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Some Impressions of Travel.

Observations on technology in Europe and the USA, 1910.

By Colonel J. Monash, Vice-President.
Delivered to the Victorian Institute of Engineers, 5 April 1911.
(Proc. Vol.12, pp.28-49.)

"… The PRESIDENT, in calling on the Vice-President, Col. MONASH to deliver his lecture, entitled 'Some Impressions of Travel', said the lecturer was known to them as a man of mature judgment, therefore in following his illustrations they would see the matter depicted through the eyes of experience.
Colonel J. MONASH then delivered his lecture upon 'Some Impressions of Travel', illustrating it profusely with lantern views.
The PRESIDENT moved a very hearty vote of thanks to the lecturer, which was carried by acclamation.
The full text of the lecture, together with the discussion, appears in the current issue.
At 10.15 the meeting closed."


"Any attempt to convey, within the limits of a short evening, an adequate idea of even a few examples, in only some branch of engineering, of the latest achievements in our profession in Europe and America, would be hopeless. Even though the exigencies of rapid travel compel only a comparatively superficial inspection of works of prime interest and importance, nevertheless the mass of material at the disposal of a returned traveller is so vast, and covers so wide a field, that it is difficult to make a selection of subjects which are likely to be of especial interest to the general body of the profession.

I am, therefore, compelled to put severe limitations upon the scope of the following notes. They are confined, in the first place, to those engineering activities with which I had personally the privilege of getting into contact; and in the second place to matters which are not likely to be already widely known among members through the medium of technical literature.


First and foremost, an engineer abroad is impressed with the extraordinary development of means of transit, chiefly underground, in the great European and American cities. The most highly developed, and the most complex, system of the present day is the network of underground railways in London, principally those known as 'tubes'. These are distinguished in several important features from the systems employed and in course of development in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and New York. They consist, in greater part, of cylindrical tunnels just large enough to accommodate one road, and with very little clearance for the rolling stock which is designed so as to be adapted to running in a cylinder with a minimum waste of space. There are separate tunnels for the 'up' and 'down' traffic respectively. The tubes are in most cases at a considerable depth, from 50 to 70 feet from the street surface, and every station is provided with a comprehensive equipment of large-sized elevators, capable of each dealing with 50 to 80 passengers at a time. The service is frequent - in busy times at one minute intervals - the stations and electric trains are clean and well lighted; except in one or two instances, the tunnels are cool and well ventilated; and the journey times are surprisingly short, e.g. 8 minutes from Marble Arch to the Bank - a distance of over three miles - the time named covering eight stoppages. These tubes are most popular. The average annual journeys for the past four years exceed 300 millions, and are yearly on the increase. The most recent development of the tube railways consists in the construction of several north and south lines, crossing the older east and west main routes at numerous points, where interchange facilities by cross tunnels and ramps have been installed. Thus, the traveller may get - within wide limits - from any quarter to another of central London without coming up to the surface. No other system yet possesses these advantages, which have operated to greatly increase, in recent times, the popularity of underground travel in London.

The underground electric railways of Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and New York differ materially in their planning and design from those of London. They are, in the main, confined in location to the main street thoroughfares, being built directly under the street, and sunk to a depth only sufficient to get the necessary headroom. The sinking is done by open cut, afterwards covered by bridge decks to carry the surface traffic, and in this work reinforced concrete has been extensively and successfully used. The 'tunnels' are thus rectangular in cross section, accommodating two, and in the case of New York, four tracks. The stations are approached by stairs and ramps from the side walks - not by elevators. In all cases, the services are very convenient and very satisfactory; differing little in method of working from those of London. But, so far as they have yet been installed in other cities they lack the advantages, pointed out in the case of London, of cross-town connections.

Thus in Paris there existed only three main east and west routes, two from Place d'Etoile to Place de Vincennes respectively north and south of the Seine; and one from Place d'Etoile to Place Gambetta through Montmartre, north of the river. One north and south connection was opened during my stay in Paris, and others are under construction; but until these latter get into operation, the facilities for getting about underground are rather limited. Similar observations apply to the other cities named.

But in New York there is a feature of quite special interest, in the use of four tracks. The two outer tracks are for 'local' traffic, with stopping places at every second street; while the two inner tracks are for express traffic, with stoppages averaging every tenth block. Thus by using the local trains only for the purpose of reaching the nearest express station, the underground transit of New York is very rapid indeed, and capable of handling the immense traffic which it does twice every day.

The fares for all these underground services are remarkably. cheap. While in London there are sections for 1d., 2d., and 3d., according to distance, in all the other cities there is one flat rate of about 2½d., and (where there is a second class, as in Paris) 1½d. for which fare one can travel as far and as often as one pleases, so long as one does not come up to the surface. Thus in New York one can travel the whole length of Manhattan Island, from the Bronx to Brooklyn - over 14 miles - for 2½d.

These several systems of underground traffic in areas of congested population are noteworthy not merely as a solution of the extremely pressing question of rapid transit facilities, but also for the relief afforded to the congested street traffic. The masses of long distance travellers are cared for underground; the merchandise traffic is excluded from the more pretentious boulevards, and avenues, and these latter are left almost exclusively free for fast automobile traffic, which is such a striking latter day feature of most large cities.


The employment of electricity has worked a revolution in city transportation. There being neither smoke nor gas to contend with, underground travel has become comfortable, clean, speedy and economic. Its expediency for intra-city communication has been so amply demonstrated, that we are now on the eve of another revolutionary extension of the same, principle.

Briefly stated this principle is that no great city will in the future permit any heavy railway traffic from beyond its limits to enter the city boundaries at or above the street level. An actual beginning in this direction has been made in New York city, by the installation of the wonderful Hudson and East River tunnels. A brief description of a small part of one such enterprise now in course of development will serve to illustrate what this involves.

The Pennsylvania railroad has hungered for many years for a terminal on Manhattan Island, in the heart of New York city. Up to the present the whole very heavy trunk line traffic from the south and south west was dumped at Jersey city, on the west bank of the Hudson River, immediately opposite Manhattan, to find its way in a cumbersome and uncertain ferry boat service across the river, there to scramble for such cross town street transportation as might be available. But this is all on the eve of being changed. The magnificent terminal station, at the corner of Thirty-Second Street and Seventh Avenue, to which allusion will be made later, was opened to the public on the day I arrived in New York. It is connected with the mainland, and with Long Island, by tunnels under both rivers. The tunnel system begins, about six miles west of Jersey city, just east of Newark. Here there is what is called the 'Harrison Interchange', a series of long platforms, where the electric motors are coupled on, and the steam locomotives taken off with great despatch, and from there a non-stop run is made right into the heart of New York. At the Pennsylvania terminal, transfers of freight and passengers are made - all underground - for Long Island; and with the help of a further extension of the tunnel systems, now under actual construction, for Boston and the New England States. In short, through passengers from, say, Washington to Boston, will be enabled to pass right under New York city without coming to the surface. The heavy, long trunk line trains which finish their run at Manhattan, will continue underground, under the East River, to the Sunnyside Yards, on Long Island, there to be taken round a loop, cleaned and sent back underground for a fresh journey.

Underground connections have been planned, and are being launched, between Pennsylvania terminal and the New York central railway terminal called the Grand Central. This great rival company is planning to far outstrip the wonderful achievements of the Pennsylvania railroad. The demolition of the Grand Central, in anticipation of the new scheme, was in full progress during my visit. The striking feature of this scheme is the employment of a tunnel of four stories. The traffic from the north will enter New York on four tracks, and will at the terminal spread out horizontally and vertically into between 60 and 70 tracks on two levels. The total expenditure upon these underground avenues into the heart of New York will, before completion, exceed seventy millions of pounds sterling.


Since the days when Mark Twain was able to write humor about the ramshackle coaches or diligences on the high mountain roads, and of his adventurous mountain climbs in beautiful Switzerland, great and striking changes have been wrought by the daring and genius of the engineer. I am alluding now not to the main routes of overland traffic which have involved such classical and well known feats as the St. Gothard and Simplon railways, but to the astonishing development in recent years of cross country mountain railways for dealing with the enormous tourist traffic which annually over-runs Switzerland. Water power is plentiful, and has been availed of, on commercial lines, with extraordinary thoroughness. But in comparison with some of the more daring achievements, the hundreds of miles of ordinary electric mountain railway which traverse the country in all directions, interesting in themselves as they are, sink into the commonplace. I shall therefore confine myself to two characteristic examples of advanced engineering enterprise; although these two are only typical of a class of construction of which one could cite dozens.

On the northern shore of the beautiful lake of Lucerne towers the bold and lofty mountain named Pilatus rising to a height of just under 7,000 feet above sea level. This affords one of the finest and most popular views of Central Switzerland, and because of the forbidding serrated cliffs in its upper parts has always been a labour and a terror to the ambitious climber. This mountain is now accessible with the greatest ease and comfort by means of one of these quaint mountain railways. In this particular case the motive power is steam. The railway is located boldly by excavating benches and tunnels along the almost vertical sides of the mountain precipices. It is about four miles long. Its average grade is 1 in 3. Its maximum grade is 1 in 2. The tracks are laid directly upon and bolted to a continuous bed of ashlar masonry, bedded on a concrete foundation, and heavily cramped together. The track consists of two running rails, one metre gauge, with a central double rack, having horizontal teeth. Into this rack there gear four pinions carried by the locomotive, i.e., two on each side. The locomotive and passenger carriage having room for 32 people, form one vehicle, running on four wheels. Of course both the engine boiler and the car seats are constructed so as to lie horizontal, giving the whole vehicle a quaint and unusual appearance. The speed is about three miles per hour, both ascending and descending. If a speed of four miles per hour be exceeded, powerful brakes are automatically applied. While only a brief inspection of the gear is sufficient to satisfy one that the factor of safety is throughout very ample, it requires some philosophy to remain perfectly unagitated amidst terrifying surroundings. On busy days, trains follow each other at half mile intervals, and one can see these tiny trains crawling like caterpillars up the steep cliffs ahead and below. Although the scenery is grand, and full of surprise, at every twist of the road, culminating in a magnificent panorama, it is difficult to keep one's mind from dwelling on the possibility of the four pinion wheels stripping their teeth simultaneously. Yet there has never been a single accident of any kind on any Swiss railway of this type.

Another Swiss achievement of a much more wonderful and striking kind is the Jungfraubahn, or electric railway, ascending Mount Jungfrau - now in the course of construction, and already open to traffic for half its length. The Jungfrau, the Queen of European mountains, is the principal eminence of the Bernese Oberland, and forms the culmination of a chain of giants stretching from the Wetterhorn at Grindelwald, to the Monch, and the Eiger Mountains. The summit of the Jungfrau is 13,760 feet above sea level. The line of perpetual snow is at about 8000 feet above sea. An electric rack and pinion railway has been in existence for some twelve years connecting Interlaken and Grindelwald by way of a mountain pass called Kleine Scheidegg (Little Watershed) at an elevation of 6,770 feet. This pass lies at the foot of the majestic and beautiful snow laden range to which I have alluded, and was the starting point of Alpine climbers aiming at the ascent of the Jungfrau. A bold spirited man named Guyer-Zeller conceived the idea of building a railway from the Scheidegg to the very summit of the Jungfrau; and so thoroughly did he organise that enterprise that the work was started in 1897, and although not more than half completed. is already earning enormous revenues. Guyer-Zeller is dead, but his work is being carried on by his son-in-law, Professor Von Salis. Reflect upon the problem of climbing, by rail, a matter of 7000 feet all above the snow line, under conditions of weather and storm of the most terrifying nature, surrounded by vast glaciers and ceaseless avalanches, and confronted by every obstacle and difficulty conceivable to the work of the engineer. There was only one possible solution, and that was to build the railway inside the mountain ranges. And this was the scheme adopted and now partly carried out.

After leaving Scheidegg the line ascends a steep spur, in the open, for 1¼ miles to the Eiger Gletscher station, where one steps out of the carriages to enjoy for half-an-hour winter sports on the great Eiger Glacier, although in the height of summer. At this point, 7,640 feet above sea, the line dives into the interior of the mountain, and proceeding on a grade of 1 in 4 in a tunnel 14 feet × 12 feet, continues the ascent in a bold circular sweep. It approaches first the north, and later the south precipitous face of the Eiger, and at each of these points a stopping station has been formed by excavating huge caverns out of the rock mass of the mountain. Eigerwand station is at 9,405 feet, and Eismeer station, the present terminus, is reached at 10,345 feet. Here there are refreshment rooms, kitchens with electric cooking, post office, observatory and all conveniences, all hewn out of the rock. The works are still in progress, and another section reaching to Jungfraujoch, 11,140 feet, is almost ready for opening. The summit will be reached in another three years, the last stage being performed by an electric elevator 240 feet high.

The progress of the tunnelling has averaged throughout the year 10 feet per day, being carried out by 250 H.P. compressed air rock drills, working at eight atmospheres. The material consists of gneiss, limestone, and crystalline schist, and stands well. The main transmission line is 7,000 volts, the trolley line current is at 600 volts. At Eigerwand there is an electric search light of 93 million candle power - plainly visible from Lucerne.

The gauge of the railway is one metre, the maximum curve is 100 metre radius. It is electric driven by power from two water power stations in the Lutschine valley near Grindelwald, capable of developing 12,650 H.P. The tunnels and stations are brilliantly lit by many coloured electric lights. The trains, each consisting of a 250 H.P. motor and five or six carriages, are luxurious, and are lighted and heated electrically. Every conceivable appliance for safety has been introduced, and every imaginable contingency, mechanical, thermal, electrical and climatic, has been elaborately provided for. As a commercial enterprise the railway is already paying handsomely; it cost £500,000 to date, and carried last year 80,000 people at 30 francs a head. As an engineering triumph it is wonderful, not so much as a completed scheme of transportation, as for the conquest, by capable organisation and courageous perseverance, of the almost insuperable difficulties incidental to the carrying out of engineering works in such a forbidding environment.

Before leaving Swiss engineering accomplishments, I must not omit a passing mention of a dazzling performance of quite another kind. This is the, Wetterhorn elevator, opened only last season; in short, an aerial ropeway for the conveyance of passengers to a ledge high up on the rocky face of the Wetterhorn, an ascent of 1,376 feet, in a length of 1,200 feet. The ropeway is on the double rope, double car system; that is, there are two tracks, one up, one down, the two passenger cars thus balancing each other; each track consists of a carrying rope (itself duplicated) and a hauling rope. The cars each hold 16 passengers. Comprehensive appliances are introduced for keeping all the ropes of similar catenary form in spite of changes of temperature. I venture to say that during the journey, which lasts seven minutes, the attention is more occupied in looking for flaws in the steel cables than in admiring the scenery in the Lutschine valley, a sheer 2,000 feet below the car when at midspan.

The hauling ropes are about 1¼ in. [31mm] diameter, and the carrying ropes a shade under 2 in. [51mm] diameter, as nearly as could be measured without calipers. The weight of car and load would be about five tons. The driving is done electrically at the upper station, and the working of the whole concern is particularly smooth and free from swaying or vibration. There are, of course, most elaborate anchorage and balancing and equalising mechanism, but these were inaccessible to visitors during the working hours of daylight.


Without dwelling upon the great trans-Alpine main trunk railways already well known to members, I must make a brief allusion to a newly-opened railway which I had the opportunity to travel on, which was of great interest by reason both of its location and its construction. This is the so-called Tanernbahn, commencing at Salzburg, a romantic town near the western boundary of Austria, on the main line from Vienna to Munich, and running thence almost due south to Triest, at the head of the Adriatic Sea. Although the terminal points have a difference of level of only 1,300 feet, the line, which is 200 miles long, has to cross the beautiful Alps of the Austrian Tirol at an elevation of 4,000 feet. The difficult engineering is wholly confined to a short central section of about forty miles, between Schwarzach and Pusarnitz, but in this section there is an almost unbroken succession of very long tunnels and high viaducts, some over 250 feet high, and all on a scale to rival the most difficult features of the St. Gothard railway. In the aspect of its commercial policy, this railway gives Vienna a direct and rapid access to one of the chief Austrian ports and maritime bases on the Mediterranean.


A survey of the latest developments of railway engineering practice, however brief, would not be complete without a fuller reference than has already been made to the new Terminal Station of the Pennsylvania railway on Manhattan Island in New York city - which was opened to traffic for Long Island in September last - although the subways under the Hudson connecting with Jersey city were not available for some weeks later. Some accounts of this wonderful structure have, I am informed, appeared in the local press, but no written description can convey an adequate idea of the building and its appointments. Into the development of this station, by far the largest in the world, the Pennsylvania Company have poured 50 million dollars. The buildings themselves, which cover eight acres, are of grey granite, in the purest Doric style and of beautifully correct proportions, and the effect both externally and internally is a complete refutation to Ruskin's dictum that nothing that has to do with railways can be made to look artistic or beautiful. Apart from the palatial and monumental concourses, waiting rooms, refreshment rooms, booking galleries and staff accommodations, the visitor is most impressed by the variety and extent of the labour and trouble-saving facilities in the shape of electric elevators, moving stairways, as well as every contrivance and appliance known to science for handling luggage and freight, including many quite new inventions. The Company intends to use this terminal for the purpose of developing Long Island as the great residential section for suburban New York, and also to run a service to Fort Pond Bay, a newly-formed port at the eastern end of Long Island, whose use will shorten the journey to Europe by at least ten hours as against the Sandy Hook route.

The main principle kept in view in the planning of the station is the entire separation of the ingoing and outgoing. traffic, so that there is no possibility of any clashing of streams of traffic. All baggage, as soon as it is checked, passes instantly underground out of sight of the traveller, until he has reached his destination. The whole building fitly expresses what I was informed was the chief conception of the designer, namely, that of being a monumental gateway to a great city.


Mr. A. C. Mountain (Past President), upon a recent occasion ('Proceedings', V.I.E., Vol. IX., p. 64), favoured this Institute with the results of his observations on the construction and maintenance of city streets in Europe and America, and I find, on referring to that paper, that, although I have many notes, I can add very little on that subject that is new. Broadly, 1 should say, that stone Macadam for this purpose is now altogether obsolete; that wood blocking, supporting an asphaltum wearing surface is becoming general; that of the large cities, Berlin has the finest, and New York about the worst, streets. In Berlin the traffic surface is so perfect that a new form of street locomotion is coming into vogue. Thousands of young people travel to and fro in the main streets of Berlin on roller skates, passing rapidly and with great agility in and out among the vehicular traffic. The police class and treat such pedestrians as vehicles, but, so far as I know, there is no speed limit!

In the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, I observed a novel and effective method of street cleaning. This is accomplished after midnight, when all but casual traffic has ceased, by means of a water cart, carrying about 600 gallons, which is subjected to air pressure from a reservoir carried by the cart, the pressure being maintained by an air pump operated by the travel of the cart. This water under pressure is delivered by a pair of nozzles, depending at the rear at about one inch from the road surface, in the form of jets about six inches wide, issuing in both directions transversely across the street. The cart travels slowly down the centre of the road, and the jets have sufficient force to sweep the whole of the debris and rubbish into the watertables, whence it is carried into the sewers. This procedure was surprisingly effective, and left a clean, fresh road surface.


Turning, momentarily, from specific references to the many great achievements of the engineer, which the present-day traveller is privileged to see - to the fountain sources from which modern industrial activities draw their inspirations, I would like to give you a brief account of a typical research institution. It will be pleasing to an Australian audience to learn that in the very foremost rank of such bodies is a British institution, and that at the head of one of its most important branches is a distinguished Australian. I allude to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, on the Thames, and to Dr. W. Rosenhain, of the Melbourne University, who is superintendent of the metallurgical and chemical departments. After seeing similar famous institutions at Charlottenburg, Berlin, at Munich, in Bavaria, and in the United States, I feel little hesitation in saying that, as regards both general organisation, arrangement, equipment, the calibre of its staff, and the results achieved, the N.P.L. easily holds its own.

The Laboratory came into existence primarily to carry out the routine testing of every kind of industrial material for the Home and Indian Government Departments, but it has gradually extended its scope, not merely in the direction of undertaking physical, chemical, thermal, electrical, optical, and other researches of a specified nature that might be referred by public bodies, or by private concerns, but also of embarking upon entirely original lines of research in all these departments. I had the advantage of being permitted to spend a great deal of time in this Laboratory and of following some of the researches through many stages. The methods employed are definite, and exact to an almost incredible degree of minuteness, and are thorough and absolute in the conclusiveness of their results. As an example of this thoroughness, let me give one characteristic instance:- The Admiralty submits a piece of boiler plate, taken from the furnace of a workshop boiler, which shows cracks between the rivet holes. The plate, and the boiler from which it was taken, were manufactured under thorough supervision, by reliable firms, under specifications which have stood the test of time. What is the cause of these cracks, and how are they to be avoided in the future?

Such an inquiry would be referred to the chemical, physical testing, and metallurgical departments. Each would make exhaustive tests of specimens cut from the plate, including every kind of physical test, to determine the elastic properties of different laminae and parts of the plate, a complete and minute chemical analysis, and an exhaustive microscopic examination of the crystalline structure of the material and of its component, mineral constituents. Every test is duplicated by a different observer, and discrepancies are harmonised. Then, upon the ascertained facts, a conclusion is arrived at as to the exact cause of the abnormal phenomenon. But before a report is written, and such conclusion is published, the Laboratory tests its results by re-establishing the faulty conditions of manufacture, and actually reproducing the defect complained of. Until it can thus actually repeat the defective result, it will not claim finality of judgment.

I have alluded to the microscopic examination. This is the special line of research led in England, if not in Europe, by Dr Rosenhain. To him is due, not only the practical application and development of that method of research, but also the invention and design of much of the special apparatus employed. Put briefly, every industrial metal, or alloy, has a definite mineralogical composition, and a definite crystalline structure corresponding to its particular physical condition and properties, and indicative of its thermal history. Microscopic research, covering a very wide field, and involving an inconceivable amount of patient observation and record, has now put the experts in this field in a position to pass a thoroughly reliable judgment upon the industrial qualities of a given specimen of metal, merely from an examination under the microscope. Apart from this, the research has taught the world much that was formerly unknown about the laws which govern the heating and cooling of metals, and the characteristic properties of alloys.

A very extensive research, which will take some years to complete, is now in hand, relating to the alloys of aluminium and zinc. Every relationship of the two ingredients, from 1 per cent. to 99 per cent. of each, is separately investigated, and the results are recorded in curves, so as to show, as to each compound, the specific gravity, melting point, cooling properties, tensile, compressive, shearing, and torsional strengths, elastic properties, hardness, colour, ductility, crystalline structure, conductivity, specific heat, and so on. When the research is complete, the Laboratory will be able to indicate with definiteness, what particular proportions of zinc and aluminium are required to produce an alloy best suited for any specified industrial purpose.

These are only a few examples out of hundreds of difficult and abstruse questions which are being investigated in the different departments; but the research throughout is conceived in a practical and businesslike spirit of making the achieved results of immediate practical utility to the industrial and scientific world. I venture to suggest that in this Institution the Australian Governments would find a prototype, which it would be of the greatest possible value to this community to copy.


Time does not permit of more than a passing mention of my visits to several meetings of the Institute of Metals, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Royal Institution, and the Northampton Institute in England, as well as the Charlottenburg Institute, the Deutsches Museum (in Munich), and the University of Minnesota in the United States. In all of these there is a perfection of method and a zeal for knowledge which we in this country hardly realise.


A great deal is being done in all the larger centres to cope effectively with the pollution of the air by smoke and noxious fumes, but nowhere has such signal success been achieved as in New York City. Looking down upon Manhattan from the tops of some of the tallest buildings, one sees in all weathers a perfectly clear, smokeless atmosphere. This is accomplished by barring from the island every form of steam locomotive, and by insisting upon the employment of only hard coal for fuel. In addition, the supervision of the installation of effective smoke consuming appliances is very strict, and the results achieved are certainly very striking.


Among the many large buildings either in progress or recently completed, many are of purely architectural interest, the most notable of these being the Palaces of Justice at Rome, and at Brussels, the new Westminster Cathedral in London, the Astor-Lennox Library in New York, and the Capitol of the State of Minnesota at St. Paul. All of these rivet the attention, not only by their magnificent proportions, but also by the costly and artistic interior decoration with rare marbles and woods.

There are, however, many great buildings of recent construction and in progress in which the activities of the engineer have played a leading part, and which embody the latest practice in modern steel frame and reinforced concrete construction. The most striking example in England is the new General Post Office, in London, about which much has already been published in current magazines. Its whole interior, and all the enclosing walls except the main facade, are of reinforced concrete carried out on lines which are identical in all respects with the practice in the Commonwealth.

The tall buildings of New York are world renowned, not to say notorious; yet when seen in their environment they are in no sense the monstrosities which one has been led to expect. While they are on a huge scale, all their surroundings are on the same huge scale. Nothing is spared to make the equipment so complete and efficient that the occupancy of the twentieth story is as commercially practicable as that of the first story. Each such building - and there are literally dozens of them in Broadway - houses daily from five to ten thousand people - a self-contained city, with everything within its own walls required for the service of such a population.

The tallest inhabited building in the world is the Metropolitan Life Building in Madison Avenue, New York. It occupies in plan 200 feet by 425 feet, is 700 feet high to the top of the Tower, and contains 25 acres of concrete floors. The tower is modelled upon the famous Campanile of Venice, the entire exterior is faced with pure white Tuckahoe Marble, and the beauty and symmetry of the whole building appear to me to be unquestionable. The tower is effectively occupied up to the 45th story; the building has 38 passenger, and 10 freight elevators, as well as every imaginable interior appointment necessary for luxurious occupancy.

These figures are, I know, rather staggering, yet they are far outrivalled by the great department store known as Marshall Field's, in Chicago. Beyond mentioning that here the floor space of the retail salerooms alone (without counting the offices, the employees' rooms, the cold storage, the shipping, and machinery room) exceeds 35 acres, that there are 76 elevators, and that over 2500 horsepower is required to run the lighting and equipment of this vast store, I shall not trouble you with further statistics. The notable feature in Marshall Field's is the high development of mechanical systems, largely automatic, for packing, handling, sorting, and carrying all classes of merchandise, by means of elevators, conveyors, shoots and the like. It is a startling and novel sight to watch even for a few minutes, at any hour of the day, the automatic travel of parcels for delivery, of all shapes and sizes, from a packet of hairpins to a pair of art vases, into the large delivery room in the sub-basement. The goods are packed and addressed in the department where sold, dropped into the delivery hoppers perhaps ten or twelve stories above ground, and travel down to the delivery room where they fall in never-pausing streams from all sides upon a huge revolving table around which stands an army of sorters, who select the parcels for the respective delivery districts, and load them on to horizontal conveyors, radiating in all directions, for distribution to the delivery carts or the underground railway, a branch of which terminates within the basement. I shall conclude my references to this establishment by the startling yet well-authenticated statement (for I have it from the lips of the General Manager himself) that on any normal busy day the attendance of visitors to the building exceeds three hundred thousand persons.


Although the observation is largely true of some European countries, it is in the United States that one sees the arts of the engineer applied to the daily conveniences of life to such a degree that after a short sojourn under these advanced conditions of comfort one finds it hard to understand why in many respects the great bulk of Australians, even in cities, should be content to live without them. Here is a short category of features which by their extensive adoption attract the attention of the traveller: Mechanical ventilation, heating by radiation, with automatic temperature regulation, cooking by electricity on the breakfast table, pneumatic despatch of parcels, rapid electric elevators, reticulation of boiling and iced water throughout the living rooms, electric punkahs, purification of air in public meeting rooms, advertising by moving electric signs, a great extension of coin-freed machinery for many utilities, such as shoe polishing, hat brushing, sale of celluloid drinking cups, postage stamps, stationery, railway and tram tickets - street drinking fountains usable without drinking cups, letter slots for posting letters in the elevator shafts, and many other devices too numerous to mention here. The great time, trouble, and labour-saving influence of all these conveniences necessarily contributes greatly to the efficiency of a community, and helps to explain the rapid material progress which is evident everywhere.


The principle of specialisation in the actual execution of both engineering and building construction is, I found, being carried to a far more complete degree than could be inferred from the occasional references in our technical journals to this latter-day phase of engineering administration, and this tendency has brought in its train the creation of a new class, the professional contractor, or, in other words, an industrial concern specialising in some branch of construction or manufacture for construction, and under the direct administration of a body of professional engineers who are trained specialists in that particular department. Thus, concerns which deal with steel manufacture and erection will undertake no other class of work. The same applies to the excavator, who keeps and maintains special labour-saving power plant for that and no other purpose; to the sanitary installation, to the elevator installation, and to the waterproofing, to the carpentry, to the decoration, and so on through every trade. By this means, a very high degree of efficiency is achieved, as the specialist constructor in each trade not only places his specialised advice and knowledge, both as to design and execution, at the disposal of the supervising architect or engineer (who cannot, of course, be an expert in all branches), but also retains the responsibility, under the sanction of a guarantee, for the success of his portion of the work. It might be thought that such a system would involve much trouble in the general administration of a work, but that this is not the case is proved by the almost universal adoption of this method of procedure in Germany and America. In the latter country I have seen as many as twenty different contractors working harmoniously and efficiently together on the one large construction. Under this order of things, the general contractor, as understood in this country, and whose function is chiefly to act as a sort of commission agent between the actual trade contractor and the proprietor, finds no place; and practising architects and engineers have assured me that the system of direct contracts for the different specialised trades has resulted in a marked combination of efficiency of result, with economy of cost.


I should like to have been able to give you some account of the latest achievements in great bridge building, such as the new Manhattan (Williamsburg) Suspension Bridge, the Queensboro' Cantilever Bridge, and many others, but the technical details necessary to convey an adequate idea of these splendid structures would exhaust your patient attention, which I fear I have already overtaxed.


One cannot return from a tour through the principal countries of the world without carrying back the strong impression that the present century belongs to the engineer, and that, although much has been achieved, much scope remains for further development. In particular, I would say that, situated as we are, so far from the centres of professional activity, a serious burden of responsibility is cast upon the Australian engineer to keep himself as well as he can, by diligent perusal of technical literature, abreast of the rapid expansion of his profession in the older world.

The lecture was illustrated by the subjoined lantern views:-

  1. Broad Street, New York, showing. the tall buildings.
  2. Metrop. Life Building, Madison Square, New York.
  3. Marshall Field's great department store, Chicago.
  4. The Pennsylvania railway terminal on Manhattan.
  5. One of the palatial waiting rooms in the latter.
  6. The Grand Central Terminal, showing the 4-story tunnels.
  7. Niagara Falls scenic route-panorama in two views.
  8. The Queensborough cantilever bridge over East River, New York.
  9. The Williamsburg (Manhattan) suspension bridge.
  10. The London underground electric railways-general plan.
  11. The 'Ville de Lucerne' dirigible, on the shores of Lake Lucerne.
  12. St. Gothard railway, at Wasen - two views.
  13. Diagrams of the spiral and loop tunnels near Goschenen.
  14. The Austrian Tauernbahn.
  15. The Axenstrasse near Fluelen.
  16. Town of Lucerne and the Rigi.
  17. Town of Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus.
  18. The Rigi railway train.
  19. The Pilatus railway, near the summit.
  20. Wetterhorn, near Grindelwald - two views.
  21. The Wetterhorn elevator (aerial ropeway).
  22. Mount Jungfrau and the Silverhorn.
  23. Diagram of lay-out of the Jungfrau railway.
  24. View from Eismeer station.
  25. The Rock Galleries at Eigerwand.
  26. Lausanne and the Port de Montobon (reinforced concrete, five arches).
  27. Lakes Geneva, Montreux, Veyey and Territet.
  28. The Castle of Chillon.
  29. The Matterhorn, and Schwartzee.
  30. Mont Blanc, and the Dome du Goutes, two views.
  31. The De Saussure Monument, Chamonix.