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

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Histories of selected Tanks and Silos,
not located, not built, or demolished prior to 2000.

On this page:
[Railway_tank.]   [Caldermeade.]   [Gisborne.]   [Bell's Match factory.]   [BATC factory.]   [Dudley St Carriage Sheds.]   [Sparrovale, Geelong]   [Murtoa.]

Mildura Railway Tank.
(Projected Type Design, none built.)

Location: First example intended for Mildura. Fate: Not adopted. Firm: M&A. Designer: John Monash. Client: Victorian Railways. Client's Engineer: C. H. Perrin. Design: May 1902.

The line drawing shown here is a vertical cross-section on the diameter of the tank and its supporting shaft (both are vertical cylinders). There is a horizontal diaphragm, or floor, at mid-height of the shaft. Based on Monash's original sketch in the University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co. Collection.


There is little to relate about the history of this project in a general sense, although the documents are important as early examples of computation and drawing in reinforced concrete by Monash. The design was prepared during a period of great activity in which the Bendigo arch bridges were still being completed; the first pours were being made on the Coliban Spillway Bridge; Monash was lobbying against stiff opposition for a Monier arch bridge at Grant St, Ballarat; and he was preparing a tender for the Barham-Koondrook bridge. His busines partner, J T N Anderson, had learned of his appointment to a post in Dunedin NZ and on 14 May (1902) had left for a preliminary visit. On 23rd, Monash wrote in his diary "Notice decided evidences of brain fag". Our research team has located no evidence that Monash requested or received advice on the Mildura Tank project from Gummow or Baltzer in Sydney, though they had provided drawings, photographs and perhaps computations for their tank in Kiama. On 19th, Monash asked Gibson to prepare tests on the development of tension strength in concrete. On Sunday 25th, he wrote: "Home all day at heavy office work": he was preparing the first calculations and the drawing for the Mildura project. The next day he wrote to Mr Perrin at Room 152, Engineer-in-Chief's Branch, Victorian Railways, Spencer St:

"In response to your enquiry of 23rd instant, we have pleasure in submitting you herewith particulars and tender for Monier Tank. The papers comprise:

  1. Sketch Drawing of proposed Tank.
  2. Notes of Stress calculations.
  3. Litho. of Contract Drawing for Kiama Monier Reservoir, New South Wales.
  4. Extract from N.S.W. Public Works Reports re same.
  5. Photograph of High Pressure Water Tower at Wandsbeck, Germany, embodying Monier Construction.

You already have a photograph of the Kiama Tank. This, and the papers numbered 3 to 5 above, please return when the matter has been disposed of. The sketch design, owing to shortness of time, may require modification in detail, but such would not materially affect either the character or cost of the work as a whole."

Monash pointed out that M&A had had to assume that the new railway [to Mildura] would not be ready, so the price of £544 included £100 for transport of materials and plant to the railhead, and then by river. "We mention this to shew that our present price is capable of great reduction in more accessible localities. Moreover, if the staging and framing be used repetitively, on a series of such structures, the average price of each would be still further reduced." The price quoted covered royalties, concrete footings, the mortar walls in the tower and tank, all the reinforcement and temporary works, but not the plastering or pipework. "From the notes of stress calculations, which we enclose, you will see that the factors of safety in every part of the structure are ample." If there was any anxiety about watertightness, M&A could coat the bottom and the lower 10 feet of the inner surface with pitch for less than £20; but "actual experience" had shown this was unnecessary.

We have located no evidence to show why the proposal was unsuccessful. It may be that the cost was higher than for alternative forms of construction, and the profession in Victoria was still not convinced that the durability claimed for concrete would compensate for this.

The first page of Monash's computations of 25th, and a larger reproduction of his sketch, appear on pages 22 and 23 of our Tanks & Silos Dossier.

Technical Description.

Cylindrical tank approximately 20 ft (6.1m) in diameter and 21 feet deep, with domed floor. Wall thickness varying from 3" (76mm) at the top to 6" at the floor. Supported by a cylindrical 'tower' 36 feet (11m) high and about 15 feet (4.6m) in diameter with wall thickness 6". Horizontal 'diaphragm' at mid-height of the tower. Annular strip footing three feet wide at the base. Estimated cost (including profit 20%): £544.


Caldermeade Farm Tank.

Photo: University of Melbourne Archives, BWP/23827.

Location: MacMillan Bros Homestead, Caldermeade Estate. Fate: Believed demolished in 1980s. (Information from Lang Lang and District Historical Society) Firm: M&A. Designer: John Monash. Client: MacMillan Bros. Initial Design: June 1903. Definitive Design: September 1903. Construction: November 1903 to January 1904.


On 17 June 1903, David Mitchell dropped in to the M&A office and left a message asking for a sketch of a 10,000 gallon tank about 8 feet high. Monash made the preliminary calculations the same day, but took a few more days to estimate his costs and decide on an appropriate margin for contingencies and profit. On 3rd July, he wrote to Mitchell that the "Monier Tank and troughing for your friend at Caldermeade" would cost £95. Following the design of more elaborate foundations (for a clay soil) the price was raised to £100 and the MacMillans gave the go-ahead. They advised that Monash's foreman Charley Savage could board at Lang Lang, about 7 km from the site, and promised to lend a horse and trap or bicycles.

Monash issued Savage with precise instructions, military-style:

  1. Proceed to Caldermeade Estate, Caldermeade, Messrs Mc Millan [sic] Bros. Homestead and ascertain the exact position for the tank.
  2. Carefully examine the ground, and get full information as to its nature. Sink a hole about 2'-3" deep and ascertain where clay is struck.
  3. The total concrete required will be about as follows:
    (a) For the work at and below ground level 10 1/3 c. yds.
    (b) For the work above ground level 4 2/3 c. yds.
    Total: 15 c. yds.
  4. Look for and make definite arrangements for the supply of the following materials:
    (a) Fine sand, similar to Sample A, about 2 c. yds.
    (b) Coarse sand, similar to Sample B, about 15 yards.
    (c) If any coarse gravel or shingle or hard broken bricks, or limestone is available, get up to 5 c. yds of this instead of sand.
    (d) See if it is possible to make satisfactory arrangements for the thorough washing of 4 yards of coarse sand.
    Note: All the above is c. yds, not loads.
  5. The man who supplied the first two samples of sand is called Glasheen, enquire for his whereabouts.
  6. Look around to see what the best arrangements are that can be made for the temporary storage of about 20 casks of cement.
  7. Look around to see what timber is available to serve as uprights for frames, staging or other purposes.
  8. Make a complete list of all tools and appliances you will require for carrying out the work, and ascertain before leaving the Estate which of these articles you can borrow from the owners.

Mr. Monash's private address is: "Bungalow", cr. Powlett and Gipps Sts, East Melbourne.

Construction was delayed by bad weather and completed in January 1904. Some problems were encountered with leakage and the MacMillans withheld final payments until this decreased to an acceptable level in July 1904. They enquired about the cost of further tanks for other windmills, but there is no evidence in the UMA or NLA records of any further contracts.

Technical Description.

Monash's initial design in June 1903 had a cylindrical wall, of outside diameter 16'-6" (5m), varying in thickness from 2½" (64mm) at the top to 4" (102mm) at the bottom. The lowest foot was to be reinforced with 5 bars 3/8" (9.5mm) in diameter. The floor was to be plain concrete, 6" thick. Around the base was a trough for cattle, two feet wide (610mm) and one foot deep. The estimated cost after some revision was £62 to which £32 was added to cover contingencies and profit. In September, a circumferential ground-beam was added and the floor was reinforced and made thinner, but with a thickened portion at its centre. The troughing was supported on radial brackets projecting from the ground-beam. The cost increased to £71 and the price to £100.


Gisborne Service Reservoir.

A snapshot of this tank, taken shortly after completion and showing a large amount of efflorescence, is held in the University of Melbourne Archives with Location No. GPNB/1134.

Location: Gisborne. Fate: Demolished. Firm: RCMPC. Designer: John Monash. Client: Gisborne Water Works Trust. Client's Engineer: C. E. Kirmsse. Initial Design: June 1905. Definitive Design: September 1905. Construction: Probably October to November 1905.


On 21 June 1905, Monash jotted down basic facts concerning a service reservoir to be built on the river flats, half a mile from Gisborne Town and 1.5 miles from the railway station. Time must have been short, for he sent an initial proposal to Kirmsse on 23rd, then prepared calculations on 25th, investigating the optimum ratio of depth to diameter to minimise cost for a given capacity. Kirmsse replied on 26th that he would recommend Monash's design to the Trust if he received a specification and drawings by 1 July - sooner if possible. The documents were sent on 29th June and on 6 July, Kirmsse privately informed Monash that his quotation of £190 had been accepted by the Trust.

It was now necessary to gain the approval of the Water Supply Department. Kirmsse, with the blessing of the Trust, went to lobby A. S. Kenyon, dropping in at the RCMPC office on the way. Early in August he wired Monash, who was on good terms with the senior officers of the WSD, to make further efforts to expedite approval. The Department insisted on calling fresh tenders early in September; but did not eliminate unreinforced concrete as a possible construction material. It was only when events had reached this stage that Monash made a reconnaissance of the locality. When word was received of final acceptance (at a higher price than the original quotation) he sent his Works Manager, Alex Lynch, to take a closer look and confirm preliminary arrangements for supply, cartage and storage of materials.

Construction probably commenced in October, with Tom McCartney as foreman. On 12 November, when concreting was complete, Monash made an interim analysis of costs, indicating receipts of £210 and costs so far of £124, leaving a "margin" at that date of £86. The first water was put in the tank early in December, and problems with leakage showed up immediately. Kirmsse complained that, after it was filled to the service level of 2.29m, it had dropped to 2.08m in 24 hours, a loss of 18,200 litres per day. Monash explained that the leakage should solve itself, but at the end of January 1906, Kirmsse complained it was as bad as ever. Monash declared the amount of loss was "trifling" and could be mainly due to evaporation, but promised to send a representative to inspect the tank. Late in February, Kirmsse accepted that much of the leakage was occurring where the outlet pipe passed through the wall, but by August he was demanding that the inside of the tank be rendered to make it less pervious. In November, Lynch reported that "the coating of crystallized lime has gone on increasing since my last visit (22.2.06). The ground around the tank is very soft and carries more water than the leakage … would account for".

Kirmsse withheld part of the payment until at least December 1906, when arrangements were made for Monash's representative (probably Lynch) to meet him at the site to discuss a solution. Correspondence in the UMA file ends at this stage, with the problem apparently unresolved. However, the tank is thought to have remained in service for many decades.

Technical Description.

Capacity 50,000 gallons (227,300 litres). Internal diameter: 35 feet (10.7m). Depth: 9 feet at centre; 8 feet at wall (2.74m and 2.44m). Founded on rock approximately 2'-6" (760mm) deep at the wall. The wall was stepped, the lower 4 feet being 5" (127mm) thick, while the upper 4 feet were 3" (76mm) thick. Vertical reinforcement was 3/8" (9.5mm) bars at 6" centres (152mm). The horizontal reinforcement varied in both diameter and spacing. At the bottom it was ½" (12.7mm) at 3" centres. At the top it was ¼" (6.4mm) at 4" (102mm). The floor was reinforced, with a grid of ¼" bars at 12" pitch both ways. For architectural effect, the aggregate was exposed in a band about one metre deep (see half elevation above).


Bell's Match Factory Sprinkler Tank.

The tank was toppled in 1910, perhaps following a fire at the factory. The photos above are screened images copied from a clipping from Table Talk, mid 1910, courtesy of Harriet Edquist. Two good quality photographs of this tank are held in the University of Melbourne Archives with Location Numbers GPNB/1144 and /1145.

Location: Wattle Grove, Richmond, Vic. Fate: Demolished. Firm: RCMPC. Designer: John Monash. Assistant Designer: W. W. Harvey. Draughtsman: S. J. Lindsay. Client: Bell's Match Factory. Client's Engineer: Wormald Bros & Wears. Initial Design: February 1907. Definitive Design: March 1907. Construction: April? to June? 1907.


In February 1907, Ernest Wears of Wormald Bros & Wears, "Fire Protection, Construction and Sanitary Engineers", asked Monash to supply a 5000 gallon (18,200 litres) sprinkler tank for Bell's Match Factory in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. "We have got this job at a fearfully cut rate and I shall have all my time cut out to show a profit. The cost I leave entirely in your hands to give at a figure consistent with fair profit to yourselves. Now you have the position exactly as it stands and on receipt of your price shall be pleased to confirm order." Within a couple of days, taking advice from Lynch on costs, Monash had prepared an initial design, a drawing (on the back of a pay sheet), and an estimate of £108. This must have been approved because Harvey then made a detailed design, detailing the reinforcement. A month later, Wears requested an increase in the height of the stand and a new price of £123 was agreed. Monash then investigated the danger of overturning due to wind. Few records of construction are preserved in the file, but there is a requisition for materials in April, and in June a summary of costs for concrete and rendering.

Technical Description.

What is presumably the definitive drawing, dated 16 April 1907, shows a three-storey rectangular stand 27'-6" (8.38m) high, including the tank floor. The four columns were joined by horizontal beams at the base of the stand and at two intermediate levels. Each horizontal square so formed was braced by diagonal steel rods forming a cross. The rods were left uncovered. The beams supporting the tank were integral with the tank floor, creating a T-girder effect. An additional minor beam ran in one direction. The cylindrical tank was 11'-6" (3.51m) deep and 11' in external diameter with walls 4" (102mm) thick. In Monash's original design the stand was only 20' (6.10m) high.


Sparrovale Silos.

Line drawing: extract from a drawing in the J Thomas Collection. (Note. The silos are perfectly cylindrical. The vertical lines getting closer together near the edges are a drawing convention to indicate that the surface is curved.)

Location: Sparrovale Irrigation Farm, Reserve Rd, Marshalltown, nr Geelong. Fate: Demolished. Firm: RCMPC. Designer: John Monash. Client: Geelong Harbor Trust. Client's Engineer: A. C. McKenzie. Initial Design: October 1907. Definitive Design: January 1908. Construction: February? to April? 1908.


The spellings Sparrovale and Sparrowvale were both used, and the road past the farm is currently labelled "Sparrowvale Road". However, local historian Susie Zada advises that after much research she has come to the conclusion that Sparrovale is the original form. The drawing supplied to Monash by the Geelong Harbor Trust, setting out its requirements for the silos, carries the spelling Sparrovale, as does the engineering drawing prepared in Monash's office (both in the J Thomas Collection). Susie also found an early photograph of the silos that raised interesting questions: see the Addendum at the end of this story.


MacKenzie contacted RCMPC in October 1907 to ask for an initial quote for silos 30 feet high and 20 feet in diameter with no floor or roof. Monash did not expect to compete with other materials on first cost, but stated that "monolithic reinforced concrete work" would provide silos "superior to, and more stable and safer than silos depending largely on the stability of a large number of independent units, more or less efficiently held together by exposed metal bands or hoops". Then followed three months of rambling negotiations during which he declared "With regard to plans and specifications, these would take some time and trouble to prepare, and it seems that the fair course to us would be for you first to indicate whether our price is acceptable to you … whereupon I would prepare complete documents for a binding contract". In late January he prepared a "final design", with drawing and specification, telling MacKenzie "… I take it for granted that these particulars would not have been called for unless it was your intention to shortly give us an order for the work".

The Trust accepted the price of £397, but demanded a 'maintenance period' of 12 months during which RCMPC would bear the cost of fixing any problems which might develop, while the Trust held back 25% of the contract price as a surety. Monash wrote "The several minor amendments of verbiage are concurred in …", but the major demands ought to have been considered in the tendering process. "The reputation of reinforced concrete, and of the work of this Company, are too well established to need heroic safeguards at this late hour." He pointed out that RCMPC obtained normal terms from Government Departments in Victoria and South Australia, and could get as much work as it cared to undertake. He believed final settlement after a maintenance period of three months, together with a written guarantee for a further nine months, should suffice. He noted that this made RCMPC responsible for the whole of the silos for this period, not just for a percentage and emphasised that he had no desire to escape responsibility, but simply wanted normal financial arrangements. The Trust, through MacKenzie, seems to have accepted this arrangement; but after further delay Monash was obliged to write to the Chairman of the Trust, G. F. Holden, agreeing to yet more minor amendments, and asking "Are we to have a formal contract?" Holden replied that none was deemed necessary.

During negotiations, the size of the silos had increased slightly, and floors and roof had been added. Monash had tried to include in the specification a wash of cement grout on the inside of the walls to lessen their permeability, but MacKenzie had insisted this question be deferred until construction was complete. Work commenced late in February or early in March 1908 with J. Shepherd as foreman.

Almost immediately, a dispute developed over the measurement of the materials for making concrete, with MacKenzie claiming that RCMPC was using less cement than required by the specification. The issue was clouded by the fact that Australian engineers adopted the British practice of measuring sand, gravel and cement by 'loose volume' (rather than by weight as in European practice). Worse still, cement was measured in 'casks' and there were differences in the number of cubic feet to be expected, depending on manufacturer and region. Monash argued strongly that the proportions in the wet concrete were those required by the specification. He was not worried about a few bags of cement, but about the "imputation that we are not faithfully carrying out our undertakings". Compliance with MacKenzie's demands would lead to excessive shrinkage, but "to avoid small differences becoming embittered" he would defer to MacKenzie's point of view. The latter replied dryly that he was glad Monash would now comply with the specification. However, Monash had the last word, claiming "as one who has considerable experience … and is considered as somewhat of an authority on the subject, based upon a very large amount of scientific testing" that the concrete would now be weaker than before.

During this debate the first silo was completed at the end of March. Monash asked whether the cement wash was required on the interior and was apparently told it would not be. In mid-April, preparing to go on military manoeuvres for a week, he left Shepherd with instructions for the completion of the second silo and for tidying up and leaving the site, adding "I think it now unlikely that the Harbor Trust will order the construction of two additional silos".

In mid-May MacKenzie wrote to say that the first silo had been half-filled and was leaking and sweating badly. Monash replied that he was taken completely by surprise to learn that the silos were expected to resist water pressure rather than dry silage. He warned against allowing the height of water to exceed ten feet and asserted that the leakage would gradually solve itself. When MacKenzie persisted, he wrote: "… it is not reasonable to expect young concrete to show water-tightness at the outset, and the period which has elapsed between your two letters is insufficient to allow of any noticeable change in the porosity of the concrete … [As filling continues] the whole shell will become charged with moisture, and wetness will make its appearance over the whole or greater part of the outer surface. This action is not only unavoidable, but is beneficial to the concrete, as it will hasten the chemical action which, in a little while, will make the concrete impervious to further moisture. The same phenomena have been evidenced times out of number in water tanks, pipe lines, syphons etc. built all over the country, which are now absolutely watertight".

It took several more letters from MacKenzie before Monash finally sent his Works Manager to examine the tank. Lynch reported to Gibson that where leaks occurred, the concrete was soft and a layer of about six millimetres could be rubbed off easily with a finger. He asked Gibson, an industrial chemist, whether it was the gas generated by the silage which affected the concrete, or the liquid, which contained a large percentage of sugar. He noted that where the shell was dry, the concrete was fair but not specially good, the top edge of the shell being rather soft. He reported to Monash that the silo was now full and contained 300 tons of silage. There were no cracks or distortion in the shell, but innumerable "pin holes". He commented that the silo must be "acting as a tank and may have a head of up to 20 feet in the form of a film of liquid round the inside of the shell". The leakage was aggravated by gas in the tank which escaped with the liquid and made a hissing sound which could be heard at some distance. The ground was getting boggy and a French drain had been constructed. MacKenzie had disagreed that a film could exert hydrostatic pressure, but Lynch had stuck to his guns having heard Monash "so state on several occasions". Although the rate of discharge was beginning to decrease, Lynch promised that if no improvement occurred within three months, by which time the silo would be empty, RCMPC would apply a cement wash to the inside. In the meantime, the behaviour of the second silo, which had been washed on the inside to a height of ten feet, could be studied as it was filled. Monash confidently told MacKenzie that Lynch's report "entirely confirms the view put before you, viz. that there is not the slightest reason to entertain any alarm as to the suitability or strength of the structures, provided they are not given the task of holding liquid to a considerable depth". Late in June, Gibson reported that tests on samples of concrete immersed in sugar solution showed deterioration of the surface similar to that occurring in the silos, and he recommended rendering the interior surface and treating it with a solution of silicate of sodium.

In mid-August MacKenzie refused a claim for final payment, stating there were still small holes in the walls. In November, Monash made the following points to Gibson in respect of the claim:

Monash added: "I have found Mr MacKenzie very amiable personally, but quite unreasonable on paper". He suggested Gibson settle the matter with Holden.

The record ends with Gibson and Monash arguing energetically that the fault lay in MacKenzie's refusal to have the first silo rendered or lime-washed on the inside as advised, but reluctantly agreeing to perform this work free of charge provided it was not interpreted as an admission of liability, while MacKenzie continued to insist that this should have been included in the initial design.

Technical Description.

Initial contract for two silos 20 feet (6.10m) internal diameter, 35 feet (10.7m) high, separated by a distance of 23'-8" (7.21m). Roof: corrugated iron sheeting supported by iron trusses covering the intervening space as well as the silos. Walls: 4" (102mm) thick at the bottom and 3" (76mm) thick at the top, with a stiffening ring 6" wide and 9" deep (152 × 229mm). Floor: 6" thick.

Addendum to Sparrovale Silos.

There is no photograph of the Sparrovale silos in the RCMPC Collection at the University of Melbourne Archives, but in July 2012 Susie Zada advised that she had found one in an article written by Dairy Supervisor J S McFadzean for the Journal of Agriculture. The relevant volume may be viewed on Internet Archive and the photograph appears on page 501.

McFadzean, J. S., "A Farm in the Making: The Geelong Harbor Trust's Farm, Sparrovale, Geelong", Journal of the Department of Agriculture, Victoria (brief title: Journal of Agriculture), Vol.6 (1908), 490-502.

In the photograph, the silo nearest the camera appears to be elliptical in plan, but this might be explained by lens distortion. More intriguing are the vertical and horizontal lines on the outside of the shell, spaced at perhaps one or two metres apart. The quality of reproduction is not good, so it is difficult to decide what they represent. Further questions are raised by the single paragraph that McFadzean devotes to the silos (p.495):

"The silos are of concrete, constructed on the Monier system, circular, 35 feet high by 25 feet in diameter; erected by contract at a total cost of £397 for the two, and estimated to hold 350 tons of fodder each. This would appear to be a very conservative reckoning of their capacity; for the one filled took over 500 loads of maize, at an estimated average of 1 ton per load, and the 189 loads put into the second one did not half fill it. The heavy pressure on the lower half of the filled silo forced the sap to permeate through the wall, and it kept oozing out and trickling away for days, no provision for drainage having been made when building them. It would appear also that more care in construction especially at the union of the cement [i.e. concrete] blocks is necessary. The maize was chaffed, the cutter and elevator being driven by the farm traction engine. The work of filling, shown in the illustration, was carried out at the rate of about 50 tons a day."

A possible explanation for the "lines" and McFadzean's reference to "blocks" is provided by two photographs on this website, showing RCMPC's Mont Park silo and the Mildura water tower under construction. Unfortunately we have not sighted any drawings that would explain the process. The walls were evidently cast in portions, perhaps more than one per day. The portions of formwork would be re-usable. They were apparently held in place by vertical strongbacks. The lines on the photograph were possibly grooves left after the strongbacks and forms were removed, which were then filled with mortar. The "joins" between the blocks would have been what are called in the industry "cold construction joints" in which fresh concrete is placed against concrete that has already set and matured to some extent. To achieve a good bond, the old concrete should be wire-brushed and coated with neat cement grout before the new concrete is cast against it.

Incidentally, McFadzean's article contains a comment on the management of large agricultural undertakings with which Monash would have been in complete agreement:

"As regards the management, every army must have its commander, but it is not necessary that he should be a man of either high physical development or skilled in the use of weapons. His position demands, among other qualities a thorough grasp of the requirements necessary for the execution of the work before him, the ability to choose his officers with discrimination, and, above all, that his mind should be capable of attention to either large undertakings or minute detail, according as exigency may demand. As with the commander of an army so with the leader of any industrial enterprise; and it is not necessary that a man be either a good milker or a machinery expert in order to successfully superintend a large dairy farm. If he knows how the work should be done, gets together competent men to do it, and sees that it is done, there need be no fear for the success of the project; but, as a chain is the strength only of its weakest link, so also will any incompetence in any part of the work tend to a reduction in the total returns relatively commensurate with the importance of that section."

[Sparrovale Silos story.]


Dudley St Carriage Sheds Tank.

Location: Victorian Railways Carriage Sheds, cnr Dudley and Adderley Sts, North Melbourne. Fate: Demolished. Firm: RCMPC. Designer: John Monash. Assistant Designer: P. T. Fairway. Draughtsman: J. A. Laing. Client: Victorian Railways. Client's Engineer: M. von Steiger. General Contractor: Wormald Bros & Wears. Initial Design: March 1908. Definitive Design: September 1908. Construction: June to December? 1908.

This photo, described as "North Melbourne Tank", and believed to be of the Dudley St tank, is held in the University of Melbourne Archives, with Location No. GPNB/1146. A similar view from another angle is numbered GPNB/1147.


The initiative for this project came from Wormald Bros & Wears who were supplying the fire protection system for the Victorian Railways carriage sheds in North Melbourne. In March 1908, Monash prepared a rough estimate and a drawing, but did not finalise design of the superstructure until June. He told Lynch he had simplified the proposed architectural mouldings as he wanted no more ornamentation than specified by the Railways Department. On the other hand, he desired a high quality finish "as we want this tank to be an object lesson to the Railway Department."

Department engineers were to prepare the foundations for the stand, but the ground proved insufficiently strong for the individual footings which had been proposed. Despite a change in the location of the tank it was found necessary to drive piles. Monash had Fairway investigate the possibility of using a raft foundation, but this proposal was not carried through.

While work was temporarily abandoned, the Department demanded details of the RCMPC design. Monash told Marcus von Steiger "We do not usually submit details of designs of such work, but we have no objection to this course in the case of a Public Department provided it is understood that the particulars are furnished confidentially and solely for the purpose of enabling the Department to satisfy itself as to the propriety of the design and that the same is not to be made use of otherwise". He pointed out that the design was in accordance with the Imperial German Regulations as adopted by the RIBA and the City of Melbourne. It appears that the Department produced a drawing showing reductions in the size of the concrete members of the stand. Monash agreed to reduce the columns from 12" square to 10" (305mm to 254mm), but maintained the horizontal and diagonal members at 9" (229mm) square rather than the 6" shown by the Department.

Work recommenced at the end of September. On Christmas Eve, Monash prepared the following cost summary:

Original quote to Wears£220-00-00
Labour wasted in foundation12-10-00
Actual cost272-17-08
(Estimated cost of Dept. additions to design: £22-10-00.) 

This experience may have played a part in convincing Monash and his assistants that a plain cylindrical shaft was a less expensive means of supporting an elevated tank than a complex of columns joined by horizontal beams and (in some cases) diagonals. In January 1911, Jenkinson, then engineer in charge of the SARC office, was debating whether to tender for construction of a similar, though larger, tank at Mile End, South Australia. He wrote to Monash: "we would have to put in a pretty fat price for any such work, judging by the results of the tank at North Melbourne" - adding that Mile End was a small job, but involved complex work. It is most likely he was referring to experience gained from the Dudley Street tank.

Technical Description.

The tank was cylindrical, 8 feet (2.44m) deep and 16 feet in internal diameter. There were five columns, about 43 feet (13.1m) high. Four formed a square with the fifth in the centre. The columns were 10" square (254mm) with four 7/8" (22mm) bars. The cross-bracing was in the planes defined by the four corner columns of the stand. The horizontal and diagonal members had four 5/8" (16mm) bars. To support the tank, four major beams connected the tops of the outer columns, while two minor beams bisected the square in both directions, cantilevering beyond the major beams. The tank wall was thus supported at eight points: the corners of the square and the ends of the minor beams. The columns were founded on piles.


BATC Sprinkler Tank.

Location: British Australasian Tobacco Co. factory between Swanston St and Stewart St, Melbourne. Fate: Not investigated. Firm: RCMPC. Designer: Probably H. G. Jenkinson under Monash's direction. Client: British Australasian Tobacco Co. Client's Engineer: Wormald Bros & Wears. Initial Design: April 1908. Definitive Design: June 1908. Construction: June to July? 1908.

Sketch: University of Melbourne Archives, Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. Collection.


This tank was associated with a factory owned by BATC, on which RCMPC had recently superimposed two floors. The records contain little information on administrative aspects of the design and construction of the tank - in fact no solid proof has been sighted that the tank was actually built. However the records hold some technical interest and show Monash starting to rely on his assistants in technical matters. Jenkinson's computations provide an interesting insight into contemporary understanding of structural behaviour and the file includes a sketch of a tank at Neufeld, made about the same time, and taken from Emperger's Handbuch. This might have served to provide reassurance concerning the design.

Technical Description.

Rectangular tank 3 ft (914mm) deep and 17 × 23 ft (5.18 × 7.01m) in plan, projecting about 31 ft (9.45m) above roof level. Supported on four columns forming a three-storey stand with cross-bracing in the upper two storeys.


Murtoa Standpipe.

Photo: University of Melbourne Archives, NN/1075.

Location: Murtoa. Fate: Demolished 1995. Firm: RCMPC. Designer: John Monash. Assistant Designer: J. A. Laing. Client: Murtoa Waterworks Trust. Client's Engineer: R. H. Broadhurst. Initial Design: May 1913. Definitive Design: August 1914. Construction: November 1914 to March 1915.


In May 1913, J. M. Southern of the SRWSC at Murtoa wrote to ask the approximate cost of a tank of 150,000 gallons (682,000 litres) capacity, 60 ft (18.3m) high, with the water stored 15 ft (4.57m) above ground level. Laing prepared an estimate for two versions. The first was a 'standpipe' consisting of a simple cylinder 60 ft high. The other had a similar 60 ft cylinder, plus a floor at the 15-foot level which received additional support from an internal circular wall and a central column. The cost of both solutions proved to be identical. Monash wrote to Southern quoting £1400 to £1500 for both versions and saying he preferred the standpipe as it would be simpler to build. He pointed out that the extra 15 feet of water might be useful in an emergency.

On 13 September, R. H. Broadhurst wrote to Monash, saying he had just been appointed Engineer to the Trust and wanting to know the price of a tank 70 feet high with a capacity of 60,000 gallons: "I would like to know if you supply a specification and build to it, if I can arrange for the work to be put in your hands. The work is to be done with money advanced by the Government and I received a friendly tip from one of the State River Staff yesterday that they desire to be furnished with plans and specifications of the Trust's proposals as soon as possible in order that they may prepare the financial proposals to put before Parliament. The Trust meet on Wednesday 17th inst."

Broadhurst wanted an estimate for the tank "on the most economical lines", to assist in framing the proposals. Following consideration by Laing, Monash wrote to Broadhurst that if he was referring to an elevated tank with 60,000 gallons between the 50-foot and 70-foot levels, the price would be about £1500. If he meant a standpipe holding 60,000 gallons between surface level and 70 ft then it would be about £750. This prompted a call from Thomas Murray of the SRWSC asking the price of a standpipe 72 feet high to contain 150,000 gallons. Monash quoted £1250 to 1300, based on further calculations by Laing. Back came Murray with the statement that he had to pay for the water mains in the town, so what would be the cost of a tank of the same height containing only 100,000 gallons. The quote this time was £1000 to £1050. By now it was October 1913.

In April 1914, Broadhurst called at the RCMPC office and asked for a tank of 150,000 gallons capacity with the water between the 17-foot and 80-foot levels. Laing prepared computations on this basis in August, but the drawing which followed shows no trace of a floor and the water gauge runs the entire height of 80 feet. The price tendered was £1767. Murray rang to say he now wanted the height cut to 72 feet, and yet another quote was given of £1520. A week later, in September, the Murtoa Trust decided to go ahead with the former quotation. By this time all correspondence was being signed on Monash's behalf by Fairway or Laing. Construction took place between November 1914 and March 1915. Complaints about leakage commenced the following May.

Technical Description.

Mean internal diameter 22 ft (6.71m). Height 80 ft (24.4m). Wall thicknesses: 5¼" (133mm) at top, 12" (305mm) at bottom. Floor thickness 12" with plain concrete screed graded from 18" (457mm) at perimeter to 9" (229mm) at centre.