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Water Tanks of the SA Reinforced Concrete Co.

[Wallaroo Mines] [Mile End] [Pt Adelaide] [Dry Ck Abattoirs] [Mannum] [Tailem Bend] [Outer Harbor (bid)] [Loxton (bid)] [Pt Augusta] [100 of Glynn (project)] [Murray Bridge] [Gladstone] [Karoonda & Alawoona (bid)] [Renmark] [Taplan] [Fisher's] [Noarlunga & Reynella] [Paltridge] [Tailem Bend No.2 (project)] [Abattoirs condenser tank] [Islington] [Copeville, Mulpata & Peebinga] [Minippa No.2]


The following information comes from the records of the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Company. It seems probable that the records of the SARC have been lost; but much of their work is discussed or mentioned in correspondence between John Monash, who was their Consulting Engineer, and the various Resident Engineers who headed SARC's Adelaide office.

The amount of detail varies considerably. We know most about a few projects in South Australia that were handled by RCMPC's office in Melbourne. At the other extreme are names of localities or, in one case, a drawing, with no other details whatsoever. A 'Magill Tank' is first mentioned in a letter of January 1908. Another states that it was 11 feet [3.35m] deep. A letter of December 1909 mentions also a Corporation Tar Tank and tanks at Pewsey Vale and Strathalbyn, all of which were completed by that date.

Most of these structures were of a fairly routine nature as far as technology is concerned, but the stories of their design and construction (where available) contain informative and sometimes amusing insights into management, business tactics and personalities; a case of alleged theft of intellectual property; an angry river boat captain; and portents of war.

Wallaroo Mines:
Spray Cooling Tank (built)
Ore Concentrates Bins (project)

The earliest file concerning a SARC containment vessel does provide detailed technical information. It also provides a glimpse into Monash's tutoring of his Resident Engineer. In August 1909, H Lipson Hancock, General Manager of the Wallaroo & Moonta Mining & Smelting Co. wrote to both SARC and Gummow Forrest & Co in Sydney, asking the price of a cooling tank 116 by 73 feet in plan and 3 feet deep [35.4 × 22.3 × 0.9 m]. The tank was let into a natural surface of limestone rock, so consisted of a lining 3 inches thick [76mm], rather than a structural shell. Hancock seems to have wanted a rendering of fine mortar to ensure that the lining would be impervious. Monash resisted this, arguing: "Re cementing of the surfaces: this is only a question of greater perfection as against keeping the cost down. No cement concrete can be made absolutely and literally impervious from the outset; until the process of the deposition of carbonate of lime crystals is complete, there will be a slight seepage. This process usually takes 4 to 5 weeks after the tank is first filled, and the concrete then gradually becomes quite impervious." He did admit that cementing surfaces helped the appearance, and somewhat hastened the sealing process. He quoted £386 for the basic structure and £17 and £91 for rendering the walls and floor respectively. Henderson accepted the basic quote on 4 October. However by 9 November, W W Harvey was advising Hancock to wash the surfaces with a thick coat of neat cement because the concrete was porous due to an absence of fines in the sand. John Gibson had advised that this would also guard against "chemical deterioration owing to chemical action between the sand (which is highly mineralised) and the cement in the presence of water." Work was completed by the end of November. Late in September, Hancock expressed concern about shrinkage cracks.

Evidently, Hancock was not put off by these problems, because on 19 January 1910 he sent H G Jenkinson a blueprint showing existing ore concentrate bins that he thought might be replaced in reinforced concrete. The bins are square in plan, with common internal walls. The bottoms slope very steeply to allow discharge at one side. The accompanying sketch (below) shows a section through one bin. The overall height above ground was to be 25 feet [7.62m].

The ore concentrates were wet and of mixed sizes ranging from 1/2" [13mm] diameter downwards. The ore consisted of chalcopyrite (sulphide of copper and iron) with pyrite (sulphide of iron) and waste rock. The mineral content was Copper 9%, Iron 24%, Sulphur 20%, Silica 30-40%, Lime 5-12%, and Magnesia 1-2%.

Jenkinson forwarded this information to Monash, and asked whether the ore would have a deleterious effect on the concrete. Monash referred the question to John Gibson, Chemist and General Manager of RCMPC, who would be going to Adelaide the following day. He advised Jenkinson "you had better pursue the subject with him". Monash continued: "I consider you should have sent me the full text of Mr Hancock's letter. A good deal depends upon what this letter says or omits to say as to the extent of our responsibility, if any, for the chemical suitability of concrete in these bins. Moreover, the whole tenor of such a letter is a guide to our attitude in quoting. Please therefore send it along at once." He also noted that the capacity of the bins seemed "ridiculously small in relation to the whole structure", this being due primarily to the fact that the discharge was at the side, rather than in the middle of the bottom (see sketch below).

In a letter to Jenkinson, Monash added: "The more I look into this the more incomplete are the data with which you have furnished me. In matters of this kind you must realise that you are closer to the site than I am, and you ought therefore to anticipate the things that it is essential to know; and put forward enquiries in anticipation, thus gaining a couple of days. It is essential for me to know the specific gravity of the materials of the concentrates in bulk, that is including voids. I must also know something of the nature of the foundations upon which the bins are to rest; that is to say, the pressure per square foot which can be allowed on the soil. You endorse the tracing "to be returned" to your office, but this is very awkward, as if business goes on I find it most embarrassing to be without a complete file in this office. You should therefore ask the General Manager for a second blueprint."

Hancock insisted that the discharge must be at the side of the bins and that their existing shape was best for the purpose. Initially only two bins were wanted. He added "We do not anticipate any trouble with the foundations. These will probably be on a limestone crust close to the surface." The specific gravity of the concentrates as stored would be about 3.

Sketch below: from Monash's sheet of calculations, University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection, File SA1(26).

Having received a copy of Hancock's letter, Monash prepared technical notes. He obtained a rough idea of required wall thickness by taking horizontal strips of wall one foot high and treating them as simply-supported beams, spanning from corner to corner. He assumed a horizontal pressure of 80 psf [3.83kPa] and calculated the bending moment as wL²/8. Thus in Imperial units M = (D × 80) × 9.52 × 12 / 8 = 10,800 × D, where D is the depth of the strip being considered.

This suggested a wall thickness of 6" [152mm] near the top, increasing to 12" at the bottom. He calculated the total cost of the structure at £367. To this he added a margin of £183, to suggest a quote of £550 to £600. He noted that Hancock's letter made the outlook worse. With only two bins, the job was "small and troublesome", so it would be best to quote an ample price, though not too high, otherwise it might choke off future business on more profitable lines.

On 25 February, Monash told Jenkinson that he had not been able to get much further than the above, owing to the rush preceding his departure for his overseas tour; heavy work in connection with arbitration regarding the Preston No.2 Reservoir project; and the Melbourne staff being very busy. He wanted Jenkinson to deal with the Wallaroo project "exhaustively", guided by the notes which were "very rough … by way of preliminary calculations and estimates … neither very carefully considered, nor in any sense final". "They are sent you merely as a guide and suggestion to your solution."

A week later, Jenkinson commented to Monash, "In dealing with this matter we seem to be placed in the oft recurring position of having to design with a factor of safety of four, and compete as to price with work having an apparent factor of safety of about 2.5." He felt Monash's quantities were on the high side. Having looked at the possibility of using a thinner plate strengthened by ribs, he had decided the cost of the added complexity outweighed the saving in concrete. His final design was "exactly on the same lines" as Monash's. However, he had tapered the walls to 3 inches at the top. He asked if Monash wanted to see the calculations before SARC placed its quote, but was told to "deal with it outright". His proposed price was acceptable.

On 8 March Jenkinson submitted a quote for £315. We have not come across any evidence in the RCMPC files to indicate whether the bid was successful.

Overhead Tank, Mile End Running Sheds, Adelaide

Photo: University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/23885. Another image, showing the tank under construction, has Location No. BWP/23884.

This was a 50,000 gallon [227,000 litre] tank standing on a complex system of braced legs. It was designed by South Australian Railways engineers, the contract drawings being signed by Walter Rutt.

Jenkinson informed Monash in January 1911 that tenders had been called for its construction, commenting that "we would have to put in a pretty fat price for any such work, judging by the results of the tank at North Melbourne". This was a reference to the tank at the Dudley St railway yards. Monash's response was that the only course of action was to "tender outright at fair prices and take the chance of getting the work".

Monash was keen to use steel from Australian rolling mills to speed supply, but had found that "both Victoria and Lion Rolling Mills seem ill disposed to definitely guarantee any particular physical properties". The South Australian specification called for mild steel with an ultimate tensile stress of between 27 and 31 tons per square inch [417 to 479 Mpa], an elastic limit not less than half the uts, and an elongation not less than 20% in 8" [203mm]. Ductility was to be guaranteed by a temper test. Bars were to be heated to cherry red, cooled in water of 82 degrees Fahrenheit [28°C], and bent double around a bar of diameter 1.5 times that of the rod being tested, without sign of failure.

Monash thought the tensile properties were more appropriate for steel to be used in bridge work and were not sufficiently mild for reinforced concrete work. He advised Jenkinson to try to get the requirements relaxed. Australian mills could guarantee 22% elongation (sometimes 25%) as long as the uts was not greater than 26 tsi [402 MPa]. Jenkinson reported back that the SA authorities had agreed to accept a uts of 26 tsi, elongation of 22%, and an elastic limit of 15 tsi [232 MPa]. However, Mr Rutt and colleagues seemed to think that steel was no good if its uts was less than 26 tsi.

Lion Rolling Mills (represented by Arthur Timmins) finally said they would guarantee the required elastic limit and elongation as long as Monash would return material to the mills, paying the freight, if the Government rejected it. Monash told Jenkinson he had "practically assented" to this (meaning either to send the steel back to the mills, paying freight, or use it on another job).

Monash then delivered a lesson to Jenkinson on steel properties. A mild steel was one with high ductility, i.e. with high percentage elongation before fracture. These steels had a comparatively low ultimate tensile stress. For steels with a uts around 28 tsi [432 MPa] the elongation was approximately 18%, but with a uts of about 25 tsi [386 MPa] the elongation was around 25%. "We consider this latter a better steel than the higher grade usually specified for bridge work. The Departmental officers want educating on these matters. If they stick to their present ideas, they will shut out Australian rolled steel. Australian mills aim specially at high ductility in disregard of uts."

Monash continued: "As regards the elastic limit, who can say what is the elastic limit of a specimen? There is no method that I know of by which this can be accurately determined; the kink in the stress-strain diagram being quite inconclusive on the point." Jenkinson replied "With regard to the elastic limit - in commercial tests don't they take the yield point as denoting the so called commercial elastic limit? … This point is fairly definite, and considerably above the true elastic limit."

While this had been going on, SARC's Managing Director E H Bakewell had signed the contract on 17 February. Jenkinson reported on 18 March that the footings were now finished, and formwork for six of the columns had been prepared. The inspectors were "very strict and finicky". On 1 April, men were at work on the first row of braces, and by 29th the second tier of columns was complete. "The government people are as usual hindering us by delaying the supply of iron work to be built in." Early in June, the fifth tier of columns was half-completed and preparations were underway for the arches beneath the tank. Jenkinson reported that "The Government people are delaying [work] very greatly, withholding necessary information etc and have as good as said that time did not concern them very much." He was keen to start work on a contract for tanks at the Adelaide Abattoirs.

In June, bad weather and high winds added to the delay, making it hard for workmen to stand up on the upper levels of the structure. However, in July the tank itself was being concreted. Jenkinson was apparently still unconvinced of the need to cure concrete, commenting that "The Authorities have become so persistent that we will have to make some show of covering the concrete with damp bags". By the end of the month, all concreting was complete, and by early September all the scaffolding was down and the work "looking splendid". However, plasterer Lapthorne had still not quite finished, owing to the "finickiness" of the Railway's Clerk of Works. On 4 November, Jenkinson inspected the tank with the Resident Engineer, a Mr Caldwell, who was very satisfied.

Port Adelaide Grain Silos (project)

In January 1911, Jenkinson wrote to tell Monash that the SA Government proposed to erect a grain elevator at Port Adelaide "to give this system of handling grain a trial under local conditions". The Government had asked the Sydney firm of Gibson, Battle & Co. to provide an estimate, and their local representative, a Mr C Deland, had contacted Jenkinson regarding the structure. Deland wanted an estimate for concrete bins to hold either 75,000 bushels [2,728,000 litres] or 150,000. Jenkinson asked for details of Monash's analysis of the costs of the Rupanyup grain silos in Victoria.

Monash provided these and advised that for Adelaide he would favour the 75,000 bushel option, with a nest of six bins, each 20 feet [6.10m] diameter, and about 51 feet [15.5m] high. "American practice is very much in favor of cutting up the storage into a larger number of smaller diameter bins. You can make the most, in talking with Deland, of my very considerable experience and investigations in America, especially in the grain States, in the matter of Wheat Storage Practice." [This was during Monash's world tour.] The 150,000 bushel option would require six silos about 29 feet [8.84m] in diameter and 51 feet high. "A very important preliminary question relates to whether these structures are to have hopper bottoms or not - that is, if they are to be self-clearing entirely. You will notice that Gibson Battle's Coal Storage proposition was not self-clearing. The employment of a hopper bottom vastly increases the cost, because you would have to arrange for carrying the enormous vertical load upon a column system instead of direct upon the ground. It is easy to arrange all conveyors and discharge chutes from the silos in tunnels underground. This is the usual practice. Hereon see recent numbers of Concrete and Constructional Engineering which illustrate large plants."

Monash advised that a rough estimate of cost per thousand bushels could be based on that for Rupanyup, without freight, which was £11.63. To this should be added 25% or £2.91 to allow for the higher costs prevailing in Adelaide. Adding a 50% margin of £7.27 would bring the quotation price to £22 per thousand bushels. Therefore Jenkinson should quote for the smaller storage about £1750, and for the larger about £3250.

On 7 February, B W Jones, a director of Gibson Battle & Co, approached Monash's Melbourne office (RCMPC) for a quote on the same tanks, saying that he was obtaining prices from two other firms in SA. The space available was 150 by 55 feet [45.72 × 16.8 m] and foundation conditions were unknown. He suggested that RCMPC quote for the silos themselves and let GB&Co persuade the government to build the foundations. He proposed that the bin bottoms of the hoppers be about four feet off the ground.

Monash informed Jenkinson of the direct enquiry and asked him to send details of SARC's negotiations with GB&Co to date. He then proceeded to carry out his own design. The resulting drawing is dated 12 February. It shows four silos, arranged in a square, with a tunnel beneath, and conveyor housings on top. Monash sent this to GB&Co with a long explanatory letter. The cost of supporting the bins on columns was high, but this was necessary for self-cleaning. If the silos rested directly on the ground, the bin floor would have been flat and not self-cleaning. The outlet tunnel would be deeper, and some of the wheat would have to be raised in order to load it onto ships. He had thus placed the outlet, as desired, at a height of 3'-6" [1.07m] above the ground - hence the heavy supporting structure - and had provided a tunnel 3 feet [0.91m] wide and 3'-6" deep under each pair of silos, extending 20 feet [6.10m] towards the ship. He had provided one central outlet, as this would avoid "the peculiar and dangerous pressures arising when grain is in motion towards a point eccentric with the figure of the bin". He quoted £810 per bin, or £790 each for eight bins.

GB&Co acknowledged receipt and thanked Monash for "the very thorough manner in which you have gone into this proposition". However, we have come across no evidence to show that the bins were constructed by SARC or RCMPC.

Tanks at Adelaide Metropolitan Abattoirs, Dry Creek

This job was obtained through the Melbourne architect-engineer Charles A D'Ebro, who was architect for the entire abattoirs project. Monash had had professional dealings with D'Ebro [link] since at least 1903 in relation to various building projects. He had recently made inquiries regarding a water tank in Cheltenham, Melbourne. On 26 December 1909, Monash made quick stress computations for two 20,000 gallon [90,900 litre] tanks with their base 40 feet [12.2m] above ground. He noted: "Adopt design similar to that shown in Marsh p.491" - a reference to a leading English text on reinforced concrete. A quick estimate of cost was based on figures for cost per cubic foot of concrete, derived from previous projects. "Say 1600 c.f. [45 m³] @ 4/- complete incl. rendering = £320. Add for profit and supervision margin £200. Total cost £520."

Illustration: First proposal (abandoned). Elevation and horizontal half cross-sections. (J. Thomas Collection.)

Monash's letter to D'Ebro quoted between £500 and £550 for each tank. They would be cylindrical, of 21-foot [6.40m] internal diameter, and 10 feet [3.05m] deep, giving 21,500 gallon capacity. He continued: "the cylindrical tank would rest upon a girder system (octagonal in form) 40 ft [12.2m] above ground; this in turn resting upon an octagonal pillar system, consisting of 8 columns with horizontal transoms (but no diagonal bracing); cornice, cap, plinth and other projections can be provided to give an agreeable appearance … I refer you to the illustration in Marsh's work p.491 as an indication of the type of structure contemplated".

Details were sent to Jenkinson in Adelaide while J A Lindsay carried out more detailed calculations in the Melbourne office. On 7 January, Monash informed D'Ebro that design was progressing well, but he would be absent the following week on military manoeuvres at Seymour. Lindsay would complete the outline design in pencil and send it to D'Ebro. In making his quote at the end of February, Monash raised the thorny problem of the prime-cost item which caused so much trouble in the case of the Melbourne Public Library dome [link]. The figure of £520 was net. "If included as P.C. and 10 per cent be allowed to Contractor, kindly add one ninth, making total amount £578." D'Ebro probably added some architectural treatment to the design, because P T Fairway made a rough tracing of D'Ebro's drawing of the tank, dated 28 February. This shows a structure similar to the Mile End tank [above], though with only three tiers of columns.

On 10 August 1910, The Melbourne Age reported that C Wadey had won the contract for the buildings involved in the Adelaide Metropolitan Abattoirs. RCMPC had worked with Wadey on the New Benevolent Asylum in Cheltenham. When D'Ebro sent his specification to RCMPC, they discovered that the tanks were included as a prime cost item of £530 only. Fairway wrote to Jenkinson: "We quoted Mr D'Ebro for the construction of Two Tanks in Reinforced Concrete. I enclose copy of our quotation, particulars of design, blueprint of tank, and also extracts from Mr D'Ebro's specification. These papers and the drawing will give you the fullest particulars of the whole of our actions in this matter, and you will therefore be able to follow exactly on the lines which we have suggested. I think it will be advisable, and in fact necessary for your own satisfaction, to thoroughly scrutinise the whole design and computations. C. Wadey & Co. are the successful Contractors for this work. You will notice a small discrepancy between the price in our quotation and Mr D'Ebro's specification; you will, of course, work on the matter."

Jenkinson's reply, with a copy to John Gibson, was "Mr D'Ebro saw Mr Bakewell last week. I also saw Mr D'Ebro myself later and he promised to let us know when the work would be ready for us. I rather think that the price per tank viz £530 is cut too fine for the class of work required. For work requiring fairly skilled carpenters South Australian costs are much higher than Victorian. The men have higher wages and are not such good workmen."

In May 1911, Jenkinson tried to persuade D'Ebro to adopt the cheaper solution of a simple cylindrical tank, or 'standpipe', filled with water from ground level up, as built by RCMPC at several locations, e.g. Pyramid Hill. He told Monash: "About a month ago in chatting to D'Ebro here, I advised him to consider the erection of standpipes instead of tanks. Mr D'Ebro said he would see you about it, and I am wondering if he has done so. Your prices for these tanks were made up some time ago, and on looking through your items you will see that under present conditions there will be very little profit to be made if the quotes submitted are to hold. I have already hinted to Mr D'Ebro that our quotes were cut pretty fine, and I think that we might increase our figures a little now, if only on the score of considerably increased wages, both actual and probable. We shall be starting the tanks as soon as Mile End Tank is finished … The site of the work is an out of the way place called Dry Creek, and we shall probably have to pay still higher rates there than even the high ones ruling in the City."

Word that work might soon start on the Abattoirs Tanks seems to have startled Monash. Did this mean that Wadey had given a definite order to go ahead? If so there was still much to be settled about their design, their piping, etc. "In point of fact Mr D'Ebro is hopelessly difficult to bring to any decision about anything. At various and numerous times during the last six months, he has spoken to me and Fairway and Gibson and Alec., in the street, in the train, and in the office about these tanks, and he does not seem to know what he wants. Of course, if we can we shall go for the Standpipe idea. Our estimates allow for a labor cost of 2/- per c. ft. all round, and a contingency and profit margin of 60 per cent., so I can scarcely concur in your alarm as to the low price for the work. But of course, if we can get more for the work we certainly shall. Should either Mr D'Ebro or Wadey approach you in Adelaide, you had better refer them to us here, and let us know at once."

Jenkinson replied: "There is nothing definitely settled about our starting these tanks, but, Mr D'Ebro on a recent visit said that 'we could start almost immediately'. During his last conversation with me, in which by the way he displayed the propensities noted in your letter, he indicated that he would be ready for us very shortly. As in any case I should wait until the Mile End tank gang is free, I am anticipating that we will probably start work at the Abattoirs on the conclusion of the Mile End Tank job, i.e. in about two months. With regard to increasing our prices, I think we are quite justified in doing this after the long interval that has elapsed, and the changes that have taken place in wages since the estimates were made, whether the latter are ample of not. Mr D'Ebro also mentioned to Pratt [one of SARC's foremen] in a chance meeting in the street, that the sites for the tanks were not yet fixed. I am going out at an early date to have a good look over the ground and inspect some gravel that they have got down there. Mr D'Ebro gave me the impression that he was going to see you and fix everything up for starting. It would perhaps be as well, if it were pointed out to him that we would have a suitable gang available in two months time, and it would suit us best to start then."

At last, Wadey approached RCMPC about the tanks. Monash asked D'Ebro if they could discuss Wadey's terms and conditions, and the possibility of using standpipes. He also pointed out that the original quote was 15 months old. He then revised Lindsay's design and estimate, telling Fairway that the new design was "for tanks after the style of those tendered for at Mildura, Wonthaggi &c. The estimate is got out on lines customary in S.A." The price had turned out to be £528, only £8 more than the quote of February 1910. "Mr D'Ebro can be told that for a Tank with a Column Substructure, our price today would probably be 10% higher than our former quote, owing to the heavy rises in all materials and labour, i.e. at least £50 per tank more than formerly. Thus he would save money, and get a handsome job, by accepting our present proposals off hand. We would be willing to put our offer in writing. Of course, our quote is for each of two tanks, let together." The floor of the tanks was now 45 feet [13.7m] above ground. D'Ebro accepted this quote on 31 May 1911.

Illustration: adopted scheme. At left: elevation with upper part stippled to show rough-cast treatment. At right: vertical cross-section, showing central column. (J. Thomas Collection.)
Two historic photographs of the reservoirs at Dry Creek are held by the University of Melbourne Archives with Location Numbers BWP/23886 and /23887.

On 8 June, Jenkinson reported that he had visited the site. He explained that Dry Creek was about 6 miles [9.7km] from Adelaide and goods could be railed right on to the Abattoir's land. The tanks would be a couple of hundred yards from the rails, on opposite sides of the line. The soil should be able to take a foundation pressure of 3000 psf [144 kPa]. Wadey had offered to supply sand and screenings at 10/- per cubic yard, but Jenkinson thought "we can do better than this", listing better quality sources than those used by Wadey. "The oft-recurring misunderstanding about the contractor's commission has again cropped up, as might have been expected. I did not want to annoy the old chap who was fairly cordial and referred him to Mr D'Ebro."

Monash sent Jenkinson a copy of RCMPC's design of the Abattoirs tank and the "design-and-estimate file" for the amended design. "I hold the opinion that the type of tank here suggested will be a comparatively easy and cheap one to build. The windows in the shell are put in really to enable scaffolding platforms to be supported on the shell of the tank. I am hoping to be in Adelaide for a few days shortly after Mr Bakewell's return, and this will give an opportunity for my conveying to you, in fuller detail, verbally, my ideas of how the actual construction could with best advantage proceed." Meanwhile, Jenkinson should study the design calculations and, if in agreement, should put in hand a working drawing showing the reinforcement, and prepare the necessary requisitions for materials. "I would have this done for you at this end, but we are very short handed and absolutely overburdened with work in our drawing office. Doubtless we will have to have a good many interviews with Mr D'Ebro in regard to fixing the exact sizes and attachments for the pipes and ladders, but we will push this on at this end as fast as we can." Monash also sent a copy of the drawings for the Tatura tank as a guide to the reinforcement, which might shorten Jenkinson's labours on detailed design. Jenkinson replied that he thought the design for the Abattoirs tank "an admirable one and the general appearance of the Tanks should meet with approval of even the most fastidious in aesthetic matters".

Referring to Jenkinson's contacts with Wadey, Monash advised: "Mr Wadey is an old friend of mine, but a rather difficult man to do business with - a great bluffer. My experience is that it is good policy to give way to him in small things, but be firm when things are really important. For example, the siding is his pro tem and he will expect to be entrusted with the supply of sand and screenings etc. It is much better to pay him a little more than market rates for these services, than to suffer his obstruction in the use of his local facilities. He has already spoken to Mr Gibson, and indicated that he expected us to give him the job of arranging for these supplies. We got on very well with him at our work in the Benevolent Asylum, Cheltenham, but several times things looked very ugly when Lynch did things which displeased Wadey. He likes it to be thought that he is very generously helpful in facilitating our work, and you will be well advised to 'smoodge' to him in this respect. The question of Contractor's Commission is of course merely a try-on with him, and the best line to take is 'We would if we could, but our price will absolutely not permit of the smallest abatement'." Monash did not expect D'Ebro would agree to wait 6 weeks, so Jenkinson had better pressure the government engineers for the information required for completion of the Mile End tank [re pipework, ladders, etc].

The reinforcement drawings were prepared by "O.O.H." and signed by Jenkinson on 29 June 1911. Excavation of the first footings was complete by 26 August, and the tower had reached the first floor (or diaphragm) by 9 September. Jenkinson reported that only four men were working because of the confined nature of operations. The following week he reported that Wadey was not looking after SARC very well. He had had to transfer men to the excavation of the Tower 2 footing, as concreting of Tower 1 was held up. He had taken the step of ordering his own material. "We will probably have to allow Wadey something on the stuff, but this is better than being humbugged about." By 23rd, Tower 1 was up to second floor level. SARC were obtaining supplies from their usual sources and Wadey was carting it from rail to site. A week later the SARC gang were having to cart materials themselves and work had been slowed as a result. By 7 October, Tower 1 was up to the third floor and the footings of No.2 had been concreted. By 21st, No.1 was up to the tank floor, and No.2 up to the first floor.

In January 1912, Jenkinson informed Monash that he had asked for a progress payment, but D'Ebro was very difficult to get hold of. "As his flying visits are made at un-notified times, and, as he has all along dealt directly with you [Monash] I think that if you mentioned the matter in question to him his certificate would be forthcoming sooner than otherwise." However, D'Ebro pointed out that SARC were under contract to Wadey. D'Ebro certified that work had been done, but the money had to be extracted from Wadey. Jenkinson commented: "I am just wondering now that progress payments are given to Wadey in the first place (and we have practically to worm our money out of the latter gentleman) whether there will be any fuss about Commission". Monash replied that he had been aware of this situation all along. "I do not think there is likely to be any trouble with Wadey about commission. He will assuredly make some fuss and there may be a little delay in the final squaring up, but inasmuch as we hold a direct acceptance of our net terms from Mr D'Ebro, we can be quite certain that he will protect us in the last resort and will see that we get the full amount of our contract paid to us. To this end you must keep me advised of the final stages of the negotiations so that prompt action can be taken at this end whenever necessary."

On 20 January, workers were concreting the lowest ring of the actual shell of No.2 tank. Plasterers had coated the No.1 tank, and were now working down the tower. By April, the tanks had been finished, but the Chief Clerk of Works, R D Langley, informed SARC that the architect wanted the stains caused by weeps and leaks painted over. After that, the tanks could be passed for full payment. Jenkinson asked D'Ebro if he could ask Wadey for full payment yet? Wadey was claiming that he had not been paid in full himself, and that SARC owed him a commission. Jenkinson also asked to be relieved of having to paint trivial stains. He could see no point, as the tanks were exposed to dust and smoke. It would mean sending up two men with a boatswain's chair. He was willing to make a small allowance in the price. At the end of May, Jenkinson asked Monash to use his influence with D'Ebro. The outstanding balance was £100.

Monash replied: "After considerable trouble I got hold of Mr D'Ebro and when he heard that Wadey had not paid, he fumed and spluttered and said 'Don't pay him one shilling commission' and much more to the same effect." D'Ebro had said he had instructed Wadey to pay the full £100. Monash advised Jenkinson to tell Wadey of this, and if nothing happened in reasonable time, D'Ebro would take increasingly firm action. He continued: "I rather think that, as a result of my conversation, he will do something at once on his own initiative, as he was very indignant, or pretended to be".

After a further appeal, D'Ebro wrote: "Dear Monash, I have just returned from Adelaide and am sending off a letter to Wadey indemnifying him and requesting full payment. I forgot that I had a letter from your Co in Adelaide guaranteeing. Naturally Wadey is rather ill over the matter. He only put in the net price of one Tank in his Schedule! Yours truly, Charles D'Ebro." Wadey paid the £100 in July.

Mannum Tank

In March 1911, Jenkinson reported that C A Bayer, Hydraulic Engineer of the Public Works Department in Adelaide, had asked him for a price for an overhead tank at Mannum, "a small town 20 miles [32 km] up the river from Murray Bridge". Required capacity was 25,000 gallons [114,000 litre] with a 25 foot [7.62m] minimum head. The tank would be half a mile from the river. Good foundation material could be found 3 feet [1m] below ground surface. Bayer had asked for a tank "after the same style as that which we are now constructing for the Railways Commissioner at Mile End". Jenkinson had immediately responded with a price of £700, but that was not firm. "I also suggested to Mr Bayer that a stand pipe would be considerably cheaper, on the principle that water makes a very cheap supporting column".

Jenkinson's calculations include a sketch of his "First Scheme", with column support as at Mile End. It shows the tank itself 20 feet [6.10m] in internal diameter and 13 feet [3.96m] deep, with a wall 4" [102mm] thick, and a floor 10" [254mm] thick. Eight rectangular columns 12" [305mm] square are arranged in a circle of average diameter 14'-8" [4.47m]. The horizontal bracing consists of one ring of beams 12" square in cross-section, at the mid-height of the stand. The columns stand on an annular base 6 feet [1.83m] wide. The estimated cost was £490, to which he added £50 for "Administration etc" and a clear margin of £140. He recommended a quote of £690.

The "Second Scheme" was to be a simple vertical tube or 'standpipe', 15 feet [4.57m] in internal diameter, with a wall thickness of 6" [152mm]. The client had specified a minimum head of water of 25 feet, to provide pressure for reticulation. A further 23 feet of height was needed above this level to provide the required 25,000 gallons capacity. This resulted in a total height of 48 feet [14.6m] above ground level. The circular base was to be a slab 16 feet [4.88m] in diameter and 12" thick, at a depth of 3 feet. The estimates were: cost £414, administration etc £42, margin £135; recommended quote £600.

Jenkinson's calculations and estimate carry a note "Arithmetic checked A.A.H." This was A A Hargrave, who had been appointed as Draughtsman in March 1909. (Young engineers normally started under this heading. They were expected also to do basic calculation work.)

Jenkinson commented that transport of materials would be by rail to Murray Bridge, and thence by boat to Mannum. His price allowed for freight of most materials from Adelaide, in case they were not available near the site. Monash responded that the designs and cost rates were "very ample". "It is a moral certainty that there will be good coarse sand beds in or near the river." However, the job was far from Adelaide, so a good price was justifiable. If the standpipe alternative was adopted, Monash would want to go over the calculations, as he would like to see a wall thickness greater than 6" in the lower 20 feet of the shell, if sand was obtained locally.

There was a hiatus until 31 January 1912, when Jenkinson reported that Bayer had called tenders for steel tanks and had been surprised by the cost. Jenkinson had shown him the tanks at the Dry Creek Abattoirs [image] and Bayer had been "much impressed with the mushroom type of construction". He had asked for prices for a tank with 33 ft [10.1m] minimum head of water. HGJ had quoted £816 for "open braced construction" or £746 for "mushroom construction". "The clear margin shown in my estimate is £118, but judging from the satisfactory way in which Abattoirs Tanks are working out, we shall in all likelihood exceed this." HGJ had agreed to Bayer's request for a retention of 25% until the tank had been working 6 months without complaint. He had accepted this because Bayer hinted at several more tanks.

Sketch: vertical cross-section. (The wavy lines across the supporting structure and the piles indicate that these components are not shown full length.) From Jenkinson's sheet of calculations, University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection, File SA2(27).

The quote for the 'mushroom' tank was accepted and concreting of the footing started in mid-April. The first diaphragm was concreted on 6 May. By 4 June, the tower (cylindrical shaft, diaphragms, and central column) was complete and the formwork for the tank floor was being constructed. All concrete work was finished by the end of June, and the plastering was completed by the end of July. In August Jenkinson declared the appearance excellent. The Department would connect the piping within a week or two to carry out the test.

The total cost of the Mannum Tank was £541, showing a healthy profit. Freight costs worked out at about 16/- per ton.

Tailem Bend Tank (No.1)

Photo: State Library of South Australia, Image No. B 33844 "First water tower at Tailem Bend". (The apparent lean is believed to be due to wide-angle lens distortion.)

In March 1912 Jenkinson reported that "Mr Bayer has asked us to submit a quote for a 25,000 gallon [114,000 litre] tank at Tailem Bend, similar in every respect to the one we are about to erect at Mannum". The quote for Mannum had been £746. The Tailem Bend tank would be only about ½ mile [0.8km] from the Railway Station, so freight costs would be smaller than at Mannum. Even so, Jenkinson suggested quoting £760 for the new tank, and asking Bayer to wait until the gang had finished at Mannum. Monash agreed to this, as long as there was no danger that Bayer would question the increase in price, seeing that Tailem Bend was nearer to Adelaide. "Doubtless you can judge of all this before acting."

On 31 May, Jenkinson reported that his quote of £832 had been accepted. The tank would be the same as at Mannum except that the tower would be 5 feet higher, giving a total height of 50 feet [15.2m]. Work was to follow on from Mannum. The contract was not signed until late in July, when excavation commenced immediately. The first diaphragm was concreted by 20 August, and the second by 3 September. Jenkinson announced on 6 November that the tank had been completed "and looks very well indeed".

Outer Harbor Tank (project)

At the end of July 1912 the Engineer-in-Chief's Department asked SARC to quote on a tank of 50,000 gallons [227,000 litres], "the design to be somewhat on the lines of those recently erected near Gepps Cross". The letter listed a number of requirements, one of which was that the top should be 55 feet [16.8m] above ground. The tank was to be on reclaimed land, and the Department specified that the foundation would have to be piles driven to the limestone rock about 44 feet [13.4m] below reclaimed level, with a Factor of Safety of 5.

Jenkinson's notes show a tank of 25 feet [7.62m] internal diameter, 17 feet [5.18m] deep. The wall thickness is 3" [76mm] at the top and 6" at the bottom. The shell below the floor is 5" [127mm] thick and there are three diaphragms, 4¼ " [108mm] thick. The central column is formed from 24" [610mm] Monier pipes filled with concrete containing a reinforcing cage. The raft foundation is 25 feet [7.62m] in diameter and 18" [457mm] thick.

Passing this news on to Monash, Jenkinson said he found the Chief Engineer's Factor of Safety on the piles absurd. Surely a factor of 3 would be adequate? "Requirement 3 [height of the top of the tank] also is put in a foolish form, although I suppose it does not concern us. Nothing is specified about minimum head." He asked whether he should quote for a timber pile alternative, or "deprecate the use of timber piles".

Monash agreed about the Factor of Safety, saying that most engineers would be satisfied with 2. "But I doubt the wisdom of arguing the point with the E-I-C. Who is he now?" He advised Jenkinson to design the tank to SARC's normal standards, and to choose the price to allow for the number of piles to be increased, should the Department notice that their requirements had not been complied with. Monash advised Jenkinson to quote 6 months for completion. This could be achieved by delivering materials to site while the piles were being driven.

Jenkinson advised that the Engineer in Chief was now Mr Graham Stuart. On 18 September, he informed Monash that the authorities had decided to build the tank in steel as it was required "in a great hurry, well before Christmas".

Loxton Tank (unsuccessful tender)

In August 1912, the SA Hydraulic Engineer's Department called tenders for a scheme involving either two 25,000 gallon reinforced concrete tanks or one 50,000 gallon [227,000 litre] tank. This was a departure from the process adopted so far, in which C A Bayer, the Hydraulic Engineer, simply placed an order with SARC as the only suppliers in the State of reinforced concrete water tanks, knowing that this form of construction was cheaper than steel. Jenkinson commented to Monash: "Mr Bayer's reason for calling tenders this time is that he does not want people to have any loophole for saying he is favouring us. The provision that tenderers are to submit their own design should leave us pretty safe, I think." Jenkinson suggested estimates based on the Mannum and Tailem Bend tanks, adding that these "worked out satisfactorily [i.e. showing a handsome profit], but you may desire to make some comments thereon as we are now competing in open tender." He explained "Loxton is about 20 miles [32km] in a direct line from the Victorian border, and the inhabitants have been agitating for a railway for some time". Freight costs were very high. The Tailem Bend price had been £832 for a 25,000 gallon tank with a total height of 50 feet [15.2m]. Loxton would be 75 feet high for the smaller version or 80 feet [24.4m] high for the bigger one. The walls of the tower below the tank floor would be pierced with large openings to reduce the overturning effect of the wind.

Sketch. Scheme for 25,000 gallon option. Tank supported on cylindrical shaft with central column and four diaphragms. From Jenkinson's sheet of calculations, University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection, File SA2(24).

Monash replied that he had studied the proposal assuming Jenkinson's arithmetic to be correct. He thought that £100 could be added to the price of the 50,000 gallon alternative, as it would be much cheaper than two small tanks. "I am willing to take the risk of competition, as I think the prospect of such is remote, and it is not likely that inexperienced tenderers would cut low for such a job." The price for the two small tanks could come down, allowing for re-use of plant. So the same margin could be applied to both schemes, and SARC would be indifferent as to which scheme was adopted.

On 31 August, draughtsman A A Hargrave was relieved of his duties for allegedly making copies of many of SARC's analyses of costs, and attempting to copy a drawing of a tank. He then either went to work for, or helped form, the Concrete Steel Contracting Company, taking with him the knowledge and experience acquired in more than three years' work with SARC.

Tenders for the Loxton Tank closed about 10 September, and on 21st, Jenkinson informed Monash that "Hargrave's Company" had tendered below SARC "on a design practically identical with our own". Monash asked Jenkinson to consult with Managing Director Bakewell as to whether it was worth "boldly approaching Mr Bayer officially", stating the facts, and saying that he would be well advised to hand such work, even at a slightly higher price, to SARC "who have proved our experienced capacity to carry out such work, rather than to novices and underlings". His judgement of Bayer was that he would be prepared to show his resentment of Hargrave's conduct by ignoring the CSC Company's tender, especially if he could be given the idea that Gummow's interest were indirectly involved.

This letter crossed with one from Jenkinson saying that he and Bakewell had already brought the matter up with Bayer. He reported that Bayer was astonished at the revelations and sympathetic to SARC, but was somewhat doubtful that anything could be done with regard to the ultimate destination of the tender. Jenkinson concluded: "Mr Bayer is very friendly and I am sure he will do all he can".

Jenkinson then wrote an official letter to Bayer, revised by SARC's solicitor, setting out SARC's viewpoint, including the fact that Hargrave had worked on SARC's design and estimate for the Loxton Tank, and so knew exactly what their bid would be. However, it was to no avail, and on 5 October he wrote to inform Monash that SARC had lost the job. Later correspondence with Monash shows that in March 1913 CSC were making slow progress at Loxton (see below) and became involved in a lawsuit with a Captain Arnold regarding transport by river.

The tank at Loxton designed and built by the Concrete Steel Contracting Co. is described in The Commonwealth Engineer for 1 April, 1914, pp.293-4.

Port Augusta Tank (project?)

This project is known to us only through an RCMPC drawing dated September 1912, now in the J Thomas Collection. It is a fully developed working drawing with complete reinforcement details, of the type normally prepared only when RCMPC had secured a tender. However, we have come across no other information to suggest that it was built. A communication from Jenkinson in March of that year reads: "Mr Bakewell has received from Mr Colebatch (Director of Public Stores) intimation that the Federal Govt are considering a proposal to erect a reinforced concrete wharf at Port Augusta in connection with the Transcontinental Railway. A visit to us from Mr Sanders, Resident Engineer at Port Augusta is to be arranged shortly. This gentleman is under Mr Deane, and Mr Colebatch was informed that you and Mr Deane were closely in touch." There is no indication that SARC or RCMPC received a contract for this wharf, but the tank may have been part of the same project.

Underground Tank, Hundred of Glynn (project)

This proposition is worth mentioning as it gives an insight into conditions at the time, as they affected SARC's business tactics. In November 1912, Jenkinson mentioned to Monash that an underground tank was to be built in the Hundred of Glynn on the Eyre Peninsula. It would be 16 miles [26km] inland from Cowell, a small port on Spencer Gulf, by boat some 250 miles [400km] from Port Adelaide and 45 from Wallaroo. There was no railway communication at all. The current proposal was to build the tank of masonry using stone quarried almost at the site. Jenkinson noted that there were many similar cases, but he could see no hope of competing in reinforced concrete, "no matter how fine the design".

Murray Bridge Tank

In September 1912, Jenkinson informed Monash of a project again involving a choice between a single large tank of 100,000 gallons [455,000 litres], or two smaller tanks of 52,000, required for Murray Bridge. The new tanks were to be connected through piping to existing cast iron tanks, and so the upper and lower levels of water in the new tanks were required to correspond with those in the old tanks. As a result, the new tanks had to be very flat, and consequently of large diameter. Jenkinson proposed to support them entirely on columns, but opted for a large diameter cylindrical tower, with columns in the interior to support the tank floor. The 52,000 gallon tanks were 36 feet [11.0m] in diameter and 9'-2" [2.79m] deep. Their floors would be 30 feet [9.14m] above ground surface. The shell of the shaft would have an outside diameter of 31 feet and there would be four 18" [457mm] pipe columns inside it. There would be two horizontal diaphragms. The basic price per tank, including ladders, doors, and windows was estimated at £1109. To this were added administration costs of £100 and a margin of £400 to give a total figure for quotation of £1609 per tank or, say, £3100 for the two.

Sketches. Vertical cross-section and plan of Jenkinson's first proposal for a 52,000 gallon tank. From his sheet of calculations, University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection, File SA2(25). For a photograph of the completed tank see State Library of South Australia Image No. PRG 280/1/7/365. The image suffers from wide-angle lens distortion. The tank as built does not seem to meet the requirement regarding water levels.

The 100,000 gallon tank would be 50 feet [15.2m] in diameter and 9 feet deep, on a 45 foot diameter supporting cylinder. There would be 8 columns, one located on the centreline and 1'-9" [533mm] in diameter, and the other 7 located in a circle, and 18" in diameter. There were to be two diaphragms. The cost figures, as above, were £1912, £190, and £700 respectively, totalling £2802.

Monash replied that the figures were very high compared with Victorian experience. He thought this was because the tower-shell type of design was not suitable for a case where the diameters of the tanks were so large. In the large one, "the diaphragms alone absorb 2,354 cubic feet [67m³] of concrete at a cost of £470". "This is sufficient money to build 28 additional columns or a total of 35 columns, and I feel sure that a design could be worked out to deal with the whole substructure in say 16 columns." Very little horizontal bracing would be required in a 30 ft height, probably one tier of horizontal braces half way up. The total load on the columns would be less than 1½ million pounds [6672 kN]. Sixteen columns 15 × 15 [381 × 381 mm] would provide 3,600 square inches, meaning that the stress in the concrete would be well under 500 lbs per square inch [3.45 MPa].

The proposed base plate was "very extravagant". With a diameter of 50 ft, it would have an area of 20,000 square feet. The limestone rock should withstand at least 3 tons per square foot [322 kPa], indicating a carrying capacity of 6,000 tons. However, the total load of the tank structure would be well below 1,000 tons. Again, the water load on the floor of tank would be only about 5 cwt per square foot [26.8 kPa]. The cost of the floor worked out at £408 for about 20 squares of floor, or £20 a square, which was a very high rate for a perfectly static and perfectly uniform loading. Monash also thought the allowances for rendering and freight were extravagant. There would be competition from steel, probably based on the [steel] prices which obtained when rates were lower.

"I think, therefore, that these tenders should be reconsidered with a view to cutting down, not the profit or contingency margin, but the design itself. We must always make the utmost in commercial competition of our ability to design closely and with a low factor of safety, having the assurance of faithful and accurate execution of our designs."

Monash felt sure, though without figuring, that some £300 to £400 could be knocked off both propositions. As time was short, he recommended showing less on the drawings than SARC was prepared to give, "as you cannot cut down after getting the job, but can always give more". Also, in view of the low depth of water, it might be more economical to treat the walls as a vertical cantilever, rather than considering shell action. "One last point - I am not at all sure that Monier Pipes filled with concrete make as economic columns as our ordinary rectangular columns of high-grade concrete with 1½ or 2 per cent reinforcements. It is worth your while critically comparing the two."

Jenkinson replied: "The two main reasons for my clinging to the Tower and Monier Pipe design are:
(1) The tank can be built by intelligent labourers. This, to my mind, is a very great consideration, for if labourers can do the work they work much faster and more economically than carpenters.
(2) Murray Bridge is like Tailem Bend and Mannum, a very windy place and it is very difficult indeed to construct a braced column supporting system if there is any wind at all."

He thought he could save £200 on each proposition by paring the designs of the tank shell, tank floor, and foundations "which in my design are all very ample". He defended his price for plastering which was reasonable by Adelaide prices. He added: "I may say that the outline design shown in Mr Bayer's own plans shows two towers, an outer and an inner, as well as a central column, a much more costly design than mine. Should anyone else tender they would most likely not alter the outlines of Mr Bayer's design, as they would not be aware that his design is not at all meant to influence the Contractor."

Jenkinson said he was ready to change his design to a braced column system if Monash insisted and sent a wire to that effect. However, Monash agreed with Jenkinson's basic proposition saying he was not aware that Bayer had proposed a costly design with a double tower shell. "This somewhat alters the position."

Formal acceptance of the tender was received on 12 October. The price, following amendments required by Bayer, was now £2670, suggesting the single large tank option had been adopted. A start was made on site on 19th. The footings were finished by 2 November. The tower was complete up to the second diaphragm by 14 January 1913. There are no more reports in the RCMPC files after this. Jenkinson sent photographs of the completed tank on 19 May, and final cost analyses on 17 July.

Gladstone, 1913

Jenkinson informed Monash in March 1913 that the railways Department had called tenders for a reinforced concrete tank of 25,000 gallons [114,000 litres] capacity. He explained that Gladstone was an important railway centre, 137 miles [220km] from Adelaide. "The tank recently erected at Mannum can be used in this instance as an absolute criterion as the conditions are almost identical. The Mannum tank is 1'-0" [305mm] higher than Gladstone, but same capacity. Freight etc to Mannum averaged about 16/- per ton, as against about 14/6 to Gladstone. Our price for the Mannum tank was £746."

"Bearing in mind that we shall probably have competition, I propose that we tender on the following lines:

Total actual cost of Mannum Tank£541
deduct for slightly less freight and height11
Standing charges40
clear margin130
Proposed tender£700

This price is £50 less than the approximate figure I gave Mr Stephen when he first mentioned the matter to me early in January. Kindly note that our competitor is probably aware of all our Mannum figures, and although I have cut things, perhaps, a little fine this time, it would be extremely inadvisable, I think, to risk our competitor obtaining the work. We must assume that he will tender, though from all accounts but slow progress is being made at Loxton."

In reply, Monash advised Jenkinson to cut the quote down a little to obtain an "odd figure". Also: "As in this case, designs are left entirely to us, it will be worth considering whether it is not possible to somewhat cut down bulk of concrete and steel, so as to cut off, say another £20 or so off the price. I have no doubt that our normal designs will stand a little paring. Moreover, if any of the Mannum plant and equipment can be used at Gladstone, it would seem that you would be able to cut still more off the presumed total cost of £530." However, the margin should be left intact. "It will be well to make every effort to give our competitor a severe bump, even at some sacrifice to ourselves."

SARC's tender of £668 was accepted, and the contract signed in mid-May. On 10 September, Jenkinson reported that the reinforced concrete work was complete. The first progress payment of 75% did not become due until the tank had been filled with water for a week, but he would try to get it immediately. His Final Analysis was sent on 10 October.

Karoonda and Alawoona Tanks (project)

In June 1913, SARC tendered for two 15,000 gallon [68,200 litre] tanks on the Brown's Well Line, one at Karoonda and the other at Alawoona, respectively 105 and 150 miles from Adelaide [169 and 241 km]. The minimum head of water required was only 17 feet [5.18m]. SARC quoted £615 for the two tanks, giving a clear margin of £90. The proposed supporting system was a simple hollow tower without any central column or diaphragms.

Jenkinson told Monash that the Concrete Steel Contracting Company had submitted a design "which apparently in the opinion of the Chief fulfils the requirements" and their quote of £572 had been accepted. Jenkinson continued: "I think our policy for the immediate future should, generally speaking, be to obtain a decent volume of work provided we are not involved in actual loss. Therefore I suggest cutting prices a little fine on our next quotations." Monash replied that SARC's price seemed extremely high, even if it included the fittings [pipes, ladders, etc]. Taking an extreme view, a standpipe 30 feet [9.14m] high with a diameter of 15'-6" [4.72m] would meet the requirements. Walls about 5" [127mm] thick and a floor averaging 8" [2.44mm] thick would require 800 cubic feet [22.7m³] of concrete. Including freight and steel, the full cost would not have been more than £320 for two tanks. Even with an allowance of £30 for contingencies, a quote of under £500 would have returned a handsome profit.

There is a hint in this correspondence that Jenkinson was growing impatient of the need to consult Monash on every proposition. He referred to "my design" in describing the proposal, and Monash noted that "There is no record in this office of estimates for these tanks having been submitted for review".

Renmark Tank

The Hydraulic Engineer's Department called tenders about October 1913 for a 50,000 gallon [227,000 litre] overhead tank at Renmark, a town on the Murray, near the border with Victoria. Jenkinson's initial proposal was for a tower shell 48 feet [14.6m] high with perforations to reduce wind pressure. The diameter would be 29'-6" [8.99m] and the depth 11'-9" [3.58m].

Sketches. Vertical cross-section and plan of Jenkinson's first proposal for Renmark. From his sheet of calculations, University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection, File SA3(30). Photographs. The State Library of South Australia has two photographs of Renmark that show water towers. My guess is that the SARC tank of 1914 is in the centre of PRG 1258/2/2100, and in the background of B 21393 .

Soil investigation was elementary. Jenkinson told Monash that the "ground" was a sandy alluvial deposit to a depth of 45 to 50 feet [13.7 to 15.2m] and "I understand that houses in Renmark do not exhibit signs of poor foundations". He limited the foundation pressure without wind to 1000 pounds per square foot [48kPa]. [Wind would cause increased pressure on the leeward side of the foundation, and decreased pressure on the windward side.] The estimated weight of the tank was 200 tons of concrete plus 250 tons of water, making a total of 450 tons force [4480kN]. Thus the area of the base plate had to be 900 square feet, requiring a diameter of 34 feet [10.4m].

Jenkinson had second thoughts about the tower, deciding to dispense with the perforations. "This latter method was adopted for the upper stories of Loxton tank [proposal] on account of the great amended height of that structure (about 110'). The Renmark tank is only 60 ft high [18.3m] overall and I think the solid tower involves less concrete and is very much stronger. There is ample stability against wind pressure as indicated below. I may say that Mr Bayer consulted me about Loxton tank and I advised the open work in that instance as necessary for wind stability."

RCMPC's criterion for overall stability of a water tower subjected to wind pressure was the point at which uplift would occur on the windward side of the foundation. The overturning moment produced by a gale, assumed to exert a pressure of 30 psf [1.44kPa] on a projected area equal to the height times diameter of the tower, would be 675,000 lb-ft [915kNm]. The restoring moment due to the dead weight of the structure (empty of water) acting through its centre of gravity would be 2,000,000 lb-ft [2712kNm], suggesting a factor of safety of 3 [as defined in RCMPC practice].

Shell thickness was determined by dividing an assumed load of 400 tons [3986kN] by the permissible compressive stress on the concrete, indicating a required thickness of 3" [76mm].

Jenkinson estimated the cost at £988 and added standing charges of £100 plus a clear margin of £100 to give a quote of £1188. In his covering letter he explained the reason for low freight charges. "Captain Arnold who runs a line of River Steamers called on me last week. It seems that the Concrete Steel Contracting Co had a lawsuit with him over Loxton Tank and Arnold thinks he has been very badly treated. He states that he does not want them to get the Renmark job and has quoted us 10/- per ton all round freight, Murray Bridge to Renmark. This is little more than half average ordinary freights. I now have his written quotation at the above figure. Tenders close Tuesday next."

The court action is reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of 12 Aug. 1913, p.15 [Trove] and 23 Aug. 1913, p.16 [Trove].

Subsequent to this, Jenkinson explained that Hargrave had approached SARC with a proposal that "if we would immediately buy certain plant and materials at Loxton and Adelaide, amounting in value to about £350, he would guarantee not to tender for the Renmark Tank. So anxious was he to get rid of the stuff that he said that if we wished we need only buy the stuff on condition that if we did not obtain the Renmark Tank there was no sale; and that he would be prepared to put in a tender which we could see higher than our own. Of course, we could not touch any proposition of this kind and the solution of the offer is to my mind an endeavour to get in a bit of ready money to help run the initial stages of Verco's Building, which Hargrave evidently thinks he is going to get."

Monash replied to this at the end of October with the advice: "Under all circumstances, this is a job for which we should cut". RCMPC's price for a similar tank within 100 miles of Melbourne would be £1150, with a good margin of profit. Freight would be a critical factor, but Monash thought it would be remarkable if there were no sand and screenings available in the district. At Echuca, Swan Hill, Koondrook and Mildura, RCMPC had found "unlimited supplies of good clean very coarse sand up to the texture of split peas and larger, and in tank work we have used this material exclusively to the exclusion of screenings altogether, in proportions varying from 14 to 18 c. ft. per cask [0.4 to 0.5 m³]. It seems highly probable that when the river falls in January and February considerable deposits of such aggregates should be available in the river bed, especially at bends. It seems a heroic proposition to have to bring concrete aggregates from Murray Bridge and Adelaide to Renmark."

Monash was worried about the danger of buckling in the thin 3" tower shell. "Even with the bracing of the floors at 12 ft [3.66m] intervals, this will require careful honest work to carry the load without fear of crippling and we cannot afford to have any serious mistakes made in the tower construction."

"I consider the estimate a safe one and the margin as low as it would be reasonable for us to go, even in the face of anticipated opposition. In view of the probable competition at Verco's, it might not be altogether a bad thing if Hargreaves Co. [sic] found itself tied up with this troublesome contract." However, in the end, Monash somewhat reluctantly concurred with Jenkinson's ideas on tendering. On 4 November 1913, the latter reported: "I have ascertained that only two tenders were received and that of A R Maddern & Son was the lower. Our tender was £1118. You will doubtless remember that Maddern & Son are the people with whom we had dealings in connection with Bagot's Skin Store, which led to our taking the reinforced concrete work off their hands at practically cost price." However, on 21st he was told that Maddern had not supplied all the particulars required, and as prices were close, there was a chance that SARC would get the contract after all.

On 5 March 1914, he was able to say that SARC's tender had been accepted. "Amount £1188. Gross paper margin £200." On 17 April, he advised "Cannot start Remark Tank until river rises (unprecedentedly low)" and on 2 June that he was arranging for a steamer load of plant and materials to leave Murray Bridge the following week for Renmark direct. "As soon as this cargo reaches Renmark, we shall be able to commence the construction of the tank." There is no further correspondence in the relevant file.

Taplan Tank

In January 1913, tenders were invited for a 15,000 gallon [68,200 litre] elevated tank at Taplan on the Paringa Railway, close to the Victorian border. A minimum head of 17 feet [5.18m] was required. Jenkinson described his design as having "the tank as supported on a hollow tower, of the same diameter as the tank itself, and a central column". There would be no diaphragms. "This type is very simple to build, is practically fool proof and only requires one pattern of boxes."

It was not until February 1914 that SARC were notified that their tender had been accepted at £327-16-0. This figure allowed for a 10% contingency and a gross paper margin of £67. Jenkinson's letter to Monash explained that he had quoted for cement washing for the exterior instead of "rough casting" with a coarse mortar. The authorities may not have noticed this, as Jenkinson had not drawn their attention to it. He asked: "Do you think there is any risk of them considering later on that we have played them a trick?" Monash was on holiday in Tasmania, so John Gibson replied. "I do not think it necessary to call the attention of the authorities to the circumstance you mention unless it is such a departure from precedent as to be likely to give rise to some feeling. In any case, I would not do so until after the contract has been signed. The matter could be pointed out incidentally as an after thought."

There are few other details in the file. On 6 June, Jenkinson advised that the tank would be finished the following week, and that the financial side should be satisfactory - although it had been a cut price. For some reason it was not until September that the job was completely wound up.

Fisher's Tank

In February 1914, Jenkinson reported that Architect C H Marryat had verbally accepted a quote for a water storage tank of 30,000 gallons [136,000 litres] capacity "resting on solid", for a large residence for Mr Fisher at Henley Beach (a seaside suburb west of the Adelaide CBD). The quote had been £140 for a circular tank 32 ft [9.75m] in diameter and 6 ft [1.83m] deep with a light galvanised iron roof. On 30 April, he advised that the order had been confirmed and SARC would be starting work within a fortnight.

Noarlunga and Reynella Tanks

In March 1914, SARC won contracts to erect two 25,000 gallon [114,000 litre] elevated tanks with 30 ft [9.14m] minimum head, one each at Reynalla and Noarlunga, on the Willunga Railway, close to Adelaide. The contract price was £530 for each, providing a clear margin of £200 for the two. Work commenced at the most distant, Noarlunga about 20 miles [32km] from Adelaide, early in May.

While the tank was being constructed, an industrial dispute developed in South Australia because of an anomaly in the award system governing working conditions and wages. [For notes on the Australian industrial award system see e.g. Wikipedia.] Some building contractors were governed by a federal award, while others, including SARC, were governed by a state award which set lower wages. It so happened that RCMPC, operating in Victoria, was governed by the federal award. The Australian Builders' Laborers' Federation maintained that RCMPC and SARC were the same firm, arguing that Monash and Gibson were directors of both companies, and that Jenkinson took orders from Melbourne. After a union representative told SARC's workers that they could be fined by the union for not observing the conditions of the federal award, some men resigned (giving the necessary one hour's notice) at Verco's and Cornell's Buildings and at the Noarlunga Tank, claiming that they were leaving to find work with contractors paying the federal rates.

Jenkinson was convinced that the men had acted in concert and that their departure constituted a strike, in contravention of the award. He informed the Industrial Court and a case against the men was opened on 25 June 1914 under the Industrial Arbitration Act of 1912. Jenkinson was the main witness for the prosecution, and SARC's foremen at the three sites were also called. Proceedings were tedious, as the situation at each of the three sites was taken as a separate issue, and much of the evidence was repeated. Jenkinson argued that RCMPC and SARC were distinct. SARC had been registered in South Australia on 31 October 1906. Only Monash and Gibson served on both boards. When Jenkinson had moved from Melbourne four years previously he had not been transferred; but had taken up a new position at the request of Monash and Gibson. The judge accepted that the two firms were separate entities. Regarding the men's actions he had some initial doubts, but felt their own evidence indicated that they had acted in concert in an attempt to force SARC to pay the higher, federal rates. He admitted that the basic problem was the discrepancy betweeen the federal and state awards and called for it to be eliminated. However, he found the men guilty of taking part in a strike and imposed fines, to be paid by the union. He also found the union representative guilty and imposed a fine of £20 plus £4-11-0 costs.

Daily reports on the court case may be found online at Trove in the Adelaide Advertiser for the following dates: 26 June 1914 p.13; 27 June p.23; 2 July p.14; 3 July p.6; 4 July p.23; and 7 July p.6.

On 18 August, Jenkinson told Monash that the Noarlunga Tank was being filled that day, and that construction at Reynella had reached the tank floor. The financial side was looking good.

Paltridge Tank

Messrs T Paltridge & Sons, Tanners of Mount Barker, possessed on an old brick tank let into the ground, 50 feet [15.2m] in diameter and 16 feet [4.88m] deep. In Jenkinson's words, the owners "very foolishly" decided to increase its capacity by building the brick wall up a further seven feet [2.13m]. A day or two after the enlarged tank had been filled, a section of the new wall collapsed. They asked SARC to line the entire extended tank with reinforced concrete. Business had been quiet for SARC at the time, so they had quoted £284 for the job, allowing a margin of only £30.

In April 1914, Jenkinson wrote to ask Monash if he thought SARC could get away with omitting the internal plastering, except where the "breakaway" had occurred. "Rendering on a small job such as this is a relatively very costly item and after all it only minimises the initial weepage. I am confident that the reinforced concrete shell would take up [i.e. become impervious], rendering or no rendering. I shall be glad to have your views at the earliest. I would make a pretence of doing something to the internal surface such as bagging and cement washing. The shell will be designed to carry the top 10'-0" [3.05m] of water without any external support. The lower portion will be purely and simply a lining, as the brick wall is backed by solid ground."

Monash advised caution regarding the lowest 7 feet of the new tank, where the brick wall would be subjected to greater pressure than it had previously withstood. Everything would depend on how much support the earth backing provided. If the breakaway did not extend into the lower portion when the depth was raised, this suggested it had withstood the increased pressure satisfactorily. Still, he would like it to be reasonably reinforced, not treated as "simply a lining" as Jenkinson had suggested. "I do not think any evil will follow from not rendering the surface; an equal result in impermeability could be achieved by somewhat strengthening the gaugings, and of course at much less expense than by employing plasterers."

On 2 September 1914, Jenkinson reported that the job was now finalised and paid for. The letter is initialled by Monash to indicate that he sighted it on 14th.

Tailem Bend No.2 (project)

In May 1914, Jenkinson informed Monash that the Railways Department was calling tenders for a 50,000 gallon [227,000 litre] reinforced concrete tank at Tailem Bend. "You will remember we built a 25,000 gallon tank at the same locality for the Hydraulic Engineer's Department." His figuring, on a single foolscap sheet shows a tank 30'-3" [9.22m] in diameter and 11'-9" [3.58m] high, supported by a 30-foot [9.14m] tower and a central column. The tower was to be 24 feet [7.32m] in diameter and have two diaphragms. "Splendid Foundations, Limestone right at surface - Adopt annular footing under tower & isolated do. under central column." He assumed that the limestone would withstand a average pressure of 2 tons per square foot [215 kPa] and that wind forces would not govern foundation design.

Sketch: half vertical cross-section (to left of centreline). From Jenkinson's sheet of calculations, University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection, File SA3(43).

Explaining his estimate to Monash, Jenkinson wrote that the actual cost of No.1 had been £545. It was 25,000 gallons capacity, and the tank floor was 39 feet [11.9m] above ground. The new tank would be 50,000 gallons with a floor 30 feet above ground. The estimated "outside cost" of No.2 was £550. This might be thought "absurdly close" to the cost of No.1, but "we are now practically cutting out external rendering, etc (£111) and also … the tank is not so high as the former structure, cutting out one diaphragm." Jenkinson was working on a labour cost of 18 pence per cubic foot of concrete, as against 19.3 for No.1. He continued: "My proposed quotation (£755) is very low, but the estimate is made up on very sound lines and I think we should realise the anticipated margin. Our Currie Street friends will be tendering; several others have also taken out tender forms and we must use every endeavour to maintain our hold on the tank trade." Monash replied that he had gone through the proposal carefully and could "see nothing to take exception to, except to remark incidentally that the 3" tower shell appears very light, but you will know whether you have satisfactory precedent for this".

On 2 June, Jenkinson reported that a local contractor named Peters sent in the lowest tender, for £642 including 10% for contingencies. "We have not been able to ascertain who came next. I do not think Peters will secure the contract. Our tender was £830-10-0 including 10% contingencies." However, two days later, he wrote: "I regret to inform you that contrary to my expectations, the authorities recommended Peters' tender for the above. viz: £642 including 10% for contingencies. This is equivalent to a net tender of £584 … I think Peters tender … is absurdly low … I interviewed Mr Moncrieff but was informed that the Department really could not help themselves in the matter as Peters had sent in a very fair design with his tender and there was nothing they could do but give the man the work and place a good Inspector over him to keep him up to the mark."

In later correspondence, in July and August, Jenkinson mentions that the Concrete Steel Contracting Co were the successful tenderers for the tank with a net price of £633. It is not clear whether theirs was a separate bid from Peters, or whether they bid through Peters.

State Library of South Australia Image No. PRG 1258/2/226 shows a water tower under construction in 1938, with what looks like SARC's tower in the background.

Abattoirs Condenser Tank

In June 1914, Jenkinson reported: "We recently quoted the Metropolitan Abattoirs Board £159 for construction of a Condenser Tank at Abattoirs about 27 ft × 67 ft × 2'-2" average depth [8.23 × 20.4 × 0.66 m]. Floor resting on solid … This price has been accepted … We hope to make a start early next week after our dispute with the laborers has been before Court."

Islington Tank

Islington is the name of a railway station and large workshops just north of the Adelaide CBD. In July 1914, Jenkinson asked Monash how low a margin he was prepared to allow on the project. The required tank would be 50,000 gallons [227,000 litres] capacity and "60 ft [18.3m] high". The successful tender for Tailem Bend Railway Tank had been only 15% above SARC's estimate of cost, which had included standing charges. Monash replied by wire: "Allow 20% gross margin on net cost of bedrock design".

Having ascertained that the Concrete Steel Contracting Co's successful net tender for the recent Tailem Bend Tank had been £633, Jenkinson recommended "a bold bid for Islington even if hardly worth it from a financial point of view". He suggested £891 for a structure with a piled foundation or £836 for one with a spread foundation.

In August he reported that there had been three tenders. SARC's, at £836, had been the lowest. "We have no information yet as to what effect the war will have with regard to projected Government Works, such as the one in question." On 1 September, he advised that the tender had been formally accepted.

State Library of South Australia Image No. B 33254 shows a water tower at the Islington Railway Workshops that is probably SARC's.

Railway Tanks at Glencope (Copeville), Urrabirra (Mulpata), and Peebinga railway yards (project)

Glencope was a railway station, now called Copeville. Urrabirra railway station is now called Mulpata. Peebinga is a town next to the border with Victoria. In September 1914, Jenkinson advised that he was submitting tenders for three 15,000 gallon [68,200 litre] tanks. "These tanks are exactly similar to that recently completed by us at Taplan and are situated in the same part of the country." The matter was "fully in hand". "I am designing same as Taplan, the tank being supported on a hollow tower, of the same diameter as the tank itself, and a central column. There are no diaphragms. This type is very simple to build, is practically fool proof and only requires one pattern of boxes." The same unit rates as applied at Taplan should prove ample owing to the repetition involved. Jenkinson anticipated keen competition, and suggested reducing the net margin from 15% to 10%. The estimated cost per tank would be £650. Adding £50 (7.5%) for standing charges and £105 for margin gave a quote price of £805.

Monash replied: "I am cognisant of the terms in which Mr Gibson wrote to you yesterday regarding current and future tendering. Having regard to the political and industrial situation, I think we must be much more cautious than usual and be careful not to undertake work except at a figure which reasonably covers the serious contingencies involved in the disturbance of trade and ordinary working conditions. It would be better to be without work than to be involved in serious complications of supplies and other disorganisation without proper margins to meet such contingencies. For these reasons I am not in favor of reducing our percentage margins. On the contrary I think that, on the whole, your estimates for these tanks do not allow a sufficient margin adequate to the present circumstances, and, although it is possible that this opinion may greatly reduce our chances of securing this work, I think it is better, at the present juncture, to act on the side of caution." He noted that Gibson agreed with him that Jenkinson's margin of £105 should be increased to £155.

Jenkinson replied that he would raise the margin as suggested, but did not anticipate any rise in wages. "The distress in the principal centres is becoming acute and the Labor Market is easy in consequence." The price of steel might rise, but the extra £50 would cover this comfortably. A few days later, he advised that the lowest price had been submitted by the Concrete Steel Contracting Co.

Minippa Tank No.2

Minippa is on the Eyre Peninsula, on the railway line to Ceduna. In September 1914, Jenkinson informed Monash that tenders had been called for a circular reinforced concrete tank of 1,500,000 gallons [6,820,000 litres] capacity, plus attendant works. The government had prepared its own design, but tenderers were free to propose an alternative design. In considering the pros and cons of tendering, Jenkinson told Monash that, as advised in his letter of July 1913 regarding Minippa No.1 [no details available], he thought it would be advantageous to obtain one of these tank and excavation jobs on the Eyre Peninsula even at a cut figure. There were many opportunities for 'extras', "in all directions". The tank would be circular, 120 feet [36.6m] in internal diameter, and 25 ft [7.62m] deep. The wall would be hard up against the excavation for the lower 13 ft [3.96m], and above this would be backed up by filling. Tenderers who supplied their own design, would be required to maintain the tank for 3 months.

Jenkinson noted that the Department's design implied a "pseudo concrete tension" of 417 psi [2.88 MPa]. A pencil note adds that this implied a steel stress of 17,000 psi [117 MPa]; indicating that some support had been assumed from the fill. Jenkinson did not like relying on fill. He therefore recommended tendering on the Department's design only, at a price of about £6643. [HGJ's thinking was presumably that a more conservative design, not relying on the support of fill, would be more expensive and would thus not succeed. Therefore it would be better to build to the Department's design and let the Department take the responsibility and risk of possible problems.]

Monash had commenced duties as Deputy Censor on 17 August, and evidently had less time for the business. On 14 September, Jenkinson begged to remind him that tenders for the Minippa Tank closed on 22nd. P T Fairway responded, saying that Monash had gone through Jenkinson's estimates and thought the price for rendering was too low. He also noted that the reinforcing steel would have to be sent from Melbourne, and so suggested a higher price of £6857. "You must give yourself ample time for carrying out the work for the simple reason that it may be found impossible to get the requisite steel locally, necessitating importation from England or America."

HGJ replied that his price for rendering was low because he proposed to use two good plasterers whom they had on staff. SARC no longer used subcontractors. "In this way we would save the altogether exorbitant profit margins which plastering contractors appear to add to their cost prices." He agreed that they must be cautious regarding steel supplies, but not as cautious as Fairway suggested. On 23 September, he reported that The Concrete Steel Contracting Co (Hargrave) had sent in the lowest tender.


This concludes our sketchy coverage of SARC's activities in the field of tanks and bins. It is evident that they are not fully represented by what remains in the RCMPC files. We have made no attempt to locate sources in South Australia, or to follow the activities of SARC beyond the end of 1914.