and increased Monash's financial difficulties as he strove to recover from the debt caused by the collapse of the King's Street Bridge in Bendigo, and the adverse decision in the Fyansford case. He was struggling to keep several simultaneous projects progressing despite a shortage of personnel trained and experienced in reinforced concrete. In August, he apologised to Gummow for delay in answering letters, but tried to put a good face on it.

"The week before last … I was at Koondrook, and without pause of more than a day … I had to go off to Mansfield, to start the works for a new bridge." During the previous few months M&A's financial position had greatly improved, but no proceeds in cash had yet become available, either from Koondrook or from the Pipe Factory. However, both these projects were "looking healthy and promising". "The Koondrook Bridge Contract is going on most smoothly and without hitch, the estimates of working cost being closely realized, and I have as yet no reason to vary from my original estimate of a net return of not less than £1800. Of this sum of course I have to yield up a portion to the capitalist who has assisted me in financing the Cash Security."

A further explanation followed at the end of the year. Returns from several of M&A's projects had been delayed and it was "a hard struggle to keep the various works in hand moving". Owing to the continued high water level in the Murray, work at Koondrook had been going very slowly and none of the prospective returns from the job had yet been realized. Fortunately, the pipe factory had been doing well, but "as Mr Mitchell is himself a creditor to the extent of £300, any dividend Anderson and I get will have to be applied partly to a reduction of his account also". JM sent Gummow £25 "which represents my month's draw for supervision of the Koondrook Bridge Contract under the partnership arrangements with the gentleman who is backing me in that job". He hoped to send £40 from Pipe Factory receipts within a week. When FMG responded sympathetically, JM declared he had no intention of forgetting his obligation and would meet it when he was able to do so. "My position is growing clearer gradually but it is a very hard struggle."


While Monash made regular visits to Koondrook, Reed was equally mobile. Housed in Kerang, he was well placed to exercise quality control over materials and workmanship both at the bridge site and at Cowley's Ironworks. He often extended these trips beyond Ballarat to call at Melbourne for meetings with Monash and, on occasion, Catani.

This made it possible for a strong friendship to develop between Reed and Monash. They lunched and dined together and stayed at each other's houses when in Melbourne or Kerang on business. JM's diary for 24th September records: "All evening at office. Into Australian Hotel at 11 and meet Reed + spend the night there". In November, JM gave Reed a letter of introduction to B H Gummow in Ballarat, introducing Reed as "associated with the Koondrook Bridge works" and "friendly with your brother in Sydney". The two made social visits to the suburb of Heidelberg, made famous by impressionist painters, and the bay-side resort of Queenscliff, also a base for militia camps.

The friendship does not appear to have affected Reed's pursuance of his duties. There are many memoranda in the files rejecting timber and metal components and much evidence of close scrutiny of work on site and at Cowley's. However, Reed perhaps provided more advice and took more initiative in the direction of work than was required by his role (meeting some resistance from Christensen in the process). He also provided Monash with an independent source of 'intelligence' regarding progress of the work. An instance is the following note to JM, written after Reed had visited Melbourne and Ballarat in July.

Nothing very fresh at Cowleys. He is not doing much in your line. Have arranged with him to let me know when he is ready to fill counter wts & will make a point of visiting straight away; but from what I can gather there is not much chance of getting them thro' for this month's voucher unless I delay it. All of the shoes but 3 are now cast and these will be done early next week. They will then go on with the rope wheels. Re rivets; he says they replaced the worst of them, but I fancy there is some mistake about it. Will be better able to speak definitely when I overhaul them thoroughly. At all events, I told him the defective ones must be cut out and replaced … Hope the little one is better."

January 1904.

Around the turn of the year, the foundation works were hit by more floods, but the Kerang Observer of 6 January noted that as the level fell, M&A were now "working with redoubled energy". Driftwood and debris left around the piles and timberwork had to be removed. This would be costly, and Christensen had been in Kerang for some days obtaining the heavy gear needed. A fresh line of defence would be built around the cofferdams, 4 feet outside the old one, and of sufficient height to keep out the water. The intermediate space would be filled with 'pug' (a sticky clayey material). The Observer noted the delay had been caused "not by the contractor's lack of foresight but by the exceptional height to which the river is this year risen".

The Murray had not quite finished with them. The next day Christensen telegraphed: "River too high all pile-driving stopped, is there much water to come down". Monash was out of town, possibly in Ballarat organising the start of work on the Stawell St Bridge. McNaught wired him: "There was a terrific thunderstorm in Melbourne last night, and a great deal of rain fell. Echuca registered 10 points, Shepparton 98 points; and it seems to have been pretty general".

Reed authorised the eighth progress payment, of £360, on 20 January. Two days later Christensen reported he had just completed all sheet piling, though two men were still patching up the joints. He had dumped 2 barge loads of 'puddle' [clay] but it was not yet showing above water. On 25th he wired: "River rose four inches last night. Mr Reed on the ground [i.e. on site] all serene".

February 1904 - Crisis in Pier 3 cofferdam.

On 2 February, as the newly-completed Pier 3 coffer was pumped out, Christensen reported that the pump was easily beating the inflow. As the river level upstream at Echuca was five feet below the previous flood level and falling, Monash told him to delay the dewatering, let the water levels balance, and concentrate on fixing the lower walings [horizontal timbers] to Piers 1 to 4 as soon as he had the chance. The next day the order was: "Put all effort into dewatering and concreting in the cofferdam". However, trouble was in store as leaks developed in the river bed within the coffer. On 5th, Christensen telegraphed: "Upstream leak giving great trouble propose covering with [corrugated?] iron". This was initially successful. Monash placed an urgent order for "lapped planks" of Oregon [Douglas Fir] 4" thick and 9" or more wide, with a 2" × 2" chase cut on each edge. On 8th he took the train to Kerang, and reached the bridge next morning. The Melbourne office wired daily reports on river levels upstream at Seymour, Shepparton, Albury, and Echuca. The Oregon went astray on the railways and took several days to reach Koondrook.

On 10 February, Reed called into M&A's Melbourne office accompanied by H H Dare of the NSW PWD. McNaught sent word to Monash that Reed would be visiting Ballarat, returning to Melbourne, then travelling north again to arrive in Koondrook on 13th. McNaught had explained to Mrs Monash why JM would probably be staying at the bridge until that date.

Meanwhile, Monash's financial situation had grown a little brighter, though he still had to ask the Bank of Australasia to extend the overdraft for another 12 months. He reminded them: "The security consists in greater part of a guarantee by Mr David Mitchell (who is our partner in the Monier pipe manufacture industry). We can arrange renewal of this. You are also no doubt aware that the litigation in which we had been involved for some three years past is now finally ended, and all liabilities relating thereto wholly extinguished, so that our operations are now entirely unembarrassed, except for our liability to the Bank".

The staff situation was not as satisfactory. Monash had had difficulty finding a foreman with sufficient experience to supervise the construction of his first T-girder reinforced concrete bridge, at Stawell Street in Ballarat. J T N Anderson's brother Jack, who had recently completed the Monier arch at Mansfield, had accepted the post and then declined it. After two other approaches had proved unsuccessful, JM had chosen an engineering assistant, H F Tisdall, who seems to have been young and/or inexperienced. Monash found himself trying to instruct and guide Tisdall by mail while grappling with his problems at Koondrook and supervising other projects. In the midst of this, word was received from Christensen's wife that their eldest daughter had contracted typhoid.

On 12th, JM sent a coded message to M&A: "Kangaroo staying here over Sunday" [14th]. The acknowledgement went on to give river levels: "Albury one nine Echuca three eight Shepparton twelve eight". It is possible that JM stayed until the 17th, when he alerted Cowley that Reed was heading for Ballarat that night.

Back in Melbourne on 20th, JM learned there had been another upward burst of sand from a hole in the base of the cofferdam. Water was now piping through the hole and had beaten the pump. He wired Reed: "Please advise after inspection if can be plugged by diver with concrete in bags". In his following letter, he wondered whether they had struck one of the PWD's exploratory bore holes that had gone through the clay layer now forming the floor of the coffer and into a sand drift. If so, it might be possible to plug it with bags - or even to place a vertical standpipe in the borehole. (He hoped this suggestion did not sound "stupid".) An alternative would be to dig further through the clay to reveal [and presumably plug] the drift. He was troubled because the plan area of the cofferdam was too large to consider forming an airlock to allow work under pressure. He told Reed: "I trust you will be able to advise a course to cope with this inrush".

Conscious of cash flow problems, JM also asked Reed for an advance of £200, as progress payments would not be forthcoming for a while. "However, as to this, I leave myself in your hands, asking you to do no more than you think you can fairly and safely do." He also made a point of asking Christensen's opinion on the problem.

In Ballarat, Tisdall was finding the going tough and appealed for advice. Monash declared himself puzzled by the slow rate of progress at Stawell Street. He himself was overwhelmed with arrears of work in the office, and disaster threatened at Koondrook, so that he might have to return there at short notice. If that happened, he told Tisdall, "regret it as I may and you may, your job will have to stop, the hands being paid off pending developments". On 22nd, he had to tell Christensen that he was stuck in Melbourne as a witness in the County Court. He would be in contempt if he returned to Koondrook before finalising his evidence. Then he would have to go to Stawell Street to supervise the casting of the T-beams. "I think, as I am beyond your reach you can safely place yourself in Mr Reed's hands for advice."

By this time, Reed had located two bursts in the bottom of the cofferdam and suggested blocking them with timber boxes filled with concrete. Monash told Christensen that he had asked Reed to "let us off with even less excavation than last decided".

On 26th, JM warned Tisdall to anticipate all questions that might arise in the next 10 days at Stawell Street, as he would probably be preoccupied with Koondrook. Around noon, Christensen sent the expected telegram asking for a diver and kit. Monash stayed up until 11.00 p.m. trying find one, but reported they were asking "exorbitant terms".

Regarding the slow rate of pile-driving, JM told Reed: "Am in communication with Christensen re putting a separate foreman in charge of pile driving. I have to be a bit careful on this point as C. is inclined to be rather touchy on such matters, and there is not room for any more than one star in his firmament." He was hopeful that Christensen was not neglecting pile driving in Pier 2, while grappling with the problems at Pier 3.

On Sunday 28th, JM finally announced he had found a diver, Chris Beyer, experienced in cofferdam work, whom Christensen might remember from Princes Bridge. Beyer had done most of the work at Prince's, Falls and Queen's Bridges and more recently at the Saltwater Bridge. His wages would be 30/- per day when diving, and 10/- per day when not - in which case he would do carpentry or any other work. He would arrive in Koondrook on the Monday night. JM would stay in Melbourne to arrange things in case Beyer decided he needed anything extra when he had sized up the situation in Koondrook.

Monash broached the subject of a pile-driving foreman by telling Christensen there was a need to show Reed some work going on in other areas than the cofferdam. This would help JM persuade Reed to authorise a further payment. He asked "Do you know of any good man to put in charge of the pile driving, while you are busy with the cofferdam? If so it would be a good thing to get hold of him."

March 1904.

On 1 March, Monash warned Tisdall he might be preoccupied at Koondrook over the next week and gave him advice on the setting of concrete and when to strip the formwork. The hold-up on Pier 3 at Koondrook had reduced M&A's cash flow. Cowley complained that payments received covered only one-third of the cost of material he had had to purchase. He wanted Monash to come to Ballarat for discussions, but JM was determined to stay at Koondrook until Sunday 6th. He told McNaught: "We have decided to take out excavation and put in concrete by diver. This is a slow and costly but absolutely certain method." River levels continued to fall: "Shepparton two eight Echuca two ten Seymour one four".

By 4th, the ninth progress payment had been certified at £405. The diver had cleared out all the clay sludge, bags, and timber from the bed of the cofferdam. He reported the clay was very hard and "gluey" and he had been laying bare the "natural surface". JM hoped they would be placing concrete on the 7th or 8th, assuming the revealed surface had been approved by Reed as suitable. Half the piles in Pier 2 had now been driven. At Pier 4, the upstream and downstream struts had been fitted. The river was still falling. Monash decided to stay through the night of 8th, at least. At Mitchell's cement works, Gibson was conducting tests on quick-hardening cement for use in the pile cap for Pier 3. McNaught informed JM that a Captain Hill had written asking for an explanation of his absence from most of the militia parades held in January.

The Kerang Observer of 6th reported that a group of leading residents had recently gone to see the bridge at Reed's invitation. The leaks in the cofferdam were attributed to a deeply buried tree trunk. They had been closed at considerable cost by a diver, with whose help the piles had been cut off below the level of the river bed. In the meantime, a large portion of the superstructure of the bridge had been assembled on the bank.

On 7th, the diver's outfit started leaking at the knees. JM had a replacement sent up on the midday train. The next day, Reed authorised an alteration to the Contract whereby, provided the exposed surface was judged satisfactory, excavation for the pile caps would be taken down only as far as Reduced Level 228.11 at Pier 2 and 232.11 at Pier 3. The original design had required them to go down to RL 224.11. The defences of Abutment A were changed from a rubble surround to sheathing and wing piles.

There was a delay in the supply of quick-setting cement while Gibson carried out tests. Christensen was reluctant to wait, claiming that if the normal cement on site were used it would be set before the special cement could arrive from Melbourne. JM no doubt agreed, but argued that it was necessary to humour Reed. On 11th, M&A sent a series of letters to Victorian Railway station masters along the route to Kerang, asking them to speed the consignment of special cement as it came through.

In didactic mode, JM sent several letters instructing Christensen how to save money on telegrams by choosing his words more wisely. On 11 March he expressed annoyance at the slow progress with the piling.

Dear Christensen, I was very wild indeed today, on getting your telegram saying that the pile driving was "at a standstill". I gather from this that no pile driving was done in Pier 2 since I left on Wednesday morning [9th], nor likely to be until Wilkinson [prospective pile driving foreman] arrives. This means a loss of four days of fine weather and low river - and is in the highest degree unfortunate from several points of view. Nothing could be worse for us than such a delay at this juncture, as it will delay the programme all along the line. I felt confident, when I left, that whatever obstacles occurred, you would at all hazards push on the pile driving so as to get a start with Pier 2 coffer. I am aware that it is hard on you to be short of good hands, but this is the most critical time of the job, and every day's avoidable delay makes matters worse. Now it will be well into next week before we can start Pier 2 coffer, and our chance of a low river is daily growing less. The hunting after quick setting cement, and engaging pile drivers has kept me so busy all the last two days, that I have not had time to attend to any other business. Surely a way could be found to keep the job moving. I am afraid as to what Mr Reed will say. I expect to see him tomorrow. I saw Wilkinson. He is not much to look at, but is quiet and may prove capable. It seems some time since he has done any pile driving. In Haste, John Monash.

The building and construction industry in Melbourne was busy at this time, and M&A had difficulty finding workmen willing to travel to the country. It is possible they were put off by rumours of Christensen's irascible nature. Frequent letters refer to workmen who applied to the Melbourne office, e.g. "Shan Fraser of Bruthen is not available, but his two brothers Donald and Charles are. One is the same stamp as Shan, the other is quiet, but might be a good worker." When M&A felt they could rely on the men, particularly skilled workers, they advanced them the train fare to Koondrook. However, the final decision regarding hiring was always left to Christensen. When the office was less certain, they would either check whether Christensen knew of the men, or would simply tell them to turn up at Koondrook and apply to him direct.

Monash applies for a further 6 months' extension.

On 11th March 1904, Monash applied to Reed for an extension of 6 months on the contract. He set out his reasons as follows:

However, there were positive aspects. A large portion of the metalwork, and practically all other materials were now on site. Pile driving and approach road work were almost complete. Progress would henceforth be practically independent of the river level and the weather.

Monash pointed out that if the PWD took its time to answer, and demanded the £30 per week liquidated damages for overtime, M&A would have cash flow problems. He asked Reed if he could waive the damages pending a reply.

On 12 March JM told Christensen that the quick setting cement was now on its way. It had to be got in place within 15 to 20 minutes of wetting. He had, however, received a "plaintive" letter from Reed who doubted the quality of the normal cement on site. "We are afraid he will give us some trouble over this cement and may require further tests." However, JM was confident of its quality - even of the hard lumps. He was annoyed that Christensen had again stopped pile driving, and concerned at the number of workers being paid when there was little real work going on. He warned that an "antarctic disturbance" approaching Victoria meant that the river might not remain low for long.

Another £50 was sent to Cowley, whose receipt carried a scribbled note at the bottom: "Really blocked and no word of Mr Reed". JM went up to Ballarat on 15th to see him, staying at Craig's Hotel that night, and returning to Melbourne on 17th. Reed was unable to accept JM's invitation to attend the meeting.

Excavation was at last completed in the problem cofferdam, and hurried placing of concrete started on 16th. A week later Reed authorised the tenth progress payment at £472. Monash urged his foreman, while "the anxious work at Pier 3" was going on, to drive piles and sheeting for Pier 2 "during every available moment". The main leak burst out again on Sunday 27th, but had little effect on progress. JM told Christensen that the heavy cost of concreting was "heartbreaking", asking if he had really needed to switch from a hand pump to a steam pump to cope with the leak. Steam pump and diver were together costing £10 per week.

As the pile cap neared completion, JM wrote a testimonial for David Mitchell, confirming that 'Emu' brand cement had been used at Koondrook. Forty-five casks had been lowered in buckets and deposited underwater at depths up to 15 ft. After only three days to set, the coffer had been pumped out, and the concrete found to be satisfactorily set, and "able to bear the full head of water". [This last phrase does not bear much scientific weight.]

April 1904 - Action moves to Pier 2.

Early in April, Monash warned Christensen he would be unavailable over Easter, attending military camp at the Heads (the entrance to Port Philip Bay, where the militia manned artillery emplacements). He suggested that sail cloth be wrapped around the exterior of the No.2 coffer to increase its watertightness.

Word came that the NSW PWD had granted only a 3 month extension of the deadline. Any further extension would be considered only "provided the whole of the circumstances at the expiration of that time justify it". Monash's recent complaints about slow progress had riled Christensen. The foreman had responded by casting aspersions on the efficacy of the Melbourne office, particularly over the quick-setting cement initiative. JM wrote to calm him down, attributing the idea to Reed. The four "towers" for the lift span were now ready for dispatch from Ballarat and Cowley was sent another £100.

The 8th April was the day on which Monash's efforts to make serious inroads into the building industry came to fruition. He announced triumphantly to Gummow: "After much effort and many disappointments, we are at last in hopes of being able to secure an order for reinforced concrete floors on a somewhat extensive scale". He was soon busy with detailed computations for the floors of the NMLA Offices in Ballarat.

The Kerang Observer of 9 April confirmed that the pile and concrete base for Pier 3 was complete by 31 March, and the base for the Barham pier [No.2] would be complete within a month. After this, work would be independent of the height of the river. Wrought iron cylinders would rest on the pile caps, attached to them by bolts and bars let into the concrete. The cylinders would then be filled to the top with concrete. The whole of the steel and iron work for one truss span was now at Koondrook and the rest was nearing completion at Ballarat. Some delay had been caused by difficulty in getting steel sections from Scotland that could not be produced in Australia. The tension rods for the trusses had been made at Ballarat in the presence of Mr Reed and sent to Sydney for testing. All were now on site, as was most of the timber for the trusses.

The massive cylinders are connected by arching cross-pieces.

Paired wrought iron cylinders in Cowley's works at Ballarat.
Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co Collection, University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/23839.

In a friendly letter to A G Shaw of 11 April, Monash provided his own summary of the state of play:

Reed v. Christensen.

Business had not been easy for Monash at this period. He had just finished battling further problems at the Stawell Street Bridge whose T-girders had required extra reinforcement by means of steel components laboriously threaded through the hardened concrete. The Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia had instituted a legal challenge to M&A's domination of reinforced concrete in Victoria. Now, to add to his difficulties, Reed complained about Christensen's attitude and demanded he be replaced. Their roles of Resident Engineer and Project Superintendent made conflict almost inevitable. Reed's task was to ensure the work was carried out to the highest quality in accordance with the PWD's specification. Christensen's task was to do the job at minimum cost consistent with maintaining M&A's reputation - to maximise profits or at least minimise losses. The situation at Koondrook was more complicated because Monash had relied upon Reed for advice and - preoccupied with other duties - had asked him to pass this on to Christensen directly. A Resident Engineer has the right to order a contractor to perform certain tasks, but in this case Reed's role seems to have spilled over to that of part-time Project Engineer for M&A.

Reed was now demanding that Christensen be replaced at the "earliest possible moment". Monash wrote in reply: "I can only look upon the trouble with Christensen as a crowning misfortune at the present juncture. It has upset me so much that I am having a severe attack of brain fag, and am hardly able to keep a clear mind for ordinary business in hand. Coming on top of a long absence from the office [Easter Camp?], this hits me at a particularly bad time. Dozens of petty matters and several of greater importance remain hung up while I am away, and it is a case of working one's way steadily through them, or else letting one's affairs become thoroughly demoralized. The important business of the early part of this week was a Patent Opposition Case, in which I am appearing, and which came on yesterday. It was not finished, and the Commissioner instead of going straight on today, must needs adjourn till tomorrow (Thursday) thus effectively breaking up the week." JM had hoped to have a really long talk with Reed, but had just received his wire that he would not be coming to Melbourne as planned. "The few hurried moments I had with you at Kerang, and the suddenness and unexpectedness of the news of Christensen's behaviour, left me helpless to do much clear thinking there and then." Changing a foreman was not as easy as Reed thought. The man he had in mind was already occupied. The operation of changing over would require Monash's undivided attention for a week or so. "While C. has by his foolish conduct probably made himself impossible on this job, he has been with us for nearly 10 years without a break, and one does not like to see a man turned adrift without another job to go to - especially in view of the fact that his foolish conduct in grossly offending you does not touch his undoubted loyalty to and honesty towards me." Another job was in the offing to which Christensen could be sent. JM continued for several pages to explain why keeping Christensen at Koondrook would be the lesser of two evils and asked if Reed could hold on and "allow things to go on as workably as possible" until he could come up. However, Reed was not to let Christensen know that he was marked for removal, "as an employee about to be dealt with in any such way, is often a very dangerous fellow". (Like all JM's letters to Reed, this was hand written.)

Monash then turned to cooling down Christensen, appealing to him to put the firm's interests before his own. "Since my return to Melbourne I have been very busy and I have also been shocked and grieved beyond measure to hear of the difficulty which has arisen on the works between you and Mr Reed. The latter both saw me at Kerang and has also written in the very strongest terms complaining bitterly that you grossly insulted him in the presence of workmen and strangers. It will be quite fruitless to discuss such a question by letter, and whether you are in the right or in the wrong you will undoubtedly agree that it is a most unfortunate thing for the job that this should have happened. Mr Reed has it in his power to make matters extremely unpleasant. He takes the view that in what he did he was endeavouring to assist our interests and he now says that so long as you are on the job, he will not stir a finger to help us. To put it in plain English, he intends to give us hell if you remain on the job.
"Now I do not take any man seriously when he is evidently angry, and my experience in these matters is that things can be better adjusted when people get cool. However, there is no shutting one's eyes to the fact that what has occurred is extremely serious.
"I am taking it for granted that you are prepared to sink all personal considerations and put your personal feelings in your pocket if it is to the interests of the job and ourselves.
"You must remember that Mr Reed will last only this one job, while we both hope to be on other jobs together in the future.
"If Mr Reed persists in his present attitude it will undoubtedly mean ruination on this job. I express no opinion at all, you will notice, as to your tact or judgement in the matter. If you are wrong there is no good blaming you, while if you are right there is no means of getting any redress. The only course open to me after very much thought is the following:
"I have written to Mr Reed practically hanging the matter up on the plea that I am very busy, which is largely true, but chiefly with the object of giving time for matters to cool down. This interval should give you an opportunity of endeavouring to smooth Mr Reed's anger over. You are the only one that can do this, as it is with you that he is angry. I think if you go the right way to work you could get him into a friendly frame of mind again and establish cordial relations. You should appeal to him on the ground of having worked so amicably with him for over twelve months during all the great difficulties of the work. I recommend you to entirely overlook such petty little things as the telegram you sent down. [From Reed to Christensen, which Christensen sent to M&A.] Such trifles are not worth sensible people quarrelling over. Keep me closely advised as to what occurs, and above all avoid in every possible way making matters any worse, even if Mr Reed makes himself immediately disagreeable to you. I will come up to the works at the earliest possible moment that I can get away, and if you have not by then succeeded in re-establishing cordial relations I will have to take the matter in hand and do the best I can. You must however, realise that [this] is a horse of quite another color to what occurred at Bruthen, as, in this case there is no appeal behind Mr Reed himself, and in the end matters will have to go in whatever way he decides."

The last sentence refers to the Tambo River Bridge project in which Monash was able to solve disputes between Christensen and Victorian PWD officers by going over their heads to appeal to Chief Engineer Catani.

On 13 April Monash had to apologise to his bank for failing to provide for the half-yearly interest due on his overdraft. "Within the next 8 or 10 days we expect the final payment from a contract at Ballaarat [Stawell St Bridge], also proceeds from a progress payment from our Koondrook Contract." These would bring the account back within the limit.

The following week Monash had to rebuke Christensen again for casting aspersions on the efficacy of head office in getting some urgently needed 4" pipes cut. "We are anxious that no ill-feeling should arise at a time when you have such critical works in hand, and are so busily occupied. We must say, however, that we object to the tone you adopt in discussing ordinary business matters … To say that you are sure any firm in Melbourne could have cut and supplied these pipes in less than one day, in the face of our telling you that we could not get them done in under two days, amounts to telling us either that we are not telling the truth, or that we do not understand our business. Such a remark is only calculated to cause irritation. As to our consulting Mr Reed: this was wholly a consequence of your having failed to give us the slightest indication what these pipes were required for … Our determination to send up 4 pieces of piping instead of 8 was arrived at quite independent of Mr Reed. As we are the persons who have to pay for the plant which you ask for from time to time, you will kindly allow us also to have an opinion on the matter. However, in this case it was not the question of expense, but the question of time, as we knew very well that the pipes would be required probably by Saturday. Does it not strike you that we have good reason to complain at such a matter being left to the last moment and then the requisition sent forward in such an indefinite form?" With a week's notice pipes could have been obtained second-hand. Also Christensen had asked for couplings when he meant sockets. The office had foreseen this. "As you have expressed yourself in very strong terms in the matter, we do not hesitate to do so either, but we hope that this will be the end of the matter."

In mid-April Reed authorised the eleventh progress payment at £649. Meanwhile, the problem of finding skilled men for the bridge work continued. JM commented in a letter to Reed: "The genus carpenter seems to be extinct in Victoria".

At this stage, Christensen became aware that Reed was paying closer attention to the concreting in Pier 2 than he had in Pier 3. Monash reassured the foreman that there had been no specific complaint. It was probably that work on Pier 3 had been rushed - and Reed, like M&A, had wanted it placed quickly. However, JM himself was disconcerted by Reed's insistence on inspecting all cement in the factory in Richmond before it was consigned to Koondrook. (This may have caused delays, because consignments could not be forwarded until Reed had found time to visit Melbourne and inspect them.)

On 22nd April Monash left Melbourne to make a hydraulic survey for the Lower Murrumbidgee River Locking League, heading for Swan Hill and Balranald. He took the opportunity of his visit to Koondrook to appeal to Reed to release more payments, saying that he was "carrying" £1900 owing to slow payments. The office sent Cowley £100. He replied: "This cheque is of course very welcome but it does not satisfy. We expect you to send along before this month is out a very substantial cheque according to your promise and we must have prompt payment or we will get into serious trouble".

The dolphin is like a tripod, with 3 sloping timber piles joined at the top.The second tier of the concrete pour for the Pier 2 pile cap was completed on 23 April. In the next few days Christensen reported that he had the top walings fixed on Pier 4 and had started driving piles for the dolphins - groups of three piles that would guide barges through the waterway between Piers 2 and 3. He had completed felling and clearing trees on the Victorian side and was now busy lifting the temporary staging into position. He had let the contract for carting the towers for £6-0-0 to a Mr Stevens on condition that M&A workers helped unload them, and had just taken delivery of one tower. Fifteen men were working. The river level was just over one foot below summer level.

On 28th, the NSW PWD wrote to M&A to point out that the contract time had expired, and to urge "all possible speed". The Kerang Observer noted that work was proceeding rapidly, that both cofferdams were complete, and the improved method adopted in building the second cofferdam had very materially expedited the work.

Meanwhile, Monash had spent time at Balranald conferring with the local sub-committee of the River Locking League. From 25 April to 7 May he spent much time in the field, between Yanga and Nap Nap "inspecting river frontages, taking levels and making surveys". This prevented him from picking up mail, and halfway through he told his wife by telegram: "No communication yet received. Work about half finished. Doing very well. Address continues Balranald".

May 1904 - Action moves to the superstructure.

In May attention focussed on preparing for the superstructure. Progress was rapid. The walings were completed on Pier 4. Installation of the corbels commenced. These came in three similar sizes: 13" × 12", 12" × 12", and 10" × 12". It is not surprising that the workers got them mixed up. A barrow-road was erected connecting the Koondrook shore to the piers so that concrete could be wheeled out to fill the wrought iron cylinders. Christensen planned to have the filling completed by 20th. Driving of piles for the four dolphins (two upstream, two downstream) continued steadily. The river was now below mean Summer Level, and 12 men were working. Reed cautioned that ironwork intended for the bridge was not to be pressed into service for temporary works.

Sketch showing the temporary staging stretching from the Victorian bank to the Pier 3 cofferdam.

M&A's drawing of March 1903 showed the main feature of the temporary works as a deck on which the truss could be assembled. On the Victorian side, the deck was to be supported on Piers 3 and 4 and on five temporary trestles (here seen edge on). The trestles would also support a barrow road to allow concrete mixed on shore to be wheeled to Pier 3 and placed in the cofferdam to form the pile cap. (Piles not shown.) The upper deck could also be used for transporting concrete to fill the metal cylinders.
[Above figure based on a drawing in JTC.]

The same drawing shows a plan to connect Piers 3 and 2 by means of a deck supported on M&A's barge. Correspondence in June 1904 suggests this plan was abandoned in favour of installing the lift span between Piers 3 and 2 to allow work to proceed on the NSW truss span.

On 4 May Monash wired the office: "Arrived here [Balranald]. Am again in touch. Probably home Saturday night [7th]." McNaught replied: "Mrs M and Gibson have been informed".

The 12th progress payment of £1048-10-0 was authorised on 10 May. Monash made Cowley wait a week or two, telling him that M&A had been "shamefully treated" in regard to progress payments; then sent him £400. JM travelled back to Koondrook on 18th. His request to know the levels of government Bench Marks in the vicinity of the bridge was handled by H H Dare who said he looked forward to meeting JM when he next visited Sydney.

All work at Koondrook liable to be affected by river level was now complete, but it was sometimes interrupted, waiting for Reed to approve its quality on one of his now rare visits to site. JM told Christensen to record the dates of these visits "as something may depend on this later on". All the metal work had been prepared in Ballarat, and half had been delivered to Koondrook. Reed may have been preoccupied with hurrying the remaining work at Cowley's factory and trying to avoid hold-ups during its future assembly on site. He insisting on seeing the upper system of the Lift Span pre-assembled in the workshop before allowing it to be sent forward. (This policy was only partially successful.)

June 1904.

Monash may have suspected there was another reason for Reed's long absences from site. He wrote to Christensen: "We are not able to gather from your recent letters whether the position with Mr Reed is all serene. In view of his recent attitude we are very anxious to know from time to time how you are getting on with him." However, Reed was definitely concerned about the rate of progress in the factory and on site. With the river on the rise again, he wrote to M&A:

I have to draw your attention to the delay in the completion of the ironwork for this Bridge. As I understand, the balance of the material is now to hand [in Ballarat] from Scotland. I cannot see any reason why the work is not being completed more rapidly. Unless the balance of the work is sent forward very soon, serious delay will be caused in the erection of the Bridge and, as you understand, the question of full extension of time applied for is to be considered at a later period. I fear this delay will militate against the granting of same. The work of erection at site is not proceeding as satisfactorily as I anticipated it would after your last visit. No carpenters are at work and only 6 labourers and 2 boys employed. Surely your representative can manage to keep more men than these going. At present rate of progress I do not see the slightest hope of completing the work within the extension applied for. Owing to the rapid rise of the river the painting of cylinders cannot be completed. Arrangements re this will require to be made later.

Monash's formal reply was that Cowley was held up awaiting delivery of parts from Scotland and had been slow in assembling the upper parts of the Lift System. However, in an unofficial letter, he told Reed he was "quite alive to the problems with Cowley", but thought he (JM) had "stirred him up". Regarding progress at site, M&A had lost four carpenters recently: two with poisoned hands, one "gone on a spree", and one obliged to come home on business. It was not easy to find replacements. JM had the Labour Bureau and every Labor Office in Melbourne on the job, but most who presented were not real tradesmen, or owned no tools. After asking Reed's opinion on several technical matters, JM ended by hoping he would not let their differences over the contract affect their friendship.

Monash's note to Christensen took a different tack. "We have received a long grumbly official letter from Mr R". He quoted relevant extracts and asked for the foreman's comments. In a later letter JM explained that he was worried about cost overruns on top of those incurred with the cofferdams. The cost of supervision was already over budget.

On 8 June, Reed authorised the thirteenth progress payment, of £242.

The number of accident claims on the job became a serious worry, and Monash warned Christensen that M&A risked getting a bad name with insurers. The problem of finding carpenters was getting really serious. Did Christensen consider that they should be offered higher wages? There was plenty of work "on shore" for them, and this should be pushed ahead at all costs. Men were still claiming to be qualified tradesmen when they were not, accepting train fares from M&A's Melbourne office, then failing to turn up in Koondrook, or arriving and finding work elsewhere in the locality. The position was rendered more difficult by Christensen's failure to notify head office whether men sent up had actually reported for work or not.

On 19 June, JM felt sufficiently confident financially to promise Gummow that he would soon be able to pay all or most of "the long outstanding balance of the Monier Royalties" owed to him, but this was mainly due to a dividend from the Pipe Factory.

Attention now focussed on Cowley. Monash sent him £250 near the end of June, but told him that delays in the delivery of metalwork were having serious consequences. JM had had "floating plant" with several skilled sailormen standing by for over a fortnight, unable to work. The delay had changed Reed's attitude towards M&A, and he was now restricting payments. At the same time, JM pressed Reed for a large progress payment so he could give Cowley some encouragement. Payment No.14 for £684-10-0 duly arrived, permitting the despatch of a further £350 to Cowley.

However, Reed reminded JM: "I would be glad of a reply to my communication of the 3rd ult re unsatisfactory progress of this work and would point out that the extension of time granted (3 months) expires on the 30th inst. Kindly urge Cowley to expedite the construction of the lift span, so that work at the NSW truss span can be proceeded with." The PWD weighed in with a similar message: "It is reported that the progress being made with the manufacture of the Ironwork is not at all satisfactory … it is desired that you expedite the work, and your attention is directed to the conditions of Contract as regards the penalties accruing for delay."

In the meantime, JM informed Christensen that standards for the handrails would be welded to the Lift Span girders in the workshop, presumably to ensure better quality and obviate the need to send a welder to Koondrook. This meant it would be essential to avoid road transport from wharf to bridge because of the risk of damage to the standards. Also, transport by barge would mean that only two lifts would be necessary - from wharf to barge and from barge to bridge. "In view of this it will be necessary for you to avail yourself of the very first opportunity that occurs to have the barge towed up to the wharf. We expect the Lift Span girders to arrive at Koondrook wharf by Wednesday next (15th inst) and even though it may involve holding over other work at the bridge for which you may desire to use the barge, it will be necessary to make use of the first passing steamer to take her up to the wharf."

Labour problems continued throughout June. A stone breaker, A T Moore, wrote to Melbourne office expressing a grievance against Christensen. JM forwarded his letter to the foreman. Carpenter Barry called in to the office and "made a great row about what he chose to call the way he was treated on the works". Monash continued: "We would take no notice of this, except for some vague threat which he uttered that we would hear more about it from him. He said that he was being constantly blackguarded for trivial matters, and that men who had spent a lot of money and trouble to get to the job were sacked for trivial causes, and soon there would be no men left on the job. Under these circumstances we thought it wise to let you know what he said, and to ask you while the matter is fresh in your memory to send us a statement for record of the circumstances under which this man left, in case he tries to take action. At the same time we trust you have as many carpenters as you require left with you." A new distraction was appeals from wives asking M&A to divert money from their husbands earnings, or even to provide an advance. Monash had again to refer to the "tone" of Christensen's letters, and told him he was wrong about the "minor matters" of which he complained because he did not read M&A's memos carefully.

July 1904.

On 13 July, Monash put in his appeal for the additional 3 months' extension of deadline, blaming the delay on slow delivery of metalwork from Scotland. On the positive side, the Victorian truss spans had now been erected. The towers, the upper system of the lift span, and the machinery, were completely erected except for the rope gear. This was now being installed. The remainder of the metalwork was almost ready in Ballarat.

A hitch occurred when it was found, despite Reed's precautions, that a large spur wheel on the main shaft of the lifting gear was about 1¼ inches out of alignment, and two rope wheels on the Victorian side were "wrong end round on their shafts". Cowley offered to come up to fix the problems, but Christensen managed to do it himself.

In mid-July, JM told Reed that he would be coming to Koondrook and that "Mrs M has been persuaded to accompany me". The decking of the span on the Victorian side was now complete. The lift machinery was on site, and once it was installed the decking of the New South Wales spans could be completed. On 28th JM sent Cowley a further £50 to "help push matters along", pointing out once again that Cowley's slowness was delaying progress. He noted that the £2300 Cowley had received from M&A was more than they had yet received from NSW. He promised another £300-400 after the next progress payment. Cowley replied that he had "expected more" than the £50, but all matters (mainly concerning quality of work) were receiving attention and a further consignment would be leaving next day.

August 1904.

Approval of the additional 3 months' extension came early in August. In the meantime, Monash had given Christensen a fright by telling him that penalties had commenced at £30 per week. He told Reed: "I feel I am greatly indebted to your friendly cooperation in this matter." The 15th progress payment was authorised at £1147.

A carpenter named Strang called at the Melbourne office and, according to Monash, "made bitter complaints of the manner in which he had been treated, and the circumstances under which he left the work". JM told Christensen: "Of course, as we have always done we declined to step in between you and the men and insist upon your having a free hand, but these complaints are getting very monotonous, and it is to be regretted that you should lose the use of a good man just at the time when you want him so badly." The office would do its best to find a replacement, but Christensen would know how hard it was.

Reed sent word that the winch delivered from Cowley's would have to be modified.

All pinions and spur wheels should have been attached to shafts with keys fitted to key seats in both shafts, pinions and spur wheels, whereas the shafts were only flattened for keys. This escaped my observation at the works. The pinion E is faulty in the casting and has been bored too large for the shaft, the consequence being that it has considerable movement on the shaft. I have had it fixed temporarily so as not to interfere with the working of the lift span but a new one (E) must be supplied. To ensure a good fit it would be as well to send it to Kerang in the rough so that I can get it bored to fit the shaft accurately. As to the cause of this trouble I attribute it primarily to undue strain being put on the gearing while lifting and lowering the unbalanced span. Flatted keyways are - as you will know - used on machinery having far heavier and more important work than this winch has to do. The chafing brackets for rope wheels, I have also had to get altered owing to distance from face brackets (where attached to web plates) to ropes being incorrect. The holes for attachment are likewise bored in wrong positions and have to be re-bored.

In the middle of August Monash was told that the 15th progress payment (£1147) was being delayed because NSW was waiting for Victoria's contribution. He appealed to the PWD to advance the NSW half of the due amount, to enable M&A to continue working. He warned Christensen that he might have difficulty filling the next pay packets. It took the PWD about a week to get permission from the NSW Treasury to make an advance of £500.

Now that Cowley's part of the job was coming to a close, it was time to sort out the details of what had been done and what should be paid for. Monash went to Kerang for a conference on the matter with Reed. Cowley was making a total claim of £3325-8-3, less £2304-14-5 received, leaving a balance of £1020-13-10 owing to him. He also claimed 'extras' amounting to £31-14-1.

Monash prepared a document summarising the weights of metalwork as recorded by Cowley, M&A and the Government; which figures were agreed and which disputed; and then the amount "probably to be paid on". His own figures are based on minutely detailed lists of components that he wrote out by hand. They cover many foolscap pages and must have taken days to prepare. It seems that Cowley ignored them.

On 23rd August M&A acknowledged receipt of the £500 payment from NSW. Of this, £250 was sent on to Cowley. Monash now decided to find out what had happened to the Victorian portion of Progress Payment 15. As he told Reed,

I thought it about time to take a hand in the matter, so by the help of a friend of mine (who is in the Cabinet) I got information at first hand, to the effect that the last Victorian contribution of £1103[?] had been promptly sent over on July 4, as soon as asked for, and that no requisition for a further contribution had yet been received by the Minister for Public Works. We then went off to the Premier's office, and there found that the requisition had only just come through. The letter from the NSW Premier, which I saw, bore date Aug 20th; there was not a word in it to indicate that it was in any way urgent, and but for my intervention would have gone through the usual slow routine … On Aug 10th when the NSW Treasury told my bank that they were "waiting for the Victorian contribution", this contribution had not yet been asked for.

Near the end of the month, the NSW PWD decided that the £500 advance should constitute the 15th progress payment, rather than the £1147 authorised by Reed. He therefore wrote a voucher for a 16th payment of £1246, which included the £647 left over from the previous one, plus £599 for work done since. A few days later, while staying at Monash's home in East Melbourne (the "Bungalow"), he received orders to forward a voucher for £580 to Sydney urgently. Monash wrote to the PWD thanking them for the £500, but pointing out that £1246 was now owing. The delay in payments had caused embarrassment and inconvenience to M&A who had entered on commitments to pay others when the original voucher had been issued. The PWD Under-Secretary, J Davis, replied that the figure for the 16th payment had now been set at £1000 and future payments would be "expedited as far as possible." The reduced figure came through within a matter of days, and Reed promised to chase up the remaining £246.

With the bridge nearing completion, the Resident Engineer twice warned M&A not to allow a member of the public to make the first crossing before it had been officially opened. Monash told Christensen: "Mr Reed again says most emphatically that all vehicular and stock traffic attempting to cross the bridge is to be rigidly warned off … We asked him what is to be done in the case of personal friends, such as Mr Mullen, Dr Simon, or such people, and he said the same prohibition would apply to everybody, and particularly to Koondrook & Barham people." JM enclosed a copy of Reed's letter so that Christensen could show it to people - "to protect yourself from any ill-feeling this may cause".

Difficulties with labour continued. Two men sent from Melbourne failed to turn up. Another, already on site, was "off on a drunk". The good news was that a reliable and sober fitter had been found to help assemble the lifting gear.

September 1904.

As the contract moved towards its conclusion, Monash's attention to minor detail is even more in evidence. A letter to Cowley concerning items consigned by rail and gone missing gives him detailed instructions on how to describe them to the railway authorities for tracing. Letters to Christensen are filled with minutiae concerning components for the bridge. The burden of this and other projects may have affected his health. He told Christensen on 19 September that he had been ill for the past few days, and unable to attend to business. On 30th, he told Reed. "It is quite true that I have not been very well lately, I have had symptoms which may betoken mental overstrain or may be merely liver. It was nothing really serious, but while it lasted it unfitted me for active work. I feel now much better."

On 22nd JM wrote a confidential letter to Christensen emphasising his concern over costs. "As the end of the job approaches it is becoming daily more evident that there is going to be a considerable loss. The cost of labor has already exceeded the estimate by over £600; and this is without the cost of supervision." He appealed to Christensen to wrap up the project. The main bridge work was almost finished. There was little else left to do except the handrailing for the bridge and its approaches, the spreading of metal, and a little painting. "Every week is adding standing charges … I sincerely hope that the next pay will not exceed £50 … Please do your best to rush the main bridge work to a final completion, including all trimming up of piers 1 and 4 and similar odds and ends."

Monash asked the PWD via Reed for permission to fix a small plate to the bridge reading: "Erected by Monash & Anderson". The Under-Secretary replied: "I have the honor to inform you the Minister regrets your request cannot be acceded to. I have the honor to be, Gentlemen, Your obedient Servant."

Saddler pressed for the return of his loan. JM apologised that he was "in a position of some little difficulty" which he blamed on the "extraordinary difficulty" of getting proper progress payments from the NSW PWD. At the end of the month Reed certified the 17th progress payment at £330.

The opening.

Attention now moved to the official opening of the bridge, with the date set at 8 October 1904. Reed emphasised that this would not be "in any way tantamount to the taking over of the work" by the Government. Monash declined an invitation for his wife to attend the ceremony. "It is unlikely that Mrs M. will come up with me as she has several more attractive social engagements in Melbourne just about that time. Besides this, Bert is not very well, having lately developed a rheumatic tendency, and her mother does not like the idea of leaving her for several days in the hands of strangers."

Christensen had been instructed to remove some of the deck planks every time the bridge was left unattended but, before the end of September, a Mrs Eagle somehow managed to make an unofficial crossing. At Reed's request, JM planned to arrive at the works early on Friday 7th and remain there until the Sunday.

The Kerang Observer of 8 October gave prior details of that day's gala ceremony. A special train would leave Bendigo at 8.00 a.m. bringing parliamentary visitors under J. H. McColl, MHR, and John Cullen MLA. The Federal government would be represented by the Hon Sydney Smith, Post Master General, Sir John Forrest and J. M. Chanter, J. Fuller, J. MacWilliams, W. Tudor, W. H. Wilks, all MHRs. The State government would be represented by the Hon E. H. Cameron, Minister for Public Works (Victoria), Thomas Langdon, G. H. Bennett, J. H. Boyd, E Cameron, G A Elmslie, G. M. Prendergast, A. R. Robertson, D. Smith, MLAs and Mr Watson, Clerk of Parliament. The party would be taken to lunch on arrival at Kerang. They would then travel by train to Koondrook, where the steamer Rothbury would take them downstream from the wharf, to go under the bridge and then disembark. They would then proceed to a banquet in a marquee on the Victorian side of the river. The Observer's account continues into the afternoon …

View along the bridge, through the lift span. The lift span is raised, with 4 men posing on it. A crowd of dignitaries is spread across the end of the truss span.

Crowd assembled for the opening ceremony.
Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co Collection
University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/23843.

A photograph of the ceremony shows the lift span in the raised position, ridden by four workmen. According to the Kerang New Times it had been raised to allow a steamer to pass. When the deck was again lowered the spectators, perhaps competing to be first across, surged forward and jumped onto it just before it came to rest and was still suspended from the cables. This threw unforeseen load onto the 4 foot diameter wheels at the top of the towers, causing one of them to break. The lift span was immobilised, blocking river traffic.

Monash sent an urgent message to Cowley emphasising that the accident came at the height of the season for movement of wood and wool on the river. He asked Cowley to get another wheel cast immediately. Letters were sent to the Riverina Herald and Swan Hill Guardian to publish the fact that river traffic would be blocked for the next week.

Well before the opening, G Adams [editor?] had written asking M&A to assist with the preparation of a Bridge Supplement to the Kerang New Times. He wanted information about the firm and the Monier system, and photographs of the partners. M&A replied that they would be pleased to assist "in every way", but "as our Mr Anderson is absent in Dunedin, and as we have no photo of him by us, we fear this must lapse". They continued: "As to Mr Monash, the only recent photo of himself which he has is a bust in uniform, but perhaps this will not be an objection". The copiously illustrated Supplement, published with the Times on 11 October is of considerable value to the history of the bridge project. It includes a two-page feature on the "Barham-Koondrook Bridge", and articles on the "History of the Movement", the "The Best Stock Route from the North", "The Importance of Kerang as a Stock Market", a "Description of the Bridge", a "Technical Description of the Bridge" It also has articles on "The Contractors" and "The Resident Engineer".

After his return to Melbourne, Monash wrote to station masters along the railway line to Bendigo, saying that on his way up on 6th, stretching his legs on the platforms of various stations, he had lost "a small black leather ticket case containing tram tickets, postage stamps, small photo of a little girl and the return half of ticket 1823 issued at Spencer St on 6th from Melbourne to Kerang". The letters were sent to Castlemaine, Digger's Rest, Chewton, Sunbury, and Kyneton. He also wrote to the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo, saying that on his way back to Melbourne on 9th and 10th he had lost a small black notebook "either in the Smoking room downstairs or in bedroom No.19".

Hand over.

Monash sent Cowley another £200, commenting that getting money from NSW was like getting blood from a stone. When the broken spur wheel was examined, it was found to contain a blow-hole formed during casting. In a letter to Reed, JM argued that the hole was not sufficiently large to have caused the collapse, which had been due to the actions of the public. Further, at the time of the accident, the bridge had been declared open by the Minister, and M&A had no power to keep the public off. In agreeing that the bridge be opened to traffic before being officially taken over by the PWD, M&A had absolved themselves from liability in regard to any accident beyond their control. Furthermore, the wheel had been designed for the relatively light work of raising the unloaded lift span. Using "the method in Unwin", JM had calculated its ultimate strength at 5 tons, so that with a factor of safety of 5, it should not be expected to carry more than 1 ton. The load imposed with the crowd on the deck would have been about 10 tons.

Monash was anxious to have M&A relieved of responsibility for operating the lift span and regulating river and road traffic, as soon as work was completed to Reed's satisfaction. The Resident Engineer again stepped in as part-time superintendent, telling Christensen that the new spur wheel would arrive from Ballarat on Friday evening's train (14th). Reed thought it would be dangerous for the fitter to work on the winch platform in the prevailing weather, so had arranged for him to go out by the tram on the Saturday morning. He told Christensen: "You might therefore arrange for whatever assistance will be required by the fitter, as even if wet he will of course work right thro' until he finishes." The Kerang New Times reported on 18th that the bridge had been fixed. Although steamers had been held up, it had been possible to slip barges underneath the bridge. Steamers upstream and downstream of the structure had thus been able to keep some traffic moving.

M&A's labour problems were not finished yet. One of the men, "after working steadily and satisfactorily for some weeks", "suddenly took to drink, and after a very severe drinking bout, altogether disappeared". The police had found his clothes on the river bank. Christensen had failed to dispense with the services of the young clerk, as instructed, and had not sent his usual progress reports. Monash was gaining the impression that the job was paralysed. He warned Christensen that Reed would "keep fiddling on" with finishing touches if allowed.

It is not surprising that the foreman was reluctant to bring work to an end. JM had told him that there were no forthcoming projects to which M&A could appoint him. Christensen and his wife were separated and she had been claiming advances on his pay from M&A's Melbourne office. Monash wrote that he did not want to involve himself further in the matter. He told Christensen: "As Mrs C seems to regard her fortnightly advances as permanent, I have been compelled to let her know that these advances will of course have to cease whenever the Koondrook job comes to an end, and pending there being further work in hand."

The bridge was officially taken over by the PWD on 29 October 1904. The Pay Voucher issued for the Final Return contained the following summary:

Amount of Original Contract£10345-17-2
Deductions as per statement attached349-13-8
Extras …  276-15-7
sub total10272-19-1
progress payments  9645-0-0
Final Payment627-19-1

M&A's security deposit was returned by the PWD on 22 November.


On 7 November Monash wrote to tell Christensen to finish up, to send any useful material to Melbourne, and to appoint someone in the locality to sell the remaining items. "After this, we presume you will return to Melbourne although, beyond a few days work in fixing up our depot at Burnley, we have no work in immediate prospect for you here. We mention this merely for your guidance, and to let you know, that in case you have any business of your own to attend to, either locally or on the route to Melbourne, there is no immediate hurry for your turning up here for a few days. At the same time, please keep us advised as to your movements as something might turn up any day."

Christensen tarried in Koondrook for a few days, trying to sell surplus timber, but Monash pointed out that the wages he would expect would eat a big hole in whatever money he managed to obtain. By 19th November, he was no longer employed by M&A. On 28th, JM told Mrs Christensen that her husband had given him £2 to pass on to her. Shortly after he wrote a reference for him, addressed to Waring & Brown, Port Adelaide, saying that M&A were not likely to have big jobs for him in the near future. JM had known him for 20 years in responsible capacities in all the large bridge works over the Yarra including Princes Bridge, Falls Bridge, and Queen's Bridge. He had been in M&A's employ for the past 10 years. His work had included aerial tramways, mining, and the Koondrook Bridge, just completed at £10,500, for which he had had sole local responsibility for supervision and direction of work and also local financial responsibility. He was by trade a ship's carpenter, but had done every form of building construction, including concrete, masonry and brickwork, and erection of ironwork. He was particularly capable with pile driving, floating plant, and steam plant.

As the workforce dispersed, Monash provided references for many of them. That for Donald Fraser (31 October) said he had been in the employ of M&A for upwards of 7 months on the Barham-Koondrook Bridge. He was by trade a bridge carpenter and pile driver. He had been in charge of the greater portion of the pile driving and acted as leading hand in connection with the general erection of the bridge. He was a first class all round contractor's man, thoroughly steady and reliable, and well qualified to act as foreman or leading hand in general works construction. His brother Charles Fraser received a similar reference saying he was well qualified to carry out all classes of work requiring a knowledge of gear, steam and otherwise, tackle and floating plant. E Brodribb, a carpenter on the bridge was described as a "thoroughly competent tradesman chiefly on the superstructure and the light timberwork requiring careful fitting and good finish".

A few days after the bridge was handed over to the PWD, J B A Reed announced he had been granted a month's leave. Monash sent "kindest regards" to Mrs Reed and Bob. "Do please let me hear from you from time to time, and do not hesitate to command me in anything I can possibly do for you at this end of the continent." In December, Gummow told JM: "We have Mr Reed over our Bridge at Singleton. He said he had finished up your bridge at Koondrook. He seemed very pleased with the ironwork." In February 1905, Monash wrote to ask Reed's advice on the sinking of foundations for a proposed lighthouse, knowing "no-one more qualified" than he. JM mentioned that he had been in Sydney recently, and had had no time to see Dare at the PWD; but saw Davies, Wade, de Burgh, Hanna and several other of the Officers "among whom I had a real good time". In March, JM wrote to Reed care of the Bridge Works, Singleton NSW, trusting "that you will not find it difficult to live up to the dignity of your clerical surroundings".

Settlement with A G Shaw.

Monash made at least two payments to A G Shaw in partial return of the capital he had advanced. These were £250 on 29 November 1904, and £250 on 1 February 1905, when JM commented that it was taking time to square up Koondrook, owing to Departmental delays and difficuties in settling the metalwork contract with Cowley. There was then a gap (according to our notes) until 18 August, when JM wrote: "I am of course aware that you must be surprised at my not seeing you before about the Koondrook job, but I have had regarding it a great amount of trouble and anxiety, and have been loath to realize that it has not turned out anything like what was expected … You must be assured of one thing, however, that I intend to make myself personally responsible that, however this business turns out, you will not suffer loss." On 9 September 1905 he sent Shaw a further £100, re-stating his disappointment over the financial result, his problems with Cowley, and his determination that Shaw should not suffer any loss through him. "Anderson is coming over from New Zealand, next week, & I shall then know more definitely how matters can be squared up." It appears that JM paid back a total of £850 in this initial effort.

It was not until November 1911 that he and Shaw met to discuss a complete settlement. JM summarised the financial position, after digging up the facts from M&A's archives.

"So far as can be gathered from the books and papers which I have been able to get access to, the finances of the job stand as follows:-

There were three banking accounts:-
A. National Bank Sydney. Into this were paid all progress payments from the Government; out of it were made transfers to the other bank a/s, & most of the heavy materials a/cs were paid direct out of it.
B. National Bank Kerang. This was used for local payments on the works, piecework, petty cash and locally bought supplies.
C. National Bank Melbourne. Into this a/c was paid Mr Shaw's advances, and transfers from Sydney a/c, and the account was used for paying Melbourne purchases and expenditure.
The following is a summary showing the disposal of all funds handled.

from Mr Shaw£1,474.14.05spacer 
from payments from NSW Govt10,272.16.03  
Interest on deposit15.12.00  
Sundry Cross Entries32.11.06  
Works and Charges paid from Sydney a/c  £6,186.05.04
ditto from Melb a/c  1,765.02.11
ditto from Kerang a/c  2,562.00.00
Paid Cowley direct for Bill of Lading  454.14.05
Repaid to Mr Shaw      850.00.00
Balance deficiency made up out of Monash's funds   22.08.06  
 11,818.02.08 11,818.02.08

Receipts from Shaw included £520 deposit, £500 working capital, and £454.14.05 for Cowley's Bill of Lading.

JM continued: "From these figures, it will be seen that there was a total loss on the works of £647.02.11 to which Mr Shaw's funds contributed £624-14-5, and Mr Monash £22-8-6.
"As the agreement is silent on the question of losses and how distributed, various views might be taken:- If Monash now refunded Shaw the £520 deposit, the losses on the job would be borne thus:-


"But, inasmuch as the agreement provided for a full partnership, it would seem a fairer course for the total to be divided equally viz:-


"Such an arrangement would involve the payment by

Monash to Shaw of624-14-05

"These views are submitted for favor of Mr Shaw's consideration."

Shaw replied in friendly terms, and it is probable that settlement proceeded on this basis.

Settlement with Saddler.

Settlement of the £104 debt to Saddler was achieved much earlier. At the end of December 1904, Monash sent him £50. The disappointing result was "very largely due to the delay of over a month in getting a start on the works. This drove us into the winter of 1903, and the high river came on us when we were within a week of completing the first river pier. After that the work was practically at a standstill for 8 months, the wet season having been unduly prolonged last summer well into February this year, after which we made very good progress. The heavy standing charges of this idle period made a big hole in the estimated profits."

In September 1905 Saddler asked for immediate repayment of the balance of £54. JM replied with a lengthy explanation of his financial position. "The severe embarrassments resulting from the litigation in which I was involved three years ago, left me with a very up hill struggle, and, as events turned out, I have had to face this alone, because Anderson - who has been away in New Zealand filling an engagement - was either unable or unwilling to render me any help. My principal creditor was the Bank of Australasia, and it has been my principal aim to reduce my overdraft there as rapidly as possible, so as to relieve Mr D Mitchell and yourself as rapidly as possible of any contingent liability upon your covering guarantee." Since the beginning of the year, JM had reduced M&A's overdraft limit by £300 and had promised to reduce it a further £200 by the end of the year. "These payments have absorbed all my surplus income over bare living expenses, but at the present juncture I have a considerable sum outstanding in professional fees due to me, amounting to nearly £200." He expected all of this within 3 or 4 weeks. "It will greatly convenience me if you will accept my promise to pay you the balance due out of these proceeds as fast as they come in." He hoped Saddler would not "think it ungracious" of him to mention that he had never claimed for work done in making up the tender for Baxter & Saddler's Waranga Basin Contract. He had not cared to do so while in Saddler's debt, but perhaps B&S could let him off some of the balance? "It is painful for me to ask for further delay, but the matter has cropped up at an unfortunate moment, when I had just reduced my overdraft by £100."

In January 1906, JM was able to send a further £25, explaining that he now had his liability to the Bank of Australasia down to £1500 (not covered by securities of his own). His share of accrued profits from the Pipe Company now exceeded his total liabilities, though the assets were not in liquid form. He had "thus again become completely solvent". His liabilities to Mitchell and Saddler were now covered by tangible assets. "I need not say how grateful I am to you for your support throughout this very trying time." Some weeks later he sent a further £20 to complete matters, retaining £9 as a nominal charge for consulting services re the Waranga project.

Settlement with Cowley.

There were two main issues in dispute with Cowley. Firstly, M&A had incurred extra expense due to some deficiencies in fabrication and assembly. Secondly, measures adopted by Cowley to simplify fabrication had increased the weight of some components, meaning that M&A had been obliged to pay more for their transport. Monash asked Cowley to agree to a list of disputed weights, prepared "very carefully" by M&A and checked by Reed. He claimed that the expense incurred in "altering, adjusting and fitting Metalwork" was £31-16-6. "It only remains to point out that the excess of weight in connection with the Lift Span alone amounted to nearly 30 cwt., owing largely to the increased weight of the T stiffeners, for which we were in no way responsible, and this involved us in considerable expense for extra lead for counterweighting. The cost of this lead exceeding £20. There is also the question of the increased freight we had to pay on the excess weight, but this we have not gone into in detail yet. Please let us know if there is any further information we can supply in order to make matters clear."

An undated document entitled "Rough Statement Cowleys a/c" lists the following Deductions:

For excess weight£160
Extras disallowed£20
Extra Lead 2 @ £15= £30
Excess freight 6 tons @ £3= £18
Adjustments local & fitter & hands£25
His [Cowley's] balance364

On 4 February 1905, JM wrote to Cowley: "The matter of the accounts is in an unsatisfactory position. I wrote you some time ago, asking you to state in detail, what items, if any, in the tabulated lists A.1, 2, 3 you disagreed with. I have been at great pains to show every single item both of the charges and contras, in great detail; so that you should have every facility for checking every line of the accounts. The request I refer to has met with no response by you, and I am compelled to conclude that you are prepared to accept as correct the detailed calculations of the weights. If this be so, the distribution of the grand total of 313,054 lbs to its various items, as per statement B presents no difficulty - as the Government Schedule has been rigidly followed. The extras allowed are shown on Statement D; bringing up the total to £3169-19-7. Since these a/cs. were made up, the Government has decided to pay in full for the broken spur wheel, at our full charge of £8-17-8.
You also have a detailed list of the cost of alterations and adjustments, amounting to £31-16-6; and then there is the question of £18-18-0 excess freight on an excess weight of 7.27 tons at £2-12-0; and also the excess lead for Counterweighting amounting to £20-13-0.
After crediting the sum of £3004-14-5 already paid you, and the above Contras - our books show a balance due to you of £102-15-4. I am now in a position to remit this sum to you at once if you are prepared to effect a final settlement of the a/cs. on the basis of the figures I have submitted. If not, it is only fair to me to state in detail which items you take exception to, and why.
In addition to above balance, there is an item of £5-12-0 for another job, which will be remitted to you separately. There are also some tools (snaps etc.) which you lent us, which will be returned to you in the course of a couple of days.
I was hoping to be in Ballarat before this, but was unable to do so. I shall not be likely to go out of Melbourne during the next week or so, so please reply early letting me know if I am to remit the amount named in settlement."

Monash wrote again on 20th February, re-stating that in his opinion the amount he still owed was £102-15-4. He enclosed £50 but refused to send the rest until Cowley agreed it would constitute the final payment. "You have now twice stated in very indefinite terms that the accounts are "not accepted", but although pressed to do so you have not so far named any alternative sum which you claim to be owing to you, nor have you pointed out in what regard the accounts, as framed by me, are not correct. I expected, when I sent you these papers in October last that you would go into them at once in detail, so that any differences as regards individual items could be discussed. Had I known you would simply take a general stand that you do not agree to the accounts, without giving any details or reasons, I should certainly not have gone to the great work and trouble involved in putting down every single item on paper in such minute detail, which I did for the purpose of helping you as much as possible in the squaring up of the accounts."

Eventually, in May 1905, Cowley responded with his "most liberal account of what is still owing". Regarding M&A's claims that some parts were unsatisfactory as delivered, Cowley pointed out that the metalwork had been passed by a PWD Inspector. It was good when it left Ballarat. Perhaps it had been "knocked about in transit". Through June and July came a series of pained letters, perhaps written by Mrs G E Cowley, expressing "surprise" at M&A's treatment of them. A typical letter reads: "I would be very pleased to receive cheque due to me. The cheque for goods supplied, other than Koondrook should have been sent long ago. Will you kindly attend to these. You were not in when Mr Cowley called last month." A receipt dated 26 June shows that JM had recently sent a further £50.

In September the letters from Cowley's resumed, in stronger terms. "We are very much surprised at you not keeping your word re clearing up of acc. Kindly go into matter at earliest for require the money to carry on my business." Similar ones followed, and at the end of October began to include demands for payments for emergency metalwork installed at the Stawell Street Bridge. "Will you oblige me by giving accounts a little time. The labor on Ballarat work is not yet paid for - this is too bad." Finally, in December: "Another week and still no answer to letters sent. Please send cheque and oblige me. Want this bridge acc cleared and Ballarat E."

At last on 16 December, JM was able to write: "For a considerable time past I have not been in a position to give any further attention to the outstanding balance of accounts, owing to my having become seriously embarrassed partly by the unsatisfactory outcome of the Koondrook job, and partly also by the fact that I have had to negotiate a dissolution of partnership with Anderson, owing to his refusal to or inability to assist me in meeting the obligations of the firm. We have therefore separated, and it is my intention to strain every effort to meet all liabilities in full. Until recently, I had but little hope of being able to pull through, but latterly I have been able to somewhat strengthen my position, and now see a hope of getting square in a little while. I am sorry you have had the annoyance of writing so often, but I have now every hope that in 2 or 3 weeks from now, I will be in a position to deal with your accounts."

On 21st Cowley replied "… you have our Sympathy in your Business troubles and trust that they will soon pass by for you. We wish you the Compliments of the Season and a prosperous New Year." However, on 23 April 1906 he wrote: "We have been expecting a letter from you re settling of acc. Kindly see to this and greatly oblige." Monthly reminders were sent until, in July 1906, it was: "We are very disappointed at not having a settlement of acc for Murray and Ballarat East Monier Bridges. Kindly see into this." Finally, on 26 July 1906, Cowley wrote: "Yours duly received and we have credited your acc with cheque £7-0-0. You have our Sympathy in your Business troubles, we having had experience."

A scrap of paper dated 20 November 1911, about the time Monash settled with A G Shaw, seems to be his attempt to recall the history of Cowley's account. It reads:

"Letter to Cowley Feby 4/05

Total we admit is3169-19-07
spur wheel8-17-03
Certain other countercharges. 
Paid to him that date3004-14-05
bal. then due him102-15-04
Sent Cowley £5020.2.05

Dec 16/05 Final letter to him saying re dissolution.
Services [?] to Shaw:    Oct 4/06 letter."


The web site of the Wakool Shire Council, NSW, gives the cost of the bridge as £11,358. This may include items that were not part of the M&A contract. It gives the weight of the lift span as 34 tons, much higher than implied by Monash's calculation of the load on the lifting gear. The present headroom under the lifted span is given as 30ft 6in (9.3m) at normal water level, the towers having been raised 6ft 6inc (2m) in 1925. The lifting gear (said to require two, not one man on the winch) was motorised in 1997. In 2004, the Institution of Engineers Australia attached a historic Engineering Marker with plaque to celebrate the centenary of the bridge which is listed on the State Heritage Register as an item of State Significance.

The NSW Roads & Maritime Department is currently (2015) carrying out restoration work on the bridge. Restoration of the lift span was carried out in 2012. Replacement of the NSW approach span was commenced in 2013 and attention shifted to the Victorian approach and truss span in 2015. The timber piers have been replaced and rock protection has been added to the banks at the abutments. Further details are currently to be found on the Roads & Maritime website by searching for Barham Bridge.

Appendix 1.
Availability of Labour.

As noted above, M&A found it difficult to attract workers, especially competent tradesmen, to remote Koondrook and keep them on the job. Christensen's demeanour was a factor in this. He seems to have belonged to the breed of elderly foremen who are hard task masters and quick to vent anger, not always accurately targetted. Some workers are able to shrug this off, others take it personally. Nevertheless, Monash maintained the principle that Christensen must have complete authority on the job.

In April 1904 Christensen was told that a "thoroughly competent bridge carpenter", J C Robbins, had been found. His left hand was a bit deformed, but he claimed it did not hinder him. Labour agent Alf C Horsley was offering two more bridge carpenters: J D and J F Brilliant, and two workmen, A J Thomas and J Wilson (skills unspecified). It was up to Christensen to say whether he wanted them or not. Later in the month the news was that James Wilson was due to go to Koondrook, having been contacted by Christensen. A G Thomas and a worker named Sharp had also gone recently. J D Brilliant was going, but J F Brilliant was not available.

In May, McNaught reported that Sharp, who had been advanced £1-1-6 for fare from Melbourne to Koondrook, had left the works even before Christensen had received his paperwork from the Government Labour Bureau, and was now working at Arbuthnot's Mill. Christensen was asked to try to extract the money from him. There had been an accident to a workman named Alf Johnson.

In June the list of potential recruits included Booth, Marson, Callahan, Barry and Lee, all carpenters; Charles Sies, a "rubble waller", hired to apply the rubble finish to the piers; and two Swedish shipwrights. A man named Johnson and his mate were not taken on as they did not appear sober men. There were some accidents, and several cases of "poisoned hands". A man named Strang was discharged with compensation, but then Christensen was told that M&A's insurance company was becoming suspicious. Callahan had been delayed, and Barry and Lee had still not left. Booth had not travelled up as he said he would.

In answer to complaints from Christensen, Monash explained that after all the trouble that had occurred, the "situation" at Koondrook was always made clear to recruits. "Of course we are helpless if a man simply lies to us. For example this man Marson assured us that he had a full supply of bridge tools, including augurs, heavy chisels, adzes, &c, &c. … He was engaged at his own risk and was plainly told that if he did not suit he would not be kept on. We can do no more than this." Booth would not be sent as "he has humbugged us". Later again, it turned out that Barry, Lee and Callahan had not yet turned up. Wilson had produced a telegram saying his wife was dying. "We presume it is genuine but of course cannot say." Carpenter Evans had been engaged, and Wilson was being sent up again, even though Christensen had said to send no more.

Near the end of August a Carpenter Sowrey failed to turn up when expected. Labour agent Horsley was asked to chase him up, but news came that "this man got work elsewhere". Wilson was "off on the drunk". Carpenter McDonald was already on site, and E. Brodribb was "supposed to have left this-morning". M&A were trying to send another man, Smith. They had finally found a fitter, W. Bennett, recommended by Austral Otis as honest and capable. He would be paid 9/- per day plus board and lodging. The journey from Melbourne to Koondrook took a full day, and he would be paid a day's wages for both the outward and return journeys.

Appendix 2.
List of bridgeworks carried out by M&A up to June 1902.
(As sent to NSW PWD.)

"Bridge Works carried out in Victoria by the members of the firm of Monash & Anderson since 1884".
Steel Swing Bridge, over Saltwater River [State Library of Victoria photo]
Assistant Engineer to Contractor
New Princes Bridge, Melbourne
Fall's Railway ditto, ditto.
Queen's Bridge, ditto
Superintending Engineer for Contractors
Three Railway Bridges, Melbourne to Coburg Railway
Steel Viaduct (3 spans 100[?]') over Yarra - Outer Circle Railway
Nine Brick and plate girder over-railway Bridges
Four Brick and lattice girder Railway Bridges
Five Pile and timber Railway Bridges
Contractors (since 1895)
Three-span Arch Bridge, over Moorabool River, Geelong [link]
Two-span Arch Bridge, Shire of Creswick [link]
Eight single-span Bridges in City of Bendigo [link]
Seven-span Pile and timber Highway Bridge (75' Trusses) over River Tambo
Two single-span Bridges in Melbourne suburbs [link]
Eight Steel-girder bridges - Melbourne to Collingwood Railway
Plate-girder road Bridge - Borough of Creswick
Four-span Railway Bridge - Heidelberg-Eltham Railway
Three-span Arch Bridge - Coliban Waterworks." [link]
[Return to context]

Appendix 3.
Technical Description compiled from the Kerang Observer of 9 April, and the Supplement to the Kerang New Times 11 Oct 1904

Kerang New Times 11 Oct 1904. "The structure consists of two composite trussed spans, each 104 feet long, two plain beam spans with half-round ironbark girders, each 30 feet long, and one lift or opening span 58-"4" long. The abutments consist of four red gum piles with red gum cap-wales and rubber backing on the Victorian side, and sheathing with rubber backing on the opposite bank. There are two land piers consisting of 12 vertical square ironbark piles in groups of four under the heels of trusses, one centre, one upstream, and two downstream stump piles, with internal compression struts, the whole being stayed with whales and braces. The piles in abutments are driven 20 feet and piers 25 feet. The river piers consist of 6-foot wrought iron cylinders, with diaphragm bracing, erected on concrete bases 9 feet and 13 feet high respectively, which in turn are carried on 26 redgum piles driven 25 feet into the bed of the river, the bed being excavated 3 ft and filled with concrete, into which the head of piles projected."

The vertical dimensions of the pile caps for Piers 2 and 3 (here referred to as "bases") accord approximately with the change in foundation levels permitted by Reed on 7 March 1904. The Kerang Observer of 9 April 1904 reported that the pile caps were formed by making a rectangular excavation around the heads of the piles. Into this, and over the top of the piles, a concrete "base" was laid 18 feet deep, 32 feet long and 9 feet wide at each end, reducing to 6 feet wide in the centre. The wrought iron cylinders would be attached to the base by bolts and bars let into the concrete. The cylinders would then be filled to the top with concrete.

Kerang New Times 11 Oct 1904 continued: "The composite trusses are composed of steel lower chords, ironbark upper chords, ironbark verticals, with iron tension rods, and are provided with slipper plate expansion arrangement over the land piers. Each truss is 13 ft deep, and divided into 8 13ft. panels. The decking which is of tallow wood, is carried on longitudinal timber stringers, which are seated on steel cross girders. Those parts of the structure which would be costly to replace are built of steel. The lift span comprises 2 longitudinal steel lattice girders, with channel bar struts, set to an angle of 45 degrees, with steel lacing bars and cast iron distance pipes, and 7 steel cross-girders seated on a saddle attachment on longitudinal girders, carrying longitudinal timber stringers to which the timber decking is attached. Four towers 3 ft × 2 ft 6 in by 37ft 7½ in. in length, formed of vertical angle irons and horizontal T irons, braced with lattice bars are carried 6ft down the cylinders, and there attached to diaphragm plates, the cylinders then being filled with concrete. These in turn carry longitudinal and transverse bracings girders, to which is attached the lifting machinery. The opening span, provided to admit of the passage of steamers to and fro is raised by means of galvanised steel wire ropes carried over wheels on the towers to adjustable balancing weights suspended on the outer side for [sic] the latter. The wheels are operated by means of a winch attachment, the method of balancing rendering it a simple matter for one man to raise the lift to the full height of 21 feet in 4 minutes. The carriage way on the truss and beam spans, when finished, will be 19 feet 9 inches wide, and on the lift span 16 feet 6 inches between kerbs. A footway 3 feet 6 inches wide is provided inside the trusses and is separated from the carriageway by a substantial fence and turnstiles. The bridge is estimated to be capable of sustaining a load of 84 pounds to the square-foot, with a factor of safety of 5. The height of the cylinders is 15 feet and of the deck 6 feet above the highest known flood level. The embanked approaches to the bridge are coated with a layer of 4 inches ballast covered again with 2 inches metal. The following are the approximate quantities and weighted material used in the work which with the foregoing details have been kindly supplied by the resident engineer, Mr Reed:-

Material cubic ft super ft cubic yards weight in tons
Ironbark 4810 57,720 - 160
Tallowwood 2490 29,880 - 86
Redgum 3640 43,680 - 101
Iron & steel - - - 170
Concrete - - 255 393
Stone - - 620 1116
Earth filling - - 2230 3189