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T-girder bridges, Part 3.

Extracts from Monash Bridges:
Typology study; reinforced concrete bridges in Victoria 1897-1917.

Concept and History: Lesley Alves 1998. Additional technical input: Alan Holgate and Geoff Taplin.

INDIGO: Bridges in the Shire of Rutherglen.

Estcourt Bridge (1914).
Upper: Half elevation - half longitudinal cross-section.
Lower: Half plan at deck level - half horizontal cross-section through pier and abutment.
Extract from a drawing in the J Thomas Collection

In August 1910 discussions commenced between the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. and Rutherglen Shire Engineer, G. W. C Venables, regarding Hackford's Bridge. Venables had already designed a timber and steel bridge with a steel and concrete deck, however he accepted the Company's offer of a design in reinforced concrete free of charge. Venables had been studying the subject of reinforced concrete, and was willing to consider the new alternative. Fairway designed a three span bridge resting on timber piles, as required by Venables, although the Company preferred to use spread footings to support the piers. When the contract was awarded to Sly & Wilson for Venables' design, Monash protested angrily that his company's tender was lower. Venables defended the choice of his design as "eminently suitable for the site". However he seemed genuinely interested in building a bridge in reinforced concrete, telling Monash, "I hope to see the next bridge, which will be on a better site, of wholly Monier reinforced concrete."[1]

Another opportunity for a reinforced concrete bridge in Rutherglen did not arise until towards the end of 1913, when Council decided to replace two small bridges, McRae's and Dick's Gully. Venables made some estimates for reinforced concrete himself before calling tenders. He was pleasantly surprised with the "most reasonable" tenders of £175 and £137 submitted by the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co., telling his Council that by accepting these tenders he saved nearly £100 on the original estimates. McRae's bridge, a single span of 25 feet was commenced in March 1914 and completed in April. Dick's Gully Culvert was built following its completion. Both structures were tested successfully on 22 May. Venables, wanting to show them off to their best advantage, asked Monash to have McRae's Bridge plastered (cement rendered) to give it a perfect finish for the opening. This was not usual practice for country bridges, but no doubt Monash complied - further work in the Shire was at stake. Venables wanted to use the first reinforced concrete bridge in the district as a recommendation for further bridges of the kind.[2] It is believed that McRae's bridge was replaced during work on the Gooramadda Drainage Scheme in the early 1970s.[3]

McRae's Bridge must have been a good recommendation because several more reinforced concrete bridges were built in the Shire over the next few years. The Company built Estcourt and Johnson's Bridges soon after the first two. At their opening in November 1914, Venables remarked proudly that when several other bridges were replaced "the works of the Shire would be entirely permanent and up-to-date".[4] Johnson's Bridge was replaced in about 1972.[5] Beck's Bridge was built by the Company in 1915. The Company also tendered unsuccessfully for four more bridges in the Shire in 1915. Two of the tenders were won by a former foreman of the Company, J. H. Barratt and his partner W. S. Bryden.[6] At least one of these early Barratt & Bryden bridges, Fuge's Bridge over Black Dog Creek on the Murray Valley Highway, is still standing, although it has been widened.

  1. Correspondence between Monash and Venables August 1910 to February 1911, Company records Box 96 Files 819[a] & 995. Venables told Monash that he had been studying reinforced concrete for years.
  2. Company records, Box 96 File 990; Rutherglen Sun and Chiltern Valley Advertiser, 10 February 1914.
  3. Information supplied by the Indigo Shire.
  4. Rutherglen Sun, 13 November 1914.
  5. Information supplied by the Indigo Shire.
  6. Company records, Box 95 File 983; Country Roads Board, Annual Report, 1915.

Lesley Alves 1998.

INDIGO: Dicks Gully Culvert.

Location:Lake Moodemere Rd, north west of Rutherglen, VR map 34 G2.
Municipality:Indigo Shire, formerly Shire of Rutherglen.
Description:Girder: 1 × 4.6 metre clear span.
Dates:Tender January 1914, tested May 1914.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998): Nil.


In January 1914 tenders were called for a reinforced concrete bridge to replace an old bridge at Dick's Gully. The Shire Engineer, G. W. C. Venables had made some estimates, but found that the price of £137 tendered by the Company was much cheaper than his own. Work commenced in April and it was completed in two weeks. The bridge was tested successfully on 22 May.[1]

1. Rutherglen Sun, 10 February 1914, Company records, Box 96 File 990.


Dick's Gully Culvert is typical of the small country bridges designed and built by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. prior to World War I. It is reasonably intact.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

Although described as a culvert, this small bridge has no floor and is typical of the small country bridges built by the Company in the few years prior to World War 1. It has a single clear span of 15 feet (4.57 m) and is 13 feet wide (3.96 m). The front faces of the abutments are supported on strip footings. Shear reinforcement is provided throughout the full length of the girders. The original iron handrailing remains on one side [1998].

INDIGO: Estcourt Bridge (now known as Escort Bridge).

Location:Black Dog Creek, Escort Bridge Road, Norong Central, VR Map 34 G3.
Municipality:Indigo Shire, formerly Shire of Rutherglen.
Description:Girder: 2 × 9.45 metre spans.
Dates:Tender June 1914, tested November 1914.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998): Nil.

Photo Lesley Alves c1997.


Rutherglen Shire Engineer Venables was very pleased with the first two bridges built by the Company in 1914 and he told Monash that he had two more bridges in mind.[1] So when Council began considering replacements for Estcourt and Johnson's bridges in April, Venables had no hesitation in recommending reinforced concrete permanent structures. They were to be funded from a debenture issue for permanent works in the Shire.[2]

Venables prepared the specifications and designs for the two bridges, presumably based on Monash's work. Monash was most concerned that detailed drawings had been prepared before tender, because it would disclose his methods of design and construction to his competitors. He always made a point of leaving the detailed drawings until after he had won the tender. Venables replied that he wanted to put full details before Council in the hope that the Company would get the job.[3]

The Company won the tenders for the two bridges and commenced work in August, using their own drawings. The two bridges were almost identical, with Johnson's slightly larger. They were completed in October at the cost of £475 and £492.[4] The test and official opening took place on 10 November. It was a low key event, with the Shire President cutting the ribbons after the Engineer reported "excellent results" of the test. Venables was congratulated for his work and credited with the designs. He responded that his "aim was to maintain the highest engineering practice everywhere".[5] Johnson's Bridge has been demolished, however Estcourt Bridge is still intact and in use.

  1. Box 96 File 990.
  2. Rutherglen Sun, 7 April, 5 May 1914.
  3. Correspondence between Monash and Venables, May 1914, Box 96 File 995.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Rutherglen Sun, 18 November 1914.


Estcourt Bridge is a typical example of the smaller country bridges designed and built by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. just prior to World War I. As one of the last bridges built under Monash's personal direction it represents the culmination of Monash's engineering achievements as a pioneer of reinforced concrete technology in Victoria. As a fine intact example, it demonstrates Monash's functionalist approach to bridge-building in reinforced concrete as the most economic way of providing a permanent structure on country roads.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This country bridge is similar to Melton Bridge in appearance and dimensions, but to a slightly pared down design. The two spans measure 31 feet (9.45 m) from centre of pier to face of abutment. They have three girders, with a roadway of 13 feet (3.96 m). This bridge is on a 30 degree skew. The central pier has been given similar treatment to the one at Melton, with two columns supporting the outer main girders and a cross-girder supporting the middle main girder. The columns are thinner than those used at Melton and are on individual footings in the form of truncated pyramids. The transom which sometimes joined the columns just above foundation level is lacking in this bridge. The abutments are of the usual column-and-wall type. This bridge is unusual amongst the later bridges in that shear reinforcement is omitted from the middle 3 feet (914 mm) of the span. The iron pipe handrailing supported by iron standards is original. It is in Estcourt Bridge that the culmination of the evolution of the economical and functional Monash reinforced concrete girder bridge can best be seen. It is one of the last in which Monash had personal involvement, and, unlike the slightly later examples, still intact, allowing the original design to be clearly viewed [1998].

LODDON: Janevale Bridge (Laanecoorie Bridge).

Location:Loddon River, Tarnagulla Laanecoorie Road, Laanecoorie, VR Map 43 F7.
Municipality:Shire of Loddon, formerly Shires of Marong & Bet Bet.
Description:Girder: 10 × 12.8 metre spans.
Dates:Tender December 1910, tested August 1911.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998): Register of the National Estate Register of Australian Historic Bridges Shire of Bet Bet Heritage Study.

Photo Lesley Alves c1997.


Widespread flooding throughout Victoria in September 1909 provided Monash with an opportunity to promote his Company's reinforced concrete bridge designs. "Upwards of forty of our bridges were within the flood area", he wrote to a prospective customer, "but we have not heard of one penny worth of damage".[1] One municipality to suffer heavily from the flood was the Marong Shire, with the loss of several timber bridges, including one over the Bullock Creek on the Melbourne Road and the large Janevale bridge over the Loddon River at Laanecoorie, built in the 1870s to connect the mining district of Tarnagulla with Bendigo.[2]

The Shire Engineer, G. S. Read, prepared designs for the two bridges in timber. He also consulted Monash regarding the cost of reinforced concrete. Monash estimated £520 for Bullock Creek and £4000 for Janevale, and had a design drawn up for the Bullock Creek bridge. Although he was keen to get such a large job, Monash was reluctant to spend time on designs for Janevale until he knew his chances of getting the contract. He sounded out Kermode of the Public Works Department, for a "private hint" about his chances with the prices mentioned. Kermode considered Read's estimate of £4100 for his timber design for Janevale much too low, and also thought Monash's estimate of £4000 low for reinforced concrete. He expressed surprise that Monash was bothering about such a small job as Bullock Creek bridge. But for Monash no job was too small, especially if it could lead to a bigger one. His tender of £525 for the Bullock Creek bridge was defeated by J. Smith's tender of £403 for the timber design.[3]

Meanwhile, Monash, encouraged by Kermode's remarks about prices and Read's assurance that he and his council favoured reinforced concrete, set about developing a design for the Janevale Bridge. In consultation with Read, a design of ten 40 foot spans was settled on and J.A. Laing commenced the drawings. Alternative tenders for timber and reinforced concrete were called in mid February 1910.[4] Although Monash's tenders were "well in the running" there were a couple of concerns to resolve. Firstly Read was particularly concerned about the slender columns, and wanted them thickened against floating timbers. Monash replied that "the employment of a large bulk of concrete in this way is quite opposed to the principles of reinforced concrete design", but offered to provide extra protection on the upstream side of the columns using iron T sections (as explained above). Secondly, the Councillors were worried that the Company would add on extras after the contract. Monash responded indignantly to the "accusation that this Company endeavours to make capital out of extras" offering an additional clause in the contract that no extras would be paid for unless authorised by Council.[5]

Satisfied, Marong council accepted the tender on 12 March. As the bridge was to be a joint project with the neighbouring Shire of Bet Bet, the plans were forwarded to that council for approval. Bet Bet Council delayed proceedings while they sought an increased government grant, and succeeded in obtaining an increase of £300 on the £1300 already offered. [6] By the time the Public Works Department approved the plans it was September. Work commenced in October.[7] In December Read suspended the work because of a serious dispute over gauging (measuring) the cement for the concrete, with Monash giving in to Read's demands to avoid bad publicity.[8] The concrete work was completed in May and the bridge was tested satisfactorily on 19 July 1911. The final cost was £4058.[9]

University of Melbourne Archives GPNB/1113
Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co.

The local people had put up with two years of inconvenience - the lack of a bridge meant a 6 mile detour for many - so the opening of the new bridge on 10 August was a cause for celebration. It was also an expression of civic pride. At 420 feet, Janevale bridge was the longest of its kind in Australia, surpassing the previous record holder, Benalla Bridge, by 20 feet. The ceremony was attended by 600 people, including councillors from neighbouring municipalities, members of parliament and the Maldon Brass Band, and followed by a banquet with the usual political and congratulatory speeches. As at Benalla, the Shire Engineer was given credit for the design - and his 2½% commission. The Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co., represented on the day by Alex Lynch, was acknowledged merely as construction contractor.[10]

In January 1912, the new Shire Engineer, Mr LeCoq, discovered cracks in the bridge. Monash made light of the matter - only five cracks, it was usual to find cracks due to thermal expansion - but Council withheld the final payment until another test was made. As far as Monash was concerned, a severe test had been made, and he had a certificate to prove it. He attributed LeCoq's concern to his lack of experience with reinforced concrete, and strongly objected to the suggestion that an engineer in private practice be called in to arbitrate, because there was no such engineer with the appropriate experience. Clearly Monash regarded himself as the expert in reinforced concrete. Kermode, Catani and Read were brought into the discussion, another test was conducted and the argument dragged on until May.[11] Whether Council were eventually satisfied with the outcome is not known.

In the 1930s the Country Roads Board found that the early T-beam bridges had insufficient shear reinforcing in the beams. Janevale Bridge was found to have extensive cracking in the beam stems and was unsafe for wheat traffic. The Board carried out strengthening work by cutting chases down the sides of the beams and inserting U stirrups.[12] The bridge currently has a 12 tonne limit on it.

  1. To W. Anderson, Wangaratta Shire Engineer, 20 January 1910, Letterbook 1909-10, Company records. (In this case the Company's tender was not successful).
  2. Bendigonian, 15 August 1911.
  3. Company records, Box 70 File 773, Box 79 File 832[b] includes correspondence with Kermode, January 1910.
  4. Box 79 File 832[a] & [b]; tender called, Age 12 February 1910.
  5. File 832[b] Monash to Read 4, 7 & 9 March 1910.
  6. Ibid, Read to Monash, 24 March 1910; Bendigonian, 15 August 1911.
  7. Read to Monash 23 September; first materials requisition dated 12 October 1910, Company records.
  8. Correspondence between Read, Monash and Kermode 9 December 1910 to 9 January 1911.
  9. Company records, File 832.
  10. Bendigonian, 15 August 1911.
  11. File 832[a] correspondence between Shire Secretary Kyne and Monash 19 January to 21 May 1912.
  12. Country Roads Board Annual Report, 1940, p.35.

The University of Melbourne Archives holds more historic images of Janevale Bridge with Location Numbers BWP/24363, NN/722 to /729, and GPNB/1108 to 1111).

A modern photograph by Colin O'Connor may be found in the Australian heritage photographic library with Barcode No: rt14020.


Janevale Bridge is the largest reinforced girder bridge designed and built by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. and the largest bridge of its kind built in Victoria, and possibly Australia prior to the First World War. Although representative of early T-beam construction, this bridge also exhibits the rare use of splayed trestle piers in reinforced concrete, reminiscent of the traditional timber trestle bridges, and is quite a departure from Monash's earlier designs in Victorian bridges. While functional in design, the bridge displays an elegance rare in early reinforced concrete bridges, and forms part of an aesthetically pleasing river landscape. Janevale Bridge also has historic significance as part of the transport link between the Tarngulla gold mining district and the regional centre of Bendigo. Its national significance has already been recognised.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This is the longest of the reinforced concrete girder bridges designed by John Monash, both in terms of span length and overall length, with 10 spans. The inner spans measure 42 feet (12.8 m) centre to centre of piers and the end spans 42 feet from centre of pier to face of abutment. It is also Monash's first use of splayed trestle piers in Victoria, although he used piers of a similar type for the Thebarton Tramway Bridge in Adelaide built by the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Co. in 1908.[1] There are four girders, giving an overall width of 18 feet (5.49 m) between handrails. The slender pier legs are splayed and form an arch at the cross-head, and are joined by one, two or three transoms, (depending on the length of the legs). The legs are tapered in the direction of span. Their vertical corners on the upstream side are heavily chamfered and protected by iron T sections embedded at 45 degrees so that the table of the T forms the face of the chamfer 2½ inches (64 mm) wide. Expansion joints are created at piers 1 and 9 by double trestles made thinner and spaced one inch (25 mm) apart. The four river piers are founded on reinforced concrete cylinders. The middle portions of the girder spans were originally without shear reinforcement. Evidence of later strengthening by the insertion of extra reinforcing into the beams is clearly visible. The abutments are mass concrete retaining walls. The iron handrailing, carried on plain iron standards is original.[2] A granite block supporting an iron lamp post (the lamp is missing) at the south approaches to the bridge commemorates the opening, with the names of the Shire Councillors.

  1. The design of the Thebarton Bridge has been attributed by other authors to W. G. T. Goodman, General Manager of the Metropolitan Tramways Trust and to J. Bowman, engineer to the Trust, see Radcliffe, J.C., Adelaide Road Passenger Transport 1836-1958, Adelaide 1974, and Lewis, M., 200 Years of Concrete in Australia, 1988. However it is quite clear from the drawings held in the John Thomas collection and from Company records, Box 71 File 775, that it is the work of Monash and his staff.
  2. The handrailing shown on the drawings appears to be timber, however photographs taken just after completion show the iron railings. Three rows of heavy wire have been added between the rails at a later date. [Conditions in 1998.]

MACEDON RANGES: Darraweit Guim Bridge.

Location:Deep Creek, Darraweit Wallan Road, Darraweit Guim, VR Map 60 G8.
Municipality:Shire of Macedon Ranges, formerly Shires of Springfield and Merriang.
Description:Girder: 3 × 12.2 metre spans.
Dates:Tender July 1913, tested May 1914.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998): Nil.

Photo Lesley Alves c1997.


While it is common for bridges to provide the link between municipalities sharing a stream as their boundary, neighbouring municipalities do not necessarily agree about such bridges, and they can be a source of conflict between Councils. This was the case when Springfield Shire Council sought the cooperation of neighbouring Merriang Shire Council to replace an old bridge in the agricultural township of Darraweit Guim. The subject was raised by Springfield Council in mid 1912, but Merriang Council would not agree to spend a lot of money on a new bridge when the old one could be repaired for £140. After almost a year of argument, Springfield Council took the matter to court and obtained a magistrate's decision that the new bridge should be built. Subsequently the two councils held a joint meeting and decided that the bridge would be built either entirely of concrete or of concrete with steel girders.[1]

There was no delay in calling tenders, because F. N. Lock, Springfield Shire Engineer, had already approached the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. for an estimate, and a design had been drawn up by J. A. Laing. This was the design upon which Lock based his tender drawing.[2] Also there was no need to wait upon the government for financial assistance, because the grant offered earlier to cover one third of the cost was re-voted by Parliament.[3]

Four tenders were received. The Company's at £988 was accepted, although it was not the lowest. The tender of Tench & Moran was £38 lower, but it was ruled out of order because it quoted for cheaper material on the approaches, in effect varying the specifications. This re-ignited the dispute between the Councils. Merriang Shire Engineer, E. P. Muntz accused Lock and his Council of "hanky panky", i.e. favouring the Monier Company. A Springfield councillor indignantly declared that they could not allow a tenderer to make his own specifications, unaware of the fact that Monash had been writing the specifications for reinforced concrete bridges on behalf of shire engineers for years. Another deadlock delayed proceedings, until the Public Works Department stepped in and ruled that the Monier Company should do the job.[4]

Work finally commenced on the bridge in November and it was completed in March 1914.[5] The animosity between the two councils was still evident on the day of the test, 11 May 1914. Lynch reported that some councillors were critical and he suspected some wilful damage.[6] There was no ribbon cut, no celebratory speeches, just the formality of the test followed by afternoon tea for the watching councillors.[7] Two months later Merriang Council was still finding fault with the bridge. According to a report in the Argus, the fences were irregular, the bridge was not drained, the cement was badly mixed. Monash was quick to protest to the Argus about its misleading reporting of his Company's work.[8]

  1. Romsey Examiner, 27 June 1913, Age, 11 February 1914.
  2. Lock to Monash 14 January 1913. A note on the drawing from the John Thomas collection.
  3. Romsey Examiner, 27 June 1913.
  4. Romsey Examiner, 17 October 1913, Age 20 October 1913.
  5. Romsey Examiner, 7 November 1913, 23 February 1914.
  6. 12 May 1914, Company records.
  7. Romsey Examiner, 15 May 1914.
  8. Argus, 10 July 1914, Monash to Argus 13 July 1910, Company records.


Darraweit Guim Bridge is an intact example of the larger reinforced concrete bridges designed and built in country districts by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. just before World War 1. The bridge demonstrates the principal characteristics of the economical designs developed by Monash, but it is unusual in the use of splayed outer pier columns connected by curtain walls. It is one of the earliest of Monash's girder designs that has reinforcing in the whole span.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This is a fairly large country bridge of three spans. The middle span measures 40 feet (12.2 m) centre to centre of the piers, and the outer spans measure 40 feet from centre of pier to face of abutment. There are three girders across the width. The pier design is an unusual combination of splayed columns and curtain walls, having three columns, the outer two being splayed at about 7 degrees to the vertical. All three are joined by a curtain wall 3 inches (76 mm) thick. The columns and curtain wall rest on a strip footing and there is no cross-head. Shear reinforcement covers the whole span of the main girders. The bridge has quite a distinctive architectural style, exhibiting facets with sharply cut edges. The original iron handrailing is still in place [1998].

The University of Melbourne Archives holds historic images of the bridge with Location Numbers from BWP/24055 to /24067 and NN/882.


The above account of the Monier bridge at Darraweit Guim was prepared for a summary of the heritage value of all Monash Bridges extant in the late 1990s (Alves et al, 1998). Re-publication on the web allows space for further historical details, especially with regard to professional engineering.

The "Engineer" for Merriang Shire was the consulting practice of Muntz & Muntz, run by two members of the well-known engineering family, E P Muntz and J J N Muntz, with the former handling the Darraweit bridge project.

The Public Works Department was keen from the start to have a concrete bridge. Their W T B McCormack mentioned the project to Monash in November 1912. Monash contacted E P Muntz with an offer to quote, and a request for a profile of the creek. Muntz replied: "This job I think will find its way into your hands if we can get the Councils … to agree to re-construct". However, it was F N Lock who sent the required profile and adopted the idea of reinforced concrete enthusiastically.

Merriang Councillors' arguments against the proposal were that there was little traffic on the bridge; that it was located in the least wealthy part of the shire (the Wallan riding); and that a possible future amalgamation of smaller shires might alter the picture completely. Muntz advised that the existing timber bridge could be repaired and would last "some more years". Yet in the meantime, a deputation from Springfield had persuaded the Minister for Public Works to approve the project, with £400 to come from the State and £400 from each shire. Merriang refused to cooperate.

The Springfield councillors moved to force the issue under the provisions of the Local Government Act. The case was heard in the Kilmore Magistrates Court, with each shire represented by solicitors. Expert witnesses presented widely differing opinions. Lock, McCormack, and R Fennelly (a consulting engineer) argued for a reinforced concrete bridge. The existing structure was unsound and could not be repaired - almost all its piles were "rotten shells" and the rest of the structure had been attacked by termites. The previous engineer for Merriang, T W Fowler, had placed a load limit of 2 tons on the bridge. For the other side, both E P and J N N Muntz plus W C Andrews (engineer for the shires of Braybrook and Wodonga) argued that the existing bridge could handle the limited volume of traffic. They admitted that the timber piles were hollow; but there remained a cylinder of wood 2" (50mm) thick. A sample tested at Melbourne University had shown high strength (5340 psi = 37 MPa). John Gleeson, a contractor, offered to repair the bridge for £125 and claimed it would then last for 30 years. However, the Police Magistrate, R Knight, favoured the arguments for a reinforced concrete bridge, and adjourned to allow the councils to talk. A conference was held on the old bridge; Merriang made one last attempt at resistance, offering to pay the full cost of a bridge at an alternative location; but finally agreed to cooperate, leaving the direction of the project in the hands of Lock.

The tenders, as received by the Springfield Council on 25 July 1913, were: Goodridge & Derrick of Auburn, £3500; Thomas Sly, Elsternwick, £1145; Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Co., £988; Trench & Moran, £950. However, Trench & Moran had allowed for a gravel road surface, rather than the 'blue metal' (crushed basalt) required by the Specification. Lock estimated that £50 should be added to their figure to allow for use of blue metal, bringing their "quote" to £12 more than RCMPC's. The Council then agreed to recommend RCMPC's tender to the PWD.

The newspapers variously reported RCMPC's bid as £988 (correct) or £998 and the difference between it and Trench & Moran's as between £20 and £38.

On 19 September, Lock informed Monash that the decision was being challenged within his own council. He had prepared a draft letter for his Springfield councillors to formally notify Merriang that RCMPC had been recommended. When it was tabled, some of his councillors had suggested that instead of sending the letter, fresh tenders should be called. As reported in the local newspaper, some had suggested that "all is not square in the matter". Monash recommended Lock to warn them they would be held legally responsible for this accusation.

Meanwhile, Merriang was refusing to accept a tender that in their eyes was not the lowest. The Age claimed that Trench & Moran's bid had been suppressed (i.e. not shown to the PWD) and that the firm had since offered to include bluestone surfacing at their original tender price. E P Muntz felt that he had been "ignored", and weighed in on the side of Merriang Council and Trench & Moran. Merriang entered a formal protest to the PWD. At this, the pro-concrete Springfield councillors condemned Merriang's letter on the subject as "most aggressive", and defended Lock against the "unjust charges". He declared that his conscience was clear. The matter finally went to arbitration in mid-October under the PWD, which ruled in favour of the reinforced concrete bridge that it had wanted all along.

RCMPC's Works Manager Alex Lynch visited the site with Lock in late October 1913, and foreman J H Barratt's daily reports run from 13 November to 10 February 1914. Lock adopted a strict policy with regard to the concrete mix and refused to allow the use of spalls (large stones) in the substructure concrete. As often happened, good rock was further below the soil surface than expected. At the south abutment it dipped steeply and blasting was necessary to form a ledge. The footing for the northern pier had to be excavated in a water-filled trench.

After attending the successful load test, Lynch reported: "the attitude of certain Councillors before the test was very critical". A small patch of concrete was missing from one of the piers, exposing the reinforcing bars. Lynch was told that it was the result of a log striking the pier during a flood, but he was not entirely convinced. "Many small chips have been apparently wilfully broken off in various places, probably by the local expert who started the story in the locality that no Portland Cement had been used as specified, but some German stuff." However, Lock was well pleased. The correspondent of the Romsey Examiner wrote a humorous account of the test proceedings [Ref. 7 above]. This unfortunately descended into silliness; but it demonstrates the genuine fears, as late as 1914, of many people concerning the safety of the 'new' technology.

Additional References:

Age 21 Jan; 5, 24 Feb; 17 Mar; 1, 7 Apr; 6 May; 10, 24 June; 28 July; 29 Sept,1913
Argus 31 July 1913.
Romsey Examiner 26 Jun; 19 Sept, 1913.

MELBOURNE: Abattoirs Bridge.

Location:Epsom Road, Kensington, Melway 42 J1.
Municipality:City of Melbourne.
Description:Girder: 2 × 12.4 metre spans.
Dates:Tender February 1911, tested October 1911.
Status (1998):Still in use for road traffic, subway now part of walkway.
Heritage Listing (1998): Nil.

Photo Lesley Alves c1997.


On 15 December 1910 it was reported that a world record sheep sale of 90,000 head took place at the Newmarket Saleyards. This sale occurred soon after the saleyards and the nearby City Abattoirs had been extended and improved to cater for the growing export meat trade. The increased trade highlighted the nuisance to the local residents and through traffic caused by the practice of driving livestock through the streets to and from market. There was a stock crossing, controlled by a pair of railway gates, at Epsom Road, where stock bought at the market for slaughtering was taken across to the abattoirs. Increased public complaints resulting from the increased activity at the crossing prompted the Melbourne City Council to provide a subway for the stock crossing, making use of the natural dip in the landscape between Smithfield Road and Market Street.[1]

The City Surveyor, A. C. Mountain, was instructed to prepare plans, with alternative designs for a bridge of steel or of reinforced concrete. Mountain subsequently prepared plans for the raising of the level of Epsom road, and for a bridge consisting either of rolled steel joists supported on brick abutments and piers, estimated to cost £2250, or a reinforced concrete superstructure.[2] Alternative tenders, called for the bridge in January 1911, attracted six contractors who offered five proposals for steel and five for reinforced concrete. The Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co.'s two competitors for the work in reinforced concrete were F. Stone and H. Rowe, whose tenders were all above £2000.[3] Monash, highly critical of the Council design in reinforced concrete,[4] submitted a design of his own for a reinforced concrete superstructure, and for a bridge entirely in reinforced concrete. The latter tender, being the lowest at £1496, was accepted.[5] Obviously the price was a major deciding factor, but Monash's company also had the advantage of reputation. In recommending their tender, Mountain and H. E. Morton (the City Architect) commented that the firm "has great experience both theoretically and practically in the application of this material to bridges and other classes of work". Morton, however, expressed reservations with the design, arguing that the deck slab would not spread the concentrated loads from the roller wheels as widely over the girders as Monash had assumed. Nevertheless he concurred with the design on the strength of the firm's undertaking to bear the risk of a test.[6] (Presumably the Council design was not subject to a test). After discussions with Mountain, Monash agreed to increase the plate thickness by 2 inches to 71/2 inches - the original Council design was 8 inches thick - although Monash considered 1 inch increase sufficient. The additional cost was to be paid by Council.[7]

Monash offered to substitute better handrails than those specified, suggesting cast iron standards like those on the recently built Maribyrnong and Benalla bridges. When Mountain responded that they were too dear, Monash offered them for half price. Mountain accepted.[8] Work commenced on the bridge in April, and, after an extension of time because of bad weather, it was completed in September 1911. The test was carried out on 26 October.[9]

University of Melbourne Archives GPNB/1254
Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co.

The subway came to be known as the 'back gate'. It was here that a stock counter counted the livestock as it made its way out of the saleyards, so that market fees could be charged.[10] The bridge remained in use as a stock subway until the closure of the saleyards in 1983. The saleyards and abattoirs site has been redeveloped for housing, and the old stock lanes and subway incorporated into a landscaped walkway. An examination of the bridge by Corcoran Shepherd Consultants Pty Ltd in 1995 found significant deterioration due to cracking of the concrete, which had allowed water to penetrate and corrode the reinforcing steel. Subsequent repairs include the application of a protective coating to the concreted surfaces.[11]

  1. Age, 15 December 1910; Argus, 28 June 1910; Vincent, K., On the Fall of the Hammer, SLV, 1992, p.19.
  2. Minutes, 21 November, 12 & 14 December, City of Melbourne Abattoirs & Cattle Market Committee VPRS 4031 Vol 2; City Surveyor's Reports 10/6854, 10/7130, City of Melbourne, Town Clerk's Office, VPRS 3183/P1 U42.
  3. Age, 27 January 1911, Minutes 27 February 1911, Abattoirs & Cattle Market Committee.
  4. "Notes on Design of Bridge at Abattoirs", 28 January 1911, Company records, Box 79 File 833.
  5. Minutes 27 February, 13 March 1911, Abattoirs & Cattle Market Committee.
  6. Surveyor's Report 11/1440.
  7. Correspondence between Monash and Mountain 3-6 April 1911 in Company records, "Notes on Design of Bridge at Abattoirs".
  8. Correspondence between Monash and Mountain 7-13 April 1911 in Company records.
  9. Fairway to Monash 26 October 1911, Company records.
  10. Vincent, p.19.
  11. Corcoran Shepherd Consultants Pty Ltd, "stock Subway Bridge: Condition Survey', 1995.


The Abattoirs Bridge is historically significant as an important part of the former Newmarket Saleyards and Melbourne Abattoirs site, having been built as part of the improvements required for Australia's growing meat export trade early in the twentieth century. Viewed in context with the paved stock laneways it is a reminder of the activities of the saleyards. The bridge is also significant as an intact representative example of the innovative work of John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. Its 12 metre spans are among the longest built in reinforced concrete girder design before World War I, and the bridge has some unique design features demonstrating its use as an underpass.

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This two span bridge takes Epsom Road traffic across a natural dip in the landscape and forms a subway providing access between the sites of the Newmarket Saleyards and the City Abattoirs. Each span measures 40 feet 9 inches (12.2 m) from centre of pier to face of abutment columns. The roadway is 30 feet (9.14 m) wide with a 5 foot wide (1.52 m) footpath each side. The abutments consist of seven reinforced concrete columns founded on continuous spread footings and joined by curtain walls. The wing walls are cantilevered retaining walls. The seven columns of the central pier are built up from a continuous spread footing, and have curved reinforced haunches at the junction with each beam. A curtain wall rising 2 metres to about half height, provides a two-lane passage through the subway. The use of the bridge as a subway is reflected in the decorative detail on the underside of the bridge, in particular on the curved haunches and the curtain wall. Also the concrete surface has been trimmed to a smooth finish,[1] unlike most of Monash's bridges, where the marks from the formwork remain, or were covered with a light cement wash. On top, the elaborate iron handrailing reflects the bridge's importance as part of a busy suburban thoroughfare.

Little alteration has been made to the fabric of the bridge, except for necessary repairs to the concrete and a protective coating of grey paint, and the addition of wire mesh to the handrailing. Since the closure of the saleyards the subway has become part of a walkway linking new housing estates.

1. Report on Stock Subway Bridge, p.2, in CRB, "City of Melbourne: Particulars of Bridges", 1957.


Civil Engineers Australia, a magazine of the Institution of Engineers Australia, reported in its January 2008 edition (pp.43 and 44) the repair of the "Stock Subway Bridge" and its strengthening to cope with 46.5t loading. Additional reinforcement has been inserted without altering the external appearance of the bridge.

MELBOURNE: Flemington Road Bridge.

Location:Moonee Ponds Creek, Mt Alexander Road, Flemington, Melway 43 B1.
Municipality:Cities of Melbourne & Moonee Valley, formerly City of Essendon.
Description:Girder: 5 × 6.5 metre spans Modification of an existing iron bridge.
Dates:Tender March 1912, completed July 1913.
Status (1998):Still in use.
Heritage Listing (1998): Nil.

Photo Lesley Alves c1997.


Melbourne's first permanent electric tram line, opened in 1906, linked Essendon with the older North Melbourne cable tramway, which terminated on the Melbourne side of the Moonee Ponds Creek. The old iron girder bridge built around 1870 was not strong enough or wide enough to take the tram line, hence passengers had to walk the 200 yards between the two tram services, causing delays in the scheduled services [1]. In 1912 a new bridge was proposed to take the tramway across the creek and a budget of £800 allocated. Following criticism, particularly from the Essendon Gazette, that the proposed bridge would be too small and cheap for such an important crossing, the State Government was approached for assistance. Tramways were then in the hands of private companies, however the Government agreed to assist, in the interests of the travelling public, with a grant of £500. The work was to be the responsibility of the Public Works Department, with a budget of £2600 shared between the Melbourne and Essendon City Councils, the government and the North Melbourne Tramway Company. The old bridge was to be widened from 40 feet to 66 feet to eliminate the bottleneck at the beginning of Mt Alexander Road [2]. The specifications supplied by the Public Works Department required the old bridge to be dismantled and re-erected using the existing iron plate girders, rearranging them to provide greater strength under the tramlines. The old wooden decking was to be replaced with reinforced concrete. Tenders were called in March 1913 and three designs were submitted. The Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. won the contract for their design priced at £1788.

Monash had so far been unable to convince any public authorities engineers in Victoria that reinforced concrete girders were suitable for tram or railway bridges. Several years earlier the Company had been unsuccessful in their tenders for tramway bridges at Elwood and Bendigo, although Monash's South Australian company had built the Hindmarsh River Railway Bridge at Victor Harbour and the Thebarton Tramway Bridge in Adelaide [3]. The Company's drawing for Flemington Bridge dated 20 March 1913 shows three reinforced concrete girders under the tram tracks, with the old iron girders to be re-used under the widened portions. At first George Kermode of the Public Works Department, who was supervising the work, opposed the use of reinforced concrete girders [4]. No record of discussions over the issue is available, however it is clear that Monash eventually convinced the Department that reinforced concrete was strong enough to support a tramway, and indeed superior to the iron girders which were placed where less strength was required. Amended drawings dated 5 May 1913 show five reinforced concrete girders - four under the tramlines and one under the new section of road. The physical evidence of the bridge shows that this was the plan followed. Flemington Road Bridge is therefore the first tramway bridge in Victoria with reinforced concrete girders.

Work commenced in April, with the western half of the bridge being dismantled and reconstructed first, to allow the bridge to remain open for traffic during the works. The building of the new bridge was not celebrated with the customary opening and testing, but with the laying of a foundation stone. On 29 May the Minister of Public Works, W. H. Edgar performed the ceremony with a silver trowel presented by the contractors. Mr Edgar commented that the bridge stood at an important northern gateway to Melbourne, hence the Government's willingness to contribute to the cost. The Mayor of Essendon was equally keen to point out the significance of a bridge of this quality as an entrance to the City of Essendon. Beneath the foundation stone was placed a glass canister containing the morning papers, a Commonwealth bank note and some coins [5]. This event was deemed sufficient celebration and no official opening was held when the bridge was completed some time in July or August, at a final cost of £2110, considerably less than the amount allocated [6].

  1. Age, 30 May 1913.
  2. Age, 30 May and 23 December 1913; Essendon Gazette, 12, 19, 25 December 1912, 23 January, 5 June 1913.
  3. See Company records
  4. Memo 1 April 1913, Company records Box 92 File 951; Age, 30 May 1913.
  5. Age, 30 May 1913, Essendon Gazette, 5 June 1913.
  6. Company records.
  7. As the focus of this study is reinforced concrete structures, no attempt was made to research the earlier iron structure, or to assess its significance amongst iron bridges.


Flemington Road Bridge is an example of the adaptation by John Monash and the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. of an old structure using innovative technology, to provide the first reinforced concrete tramway bridge in Victoria. The bridge combines the iron girders and piers of an 1870s iron bridge, with reinforced concrete deck, piers and girders. The bridge has historical associations with a stage in the development of the tram link between Essendon and Melbourne.[7]

Lesley Alves 1998.

Description and Technical Analysis.

This project involved the strengthening and widening of an existing iron bridge to provide for two tram tracks down the middle of the roadway. The alterations used the iron columns and girders from the old structure and introduced new reinforced concrete components.

There are five spans of 21 feet 3 inches (6.48 m). The central strip of the bridge is still [1998] supported by the original piers, each consisting of six cast iron cylinder columns connected with X-shaped cross-bracing. Five central girders, numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 (counting from the upstream side of the bridge) are made of reinforced concrete and carry the tram lines. On the upstream side two lines of reinforced concrete columns on strip footings were added to support a new footpath. On the downstream side three further lines were added to support a widening of the road and another footpath. On each side the outer line of columns (numbers 1 and 11) supports a reinforced concrete beam to carry the edge of the footpath, while the inner lines (columns 2, 8, 9 and 10) support iron girders re-used from the old bridge. The old timber deck was replaced by a cast in-situ reinforced concrete deck extending over the full width of the bridge. The abutments of the bridge are the column and wall type, with a bluestone wall in front of the Melbourne abutment. The iron handrailing supported by decorative cast iron standards and a concrete pillar at each corner, with a commemorative inscription on the south west pillar, as provided for the 1913 extension, remains reasonably intact.