W.C.Andrews OBE, FIE Aust.,

William Charles Andrews’ appointment as Commissioner of NCDC climaxed a very distinguished career in engineering spanning more than fifty years — a career that embraced senior positions in local government, distinguished wartime service, an overseas Travelling Fellowship and many subsequent overseas assignments to a wide range of countries including that of lecturer and professional adviser.

He joined NCDC in 1958 as an original Associate Commissioner and hence had a major influence on Canberra’s development for sixteen years. In addition to his active work in community affairs, Mr Andrews is a Past Chairman, Canberra Division, The Institution of Engineers, Australia; Past President, Canberra Division, The Institution of Surveyors, Australia; Past Chairman, Canberra Group, Australian Planning Institute; Past President, Canberra Branch, Australian Water and Wastewater Association; Past Federal President, Australian Water and Wastewater Association.

THE background of prehistory in the Australian Capital Territory shows that in this most ancient continent of Australia, the Territory is situated within a geologically complex sector of New South Wales. Studies of the rocks of the Territory are now able to trace the successive eras of geological change in the past 450 million years. The noble landscape in which Canberra is set reflects the product of both profound and subtle earth processes in that vast timescale: subsidence beneath the sea, with a shoreline at Tharwa and coral-bearing limestone formations which provide the foundations of the Treasury building and an abutment of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge: uplift and fiery outpourings of vast quantities of lava and other volcanic material: episodes of strong crustal movements, folding and faulting, followed by a general stabilising and then, by erosion processes, the carving and creation of the present land forms. Those erosion processes have also provided natural materials for engineering purposes and a land surface for forest growth.

Related to geological studies into time, research into Australia’s prehistory has demonstrated that nomadic Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years and possibly for a much longer period of time. Explorers such as Mitchell and Sturt in the early 1800s recognised and spoke highly of the Aborigines’ well developed sense of orientation and their skills in establishing and maintaining their widespread pattern of trackways, clear of timber and out of reach of floods. Where rivers bisected trackways, ‘ferry services’ by canoe were established to maintain the continuity of the trackway system, which can well be regarded as the forerunner of present-day road communications.

The Explorers

The area now embraced within the ACT remained unknown and undiscovered by the new settlers in Sydney, from 26 January, 1788 to the year 1820. Within that short period of 32 years, explorers had found a way across the rugged Blue Mountains and had “seen the plains beyond” to the west, suitable for grazing.1

Aboriginal trackways
Fig. 1.1: Aboriginal trackways in the Australian continent.
Diagram F.D. McCarthy ‘Trade in Aboriginal Australia’.
It was not surprising that the land in the southern high country held a great deal of interest for the colonial settlers of the time, not only as an extension and opening up of grazing lands, but also as an alternative environment to the hotter, less comfortable conditions of the newly discovered western plains. In Bong Bong, near Mittagong, a young doctor-turned-grazier, Charles Throsby, was exercising a restless and enquiring mind towards exploration of the country south of the Goulburn Plains. He had previously been with Hamilton Hume, and in 1818 at Governor Macquarie’s request, had made an overland journey of discovery to Jervis Bay.2

Again at the Governor’s request, Throsby undertook the task of constructing a “road” from Moss Vale through to Goulburn. In a letter to Macquarie dated 1 September 1819, he set out requirements for 12 men, a cart, tools and rations, and an aboriginal guide.3 The request was granted and, most significantly, approval was also given to employ an overseer at an annual salary of £20 while employed. The appointed overseer was Joseph Wild, a former servant of Throsby’s who had come to understand the Aborigines’ ways and could converse with them. “He was to be the mainstay of several other expeditions.”4

Probable pattern of some aboriginal tr2ckways
Fig. 1.2: Probable pattern of some aboriginal tr2ckways
and resource areas in the A CT. Photo: Author.
During the construction of the Goulburn ‘road’, or cleared track, Wild repeated to Charles Throsby a story by the Aboriginal guide, of a large sheet of water to the south, and of a great river flowing to the west.5

Early painting of Canberra
Fig. 1.3: Early painting of Canberra gives an idea of the
almost treeless Limestone Plains traversed by the
early explorers. Photo — National Library of Australia.
With the approaching completion of the Goulburn ‘track’, Throsby sent Wild and two other men to investigate, and on 19 August 1820, Wild discovered Lake Wee- re-waa (now Lake George) and travelled southward on the eastern shore through excellent grazing land, camping on the third night at the end of the lake not far from the present site of Bungendore.6

On the following day, Wild set out on his own to spy out the land ahead, and climbed a sizeable hill (Turalla). Nearby hills obscured much of the view ahead, but above them in the distance, Wild saw some snow covered mountains. From the lie of the intervening land, it is clear he was looking at some eastern slopes of the Brindabella Range, and thus he became the first explorer to look on land within the ACT. The date was 22 August 1820.7

Charles Throsby, well pleased with the verification of part of the Aborigine’s story, reported to Governor Macquarie and induced him to travel to the newly discovered lake and grazing lands.8 The Governor in his carriage travelled with Charles Throsby and others to Lake Bathurst,9 probably along a route partly coincident with the present Tarago road. At this point on 24 October 1820, while the Governor rested before slowly continuing on to the southern end of the lake, Throsby with two companions rushed ahead in an endeavour to find the ‘great west river’.10 They reached the hills possibly near Mt. Cohen, Throsby thereby probably becoming the first to set foot on ACT soil; but the ‘west river’ eluded the party.11 Throsby discovered the upper Yass River on his return journey.

Four subsequent exploration journeys within the next four years clarified the questions of access into the Canberra area, the pattern of the river systems, and of the availability of grazing and farming land. The first of these, requested by the Governor following his visit to the lake he had renamed Lake George, was undertaken by Throsby’s nephew Charles Throsby Smith in December 1820, Joseph Wild being in the party.12 Starting from a camp near Bungendore, they journeyed westward to the Yass River near Gundaroo. They then moved southward along the river, probably on a trackway towards Sutton, and entering the Majura Valley, camped near the present ‘Duntroon’ on the river they discovered, the Molonglo.13 After climbing what was believed to be Black Mountain and deciding that the Aborigine’s ‘great river’ was a myth, Smith and Wild returned upstream on the Molonglo, discovering the Queanbeyan River on 8 December, 1820.14 The party then returned to Lake George through the Molonglo Plains, the rapidity of their return journey suggesting that they must have followed aboriginal trackways through some quite difficult country.

Smith’s report to his uncle that the ‘great west river’ did not exist, led to a quarrel. But the expedition had nevertheless been useful, not only in the discovery of the Molonglo and Queanbeyan rivers, but also in finding river flats of ‘fine rich soil’ and practicable access routes into the new country.”15

Charles Throsby, rejecting Smith’s conclusions concerning the great westward flowing river, set out in March 1821 to seek again this ‘great river’. After leaving Lake George he moved along the eastern side of the Molonglo Plains and then struck westward to the upper Molonglo River, probably near the eleven mile post on the present Captains Flat Road.16 A difficult journey then led to the junction with the Queanbeyan River, from which point he continued along the Molonglo through the Limestone Plains. In his subsequent letter to the Governor, he referred to ‘rich meadow land’ bordering the river.17 Passing under the shadow of Black Mountain, Throsby turned off the river probably at Yarralumla Creek, and took a ‘south east’ direction through the present Woden Valley. His path along the valley appears broadly to have coincided with the present Yarra Glen and Athllon Drive routes, leading him to the low saddle between the Woden and Tuggeranong Valleys.18 From that point, he would have recognised from the configuration of the land ahead that he was close to his objective and success. One can thus see him with lightened step passing through the present Wanniassa area and reaching the ‘Morumbidgee’ River near Pine Island, exultant at the culmination of his dedicated search. He had confounded quite a few sceptics; more importantly, he had demonstrated the reliability of aboriginal information on matters topographical.

On the return journey, his enquiring mind led him downstream along the Molonglo River sufficiently far to indicate that it would join the Murrumbidgee.19 His return journey probably followed broadly the route through the Gundaroo area and along the Yass River, thence to Lake George, traversed by his nephew Charles Throsby Smith. This, his most successful exploration, rounded off a major contribution to the heritage of the ACT, while at the same time opening up the way for early settlement.

On 10 May 1821 Throsby despatched to Governor Macquarie a letter setting out the details and results of his journey to the Murrumbidgee. A letter to one of his friends in Sydney was published in the Australian Magazine of June 1821. In almost valedictory terms he wrote ‘I admit the great extent of country through which the rivers appear to run, places it far beyond my power to determine their termination; yet I still hope they will be ultimately found to communicate with the sea, but most certainly not on the Eastern Coast.’20

Two further journeys into the ACT area were made before its settlement began. The first journey began on 22 May 1823, when Captain Mark Currie and Major Ovens set out from Bong Bong. With them were ‘Joseph Wild, a constable of the district of Argyle, well known as a bushman on similar excursions’, and one Aboriginal.21 Their route followed the eastern side of Lake George and the Molonglo Plains, turning sharply westward along the Molonglo River. The party crossed the river probably at Burbong and reached the Queanbeyan River, where they camped on 1 June. They turned south and taking a route or track which probably largely coincided with the present Monaro Highway, reached the present Isabella Plains and later, the Bredbo River which they believed to be the Murrumbidgee.22 They made a short reconnaissance further into the new country called by natives ‘Monaroo’, and then returned through the Queanbeyan River’s junction with the Molonglo. Next day they set out on a north-easterly course and reached Lake George, arriving back in Bong Bong on l4 June, 1823.23

The second exploration party, led by botanist Allan Cunningham, followed Currie’s track through the Molonglo Plains but continued on past the ‘Carwoola’ country, possibly along part of the present Captains Flat Road. The party turned westward to cross the Queanbeyan River and camped by the Murrumbidgee near Mt. Tennant on the 15 April, 1824.24 From this point they travelled downstream to Pine Island and then struck off northward on a course probably paralleling Charles Throsby’s, but deviating into the Weston Creek valley, and probably traversing the general direction of the present Namatjira and Streeton Drives. On reaching the Molonglo River, Cunningham’s party turned eastward upstream to Black Mountain, from which they travelled up Sullivans Creek to the vicinity of Northbourne Avenue and then took a northerly route towards Gundaroo.

 Surveyors at work in 1865
Fig. 1.4: Surveyors at work in 1865, using “metric” chain unit of 66 feet divided into 100 “links”. Photo: Dept. of Main Roads, NSW.
The four-year period of pioneering exploration and new discovery thus ended with a scientific botanical examination of the new lands. In that period, valuable farming and grazing lands had been discovered and practicable access routes which had been traversed, removed the last obstacle to the southern extension of settlement. In perspective, the progress made was in essence related to the long-term vision of Governor Macquarie and his encouragement of exploration, road construction and building works.

Colonial Roads

The important trigonometrical survey of the ‘Nineteen Counties’ of the Colony and particularly of the topographical features and the existing roads, was completed and set out on a map drawn by Mitchell in 1834.25 It is presently reproduced by the NSW Central Mapping Authority and noted as ‘still considered accurate by today’s standards’. The scale of the map was determined by the limited size of ship’s copper available in Sydney for engraving the map.26

Mitchell displayed his superb draftsmanship on this map, which he considered his own personal responsibility and for which he received a knighthood.27 The base line for his survey, laid out to the north of Lake George, facilitated the subsequent co-ordination of surveys in the County of Murray.28

The ‘Nineteen Counties’ map shows the location and pattern of the access tracks converging on the Limestone Plains and on Bungendore. North of Bungendore the track to Goulburn passes through Currandooly and along the eastern shore of Lake George. A track easterly from Currandooly leads to Lake Bathurst and connects there to the road to Bungonia and the ‘old Great South Road’.29

From Bungendore a track is shown bearing south-westerly through the present Kowen forest area to the Limestone Plains. Southerly from Bungendore, a track leads through the Molonglo Plains to the Molonglo River ford near Balcomb Hill, at the present ‘eleven mile’ post on the Captains Flat Road. The track then takes a quite direct line to a ford on the Queanbeyan River, passing near the present golf course.30 A track is shown passing through the Limestone Plains southerly to the ‘Miccaligo’ Plains and thence to the ‘Monaroo’ beyond the ‘Nineteen Counties’.

The tracks in and through the present ACT area, and indeed the roads generally, shown on Mitchell’s map, might be regarded as primitive, but it would be well to relate them to the then existing condition of the British road system. In 1810 ‘there was not one continuous piece of road designed to connect any two important terminals — a thing which had not existed since the breakdown of Roman government in the 5th century’.31 Telford of great engineering fame completed the first such road in England, from London to Holyhead, in the year 1830.32

The focus of tracks in the ACT area gradually became identified with the junction of the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers. All the land purchases were located on the western side of the Queanbeyan River thus involving a river crossing on the journey to Sydney. That route was noted on the village plan at the end of Mouatt Street, and present day directories still refer to ‘the old Sydney Road’.33 By 1839 another track from Bungendore across the Burbong ford on the Molonglo River and down the ‘Big Hill’ into Queanbeyan, was coming into some use, as was a route southerly from the ‘eleven mile crossing’ through London Bridge to Michelago as the Monaro’s ‘old Sydney Road.’34 Also important to the district were the road to Gundaroo and Gunning, and the track to Yass which also gave access to Duntroon, to Ginninderra and Gungahlin.

Within the district were several old tracks. Settlement in the Isabella Plains-Tuggeranong Valley first gained access by a ‘Lanyon road’, which turned off the Cooma-Monaro track near Rose Cottage and, skirting Simpsons Hill, crossed the Tuggeranong Creek about two hundred yards below the Tuggeranong homestead and climbed the ridge to make a track now coinciding with the Tharwa Road. The Lanyon homestead thus had access some years before the establishment of Queanbeyan.35 The track extended beyond Tharwa up into Top Naas and to Gudgenby and then later into the Boboyan country, having crossed the Murrumbidgee at the Tharwa ford. It is recorded that 14-year-old Archibald Crawford traversed this Boboyan track in 1847 in taking the family wool to Sydney in a bullock wagon.36

Another early internal track was named and is still named in Queanbeyan, the Uriarra Road. It broadly paralleled the Molonglo to a point near Kingston, and then turned west to intersect with the ‘Narrabunda Road’ to Scott’s Ford,37 but importantly, it also continued down the Molonglo River country to the ford over the Murrumbidgee River at Uriarra. On the west side of that river, settlers had a track towards Yass, while to the south west was a track, probably an Aboriginal trackway to the top of the Brindabellas for the annual Moth Hunt. It later was also a route for some of the gold seekers of the 1860s moving into the Goodradigbee valley and on to Kiandra.38

One track shown on early maps as running almost in a straight line from Bungendore to a ford on the Molonglo near the Oaks Estate has almost entirely disappeared. Shown by both White and Dixon in the 1830s, Dixon’s 1837 plan shows a development from White’s, in that the track, on nearing the river, bifurcated, the western limb proceeding westward and crossing the river at what was to be known as the Dairy Flat Ford. Another track, from the site of Queanbeyan to Burra Creek was not shown on the 1837 Dixon map, but appeared on Surveyor Larmer’s map of ‘The Township of Queanbeyan’ in 1838. This could reflect the rapidity of the growth of settlement in the Queanbeyan River and Burra Creek valleys during the 1830s.39

The best illustration of the growth of unsurveyed, unofficial tracks would probably be ‘A Map of the County of Murray’, Sheet No. 18 of Baker’s Australian Atlas, which was dedicated to Sir Thomas Mitchell and probably was prepared early in the 1840s. It was drawn in colour to define the boundaries of Parishes and Police Districts in the County.40

The increasing volume of movement of all kinds on the ‘roads’ of the County can be better understood by reference to both human and animal populations. The census of 1828 indicated a population in the Limestone-Queanbeyan area of about 126 in numbers, including 73 convicts serving out their terms as assigned servants.41 Only 5 of the 126 men had arrived in the NSW colony as free immigrants. By the year 1835, it was stated that one third of the whole NSW colony’s sheep and cattle grazed on the country between Lake Bathurst and the Monaro. 42 Bullock teams were the main form of bulk transport for the wool and other products of this grazing industry, and in the length and breadth of the Murray County these teams were causing damage to the primitive tracks, far beyond that from domestic travel by cart or carriage.

Fig. 1.5: Corduroy, laid over swampy ground or water courses. Photo: Dept. of Main Roads, NSW.
The market for wool was Sydney, the main routes taken being generally through Queanbeyan to Bungendore and Bungonia, or through Gundaroo and Goulburn. A traveller in 1838, writing on the southward journey from Sydney said, ‘beyond Berrima, the road was unsafe for wheeled vehicles other than the drays which bullock teams drew at slow walking pace’.42a Another writer stated, ‘nothing but bush track with no bridges over water courses’.42b

Improvement in communications came in 1840 with the inauguration of a fast mail coach service between Goulburn and Sydney, running throughout a night and two days.43 Thirty years later, the section of the Yass road between ‘Duntroon,’ and Queanbeyan was so deplorable in wet weather that the road in use was half a mile wide, and every two or three days a fresh track had to be taken.44

Gold was found in 1852 in the Gundaroo area and in 1859 at Kiandra.45 The 200 mile journey between Kiandra and Goulburn provided a rich harvest for the bushrangers of the day 46

Roads and tracks to the various mining centres were primitive and in most cases only foot and bridle tracks were in use. There were several tracks from the Limestone Plains to Kiandra, including one through Tharwa up by the Gudgenby to Shannons Flat, one over Murrays Gap, and a track through Uriarra to the Brindabellas and into the Goodradigbee valley.47

The effects of the gold rushes on the Limestone Plains-Queanbeyan district were similar to those in other parts of the country. Labourers and station hands were unobtainable,48 and such mundane tasks as road reconstruction and maintenance could not be effectively carried out. The inevitable result was a serious deterioration in the state of most ‘roads’ and tracks, and there were innumerable instances of virtually impossible travel conditions.

Portents for an improvement in road conditions at the time were dimmed by the expansion of the railway system which began with the opening of the line from Sydney to Parramatta in 1855, although some 30 years would elapse before rail transport was available to the Queanbeyan district .49

In summing up the period ‘after the explorers’, it can reasonably be said that the heritage of roads and bridges in that non-engineering period lay, not in any physical improvements or scientific techniques, but more in the spirit of the pioneers who, aided by pragmatic ingenuity, courageously and sometimes rebelliously endured the hardships, dangers and discomforts of travel on what were ‘roads’ in name only.

Early Engineered Roads

In March 1865 Mr W.C. Bennett, Engineer-in-Chief for Roads, gave to the NSW Parliament a ‘Report of the State of the Roads in the Colony of New South Wales’50 outlining his aims in tackling the State’s road problems:
(i) Removal of all complete interruptions to traffic, particularly to mail transit, by bridging the rivers and creeks.
(ii) The improvement of the most difficult mountain passes and swamps.
(iii) The final determination of the direction of the roads, followed by drainage and culverting where most required.
(iv) The forming and metalling of roads over which most traffic passed, commencing first at railways terminals.
(v) The connection of all the isolated pieces of metalling to make the roads continuous.

A Cobb &amp
Fig. 1.6: A Cobb & Co. coach with a common problem. Photo: Department of Main Roads, NSW.
Bennett also introduced in his report a table showing the ‘cost and time’ benefits of road improvement works.51

A change in orientation of road haulage and general traffic in the district commenced when the railway, which had reached Goulburn in 1869, was extended and by 1875 was at Gunning.52 Advantage of the new facility was soon taken, as the distance for bullock dray haulage of wool from the district was more than halved. The Sutton and Gundaroo roads almost immediately were carrying greatly increased numbers of vehicles, both heavy and light, with increasing discomfort and delays. The natural surface, in many places just sheer bog, was incapable of carrying the loads imposed upon it.53

In 1879, the building by the Public Works Department of a timber bridge over the Yass River near Gundaroo 54 was followed in the same year by the calling of tenders for the ‘construction’ of the road through Gundaroo to Queanbeyan. This was probably the first road in the district to be built to specified requirements. Many sorrowing travellers in later years found that even those specifications were inadequate.

The Bungendore to Queanbeyan road, reduced in importance by the increased use of the Gundaroo road after 1875, came back into its own as the main entry to the Queanbeyan area when a southerly extension of the railway from Goulburn reached Bungendore in 1885.55 The road through Bungendore was to continue as the favoured route to the ACT area for another 45 years. The railway reached Queanbeyan in 1887 and was officially opened by the Minister for Works on 8 September.56 The immediate effect was most materially to reduce the travel time to Sydney, and at the same time to relieve much of the road system, of the heavy and damaging loads carried on steel-tyred bullock wagons.

Bridge construction from 1855 to 1907

From every point of view — engineering, safety, social amenity and engineering heritage — the bridges built between 1855 and 1907 were the most exciting developments in the field of public works. The early roads and tracks interrupted by streams and rivers were always headed towards the natural fords in the streams, which were never comfortable and seldom safe.57 In a country where flash floods occur with little warning, and where prolonged rains would submerge the fords for long periods, those who became impatient at delay, who misjudged the velocity and depth of the water, or who were somewhat less than sober, lost their lives in attempting to cross.58

Public pressure to build a bridge over the Queanbeyan River at Queanbeyan led to Government grants of three hundred pounds and then of a further seven hundred pounds.59 A superintendent architect appointed by the Colonial Architect arrived in Queanbeyan in March 1857 and a site on the line of Monaro Street was rapidly determined.60 Equally rapid was the preparation of a design, for by June 1857 bridgeworks began.61

The design was unusual. It provided for three timber trusses of 76 feet span and two of 57 feet span, each apparently designed as a ‘bowstring’ arch. The piers seem to have been mainly set or ‘lewised’ into bedrock, but some were of driven piles. The roadway width of 20 feet was generous for the times; the total length of the bridge, 342 feet.62

The estimated cost of £7,000 for the bridge compares with the final actual cost of £6,300, a most singular phenomenon.63 The bridge was said ‘to surpass any bridge as yet constructed in the Colony.’

Unhappily, this first bridge in the district did not live up to the public praise given to its design and apparent graceful form. In January 1861, two and a half years after the opening, a sudden flood came down the Queanbeyan River. The ‘Queens Bridge’ was damaged and was ‘sinking at one end’.64 In May 1862 tenders were called to repair it, but in 1865 it was reported as being ‘in a worn and dangerous state’.65 By 1873 the Queens Bridge was described as being ‘in a more or less dangerous state for the past three or four years on account of the vicious plan on which it was constructed. The Government plans to erect a new superstructure on the existing piers’.66 Contractors for the new work commenced in May 1873, and the bridge was re-opened on 17 September 1874.67 The combination of an unproven design, and the urge to make savings on the construction cost, probably has a major heritage message.

 Early road making methods
Fig. 1.7: Early road making methods. Photo: Dept. of Main Roads, NSW.
Cobb &amp
Fig. 1.8: Cobb & Co. coach crossing a flooded river. Photo: National Library of Australia.
Accident on Clyde Mountain
Fig. 1.9: Accident on Clyde Mountain c. 1903. Photo: National Library of Australia.
Bogged in Mulga
Fig. 1.10: Bogged in Mulga. Photo by Charles Kerry, National Library of Australia.
Coach bogged at night
Fig. 1.11. Coach bogged at night. Reproduced from the ‘Australasian Sketcher’. Photo: National Library of Australia.
There was a sequel to the Queen’s Bridge episode. On 29 May 1873, tenders were about to be called for a bridge to be constructed over the Molonglo River at Burbong, the site being a rocky point about 500 yards below the existing ford.68 On 7 April, 1875 it was reported, ‘this new structure is now complete, beyond the attachment of some hand- railing on the northern end, the ‘flooring’ having been finished on Monday. In design it exactly resembles the Queanbeyan bridge, the piles and superstructure being both on the same principles’.69

At the subsequent formal opening ceremony, some 200 people assembled, together with appropriate refreshments. Unfortunately, the band from Queanbeyan did not play, as the bandmaster went on strike at the last moment. More fortunate was the naming of the bridge the ‘de Salis Bridge’, in a tribute to the local Parliamentary representative. However his bridge lasted only about 20 years before it was ‘declared unsafe for traffic and those who use it do so at their own peril’.70

The period 1855 to 1907 could well be named as the ‘time of the bridge builders’. The acceleration in bridge building towards the end of the period was not entirely unrelated to the activities of the local Member of Parliament E.W. O’Sullivan, who served for a time as Minister for Public Works. He won 9 elections, and was said to be responsible for the building of 67 bridges.71

The construction of the de Salis Bridge in 1875 was followed by the inclusion in the 1875 Parliamentary estimates of a sum of £2,000 for a bridge over the Molonglo River about a mile from Queanbeyan on the Gunning (Sutton) Road. A contract was let in 1876 and in September 1877 the bridge was formally opened and christened the ‘Robertson Bridge’. The length was 226 feet, and the roadway width 16 feet.72

This bridge provided access not only to Gunning, but also to the north-side settlements such as Duntroon, Ginninderra and Gungahlin, and thence to the established road to Yass. Its opening gave added incentive at that time to the use of Gunning as the principal railhead for despatch of wool to Sydney.73

Like its predecessors, the Robertson Bridge failed to take account of the scale of floods in the river system. On 16 July, 1891 it was reported ‘traffic over the bridge is entirely suspended because of damage done in the floods. It is difficult for farmers in the Ginninderra district to get their produce to Queanbeyan, as the crossing in the river is so deep that it is only possible to cross when the river is very low’.74 As with the Queen’s Bridge and de Salis Bridge, the three crossings were ‘back to Nature’.

Next in the sequence of timber bridges, a bridge over the Yass River at Gundaroo removed the last obstacle to all-weather access from the Limestone Plains-Queanbeyan area to Gunning and the railway. A report dated 12 March 1879 covering the opening ceremony stated the bridge would be named ‘Gundaroo Bridge’.75 It spanned the Yass River a short distance upstream of the old ford crossing. This time there was a band present, there was no strike and music filled the air.

Two small creek crossings which impeded safe travel between the ‘Canberry’ and Duntroon areas, and Queanbeyan, were bridged in 1893. Mill Creek, now Jerrabomberra Creek, on the old track to Queanbeyan, had been the scene of several drownings.76 The new bridge had stone abutments on which ‘iron’ girders were laid and then decked with timber. It might have been the first steel girder span built in the County.

The second small bridge also gave a significant improvement in safety, the location having a record of flood tragedy. Woolshed Creek, on the Yass-Duntroon-Queanbeyan road, had been crossed at a ford for almost 70 years, prior to completion of the bridge in 1893.77

To the south, early routes to Lanyon and Tharwa across the boggy Isabella Plains became extremely difficult for heavy haulage, especially for the wool teams. In 1874 an alternative route across Tuggeranong Creek at Brennan’s Flat came into use with the building of a timber beam bridge over the creek. It was reported in February 1874 to be ‘completed and a very good piece of workmanship’.78 Further south, on the road to Cooma, a bridge had been constructed just north of Micalago over a difficult gully. The timbers, some girders being over 40 feet, ‘had to be carted 40 miles from over the Tinderry Mountains’.79

A high point in the construction of fine, scientifically designed, timber bridges came with the building of the Tharwa bridge in 1895.80 All the bridges previously built fade into the background in comparison with the task of bridging the Murrumbidgee River.81 In prehistoric times, the Aboriginals ferried their families across deep waters of the river in canoes made of bark ‘hammered out’ from trees along the river banks. Following that prehistoric example, a punt was in use by the year 1858 to cross the Murrumbidgee near Lanyon in times of flood.82 The punt was also in some use for ferrying wool, 2 bales at a time, on the way to the Sydney road and the wool market.83

The first Queen
Fig. 1.12: The first Queen’s Bridge, Queanbeyan, opened 15 August 1858. Photo: National Library of Australia. Sketch
from ‘Illustrated Sydney News’, Nov. 1866.
Fortunately for the settlers so frequently isolated on the west bank, community pressure to bridge the river was at a high level at the time when their local Member of Parliament was being groomed as the Minister for Public Works.84 So the work was authorised and the Public Works Department commenced the design of the bridge.

The site selected was adjacent to the ford near the Tharwa settlement and required a total length of bridge of about 600 feet.85 In final detail, the four central timber trusses of ‘Allan-Howe’ type, each of 90 feet span, were flanked on the east by one 30’ and three 35’ timber beam spans, and on the west by one 30’ and two 35’ timber beam spans. Width between kerbs was 15 feet. The super-structure, with a clearance above low water level of about 40 feet, rested on well braced timber piers with long timber piles driven about 20 feet into bouldery gravel.86

The size of timbers in the trusses can be illustrated by a few dimensions: cross beams 15” x 10”, top truss members double 14” x 61/2”, braces 8” x 8” and lower chord members, double 12” X 5”.

Tenders for the bridge closed in March 1894, the lowest, of Christopher McClure, being in the sum of £4469. 14.10.87

The commencement of construction was delayed by the very bad state of the roads leading to the site. The heavy ironbark piles, girders and other timber members, procured from the North Coast forests were despatched with the ironwork by rail to the railway siding of ‘Tuggeranong’, the line having reached Micalago in 1887.88 From the siding the shocking condition of the ‘road’ through the Isabella Plains resulted in delays in delivery on site amounting to several weeks.89

Weather conditions and low river flows favoured the builders of the Tharwa bridge, and the work was completed well within the contract time.90 The opening ceremony took place on 27 March, 1895, a day which was declared a public holiday. With a succession of carriages carrying the ‘Very Important People’, among them the redoubtable Mr E.W. O’Sullivan, and with 1,500 other people present, the success of the day was assured. With the cutting of the ribbon by the oldest local resident, the outpouring of a bottle of champagne over the decking, and the necessary speeches and bestowal of the name ‘Tharwa Bridge’, the Queanbeyan band played, there were family picnics and a dance at night.91 But the celebrations were but the backdrop to the presence of the great ‘Bridge’ and the end of isolation. It created a heritage of its own.

A new Burbong bridge was next in line for construction, replacing the poorly designed de Salis bridge which in 1896 was declared unsafe.92 The design was largely derived from that of the Tharwa bridge, the one central ‘Howe’ truss 90 feet long being identical with the Tharwa trusses. The width of 15 feet between kerbs was also the same. On each side of the truss three timber beam spans of 30 feet gave an overall length of 270 feet.

 Timber from NSW North Coast
fig. 1.13: Timber from NSW North Coast was used extensively in bridge construction in the Canberra region. Photo:
Dept. of Main Roads, NSW.
The superstructure rested on braced pile driven piers, and the dimensions of all timbers on truss and approach spans were similar to the Tharwa prototype.93 The contractor for the construction of the bridge in August 1897 engaged a special train to convey his material from Goulburn to Burbong, and work was stated to have then started immediately.94 The bridge was opened in the following year.

The last of the major bridges of the 19th century was the replacement of the ill-fated Queens Bridge at Queanbeyan. The third attempt to provide a crossing of the turbulent Queanbeyan River was successful and not surprising, with the skill, experience and tradition built up by the Public Works Department in some 40 years of bridge building. The design provided for three “composite” type truss spans, the vertical members and lower chords of which, being in tension, were in steel.95 The 90 foot truss spans were flanked at each end by a single 30 foot timber beam span, the superstructure resting on four concrete piers and two concrete abutments. The width between kerbs was 20 feet.

Tenders for the construction of the bridge were opened in July 1898,96 and in December of that year the contractor was reported to be making good progress. On 24 March, 1900 the bridge was opened.97

Settlers in the area around Uriarra had a very long standing campaign to have a bridge across the Murrumbidgee River, and in 1901 they achieved their objective.98 A low level bridge on concrete piers was designed by the Public Works Department, and on 5 October 1901 the Minister for Works, the Hon. E.W. O’Sullivan, welcomed by about 500 residents, duly opened the bridge.99 Five spans totaling in length 259 feet extended from bank to bank, the deck being about 8 feet above the summer level of the river. The bridge opened up access not only to Uriarra Station and other holdings, but also gave continuity to a vehicular road leading to Yass.

In summary, this period from 1855 to 1907 brought many benefits to settlers and communities isolated or endangered by flood swollen streams, through a significant programme of bridgeworks. Funds for roads were however, very limited, particularly throughout the financial depression of the 1890s,100 and travel continued on most roads to be slow, and haulage deadly slow. Coach travel, fast and committed to mail delivery at nominated times, often became hazardous. A gripping description of such travel in 1870 serves to portray the situation:

“The coach starts … with the passengers and mails over a road on which travelling in the daytime is wretched enough, but in the night is excruciating. The road has received very little attention in the way of making from anybody, and is just what a track over stony ground, cut up for a score of years, would be. For twenty or thirty miles it consists of sand and rocks intermingled, over which the coach is driven as fast as the horses can drag it. The result is a continuous series of jolts, which must be felt to be appreciated, and which in weak persons would likely cause internal injuries. During this period of suffering, if the wind follows the coach, there is a constant atmosphere of dust. The driver has shortcuts and paths of his own through the forest, and the passenger on the box seat is constantly engaged in a mental calculation of the odds in favour of running foul of innumberable stumps which he sees flying past, or dashing headlong against the trees through which he can see no road until in the midst of them. The leader of the team however, follows the twists and turns of the bush road with amazing accuracy and though we graze the very bark of the trees, still on we go, frequently at full gallop, and the driver is quite unconscious of doing anything wonderful”.101

Murrumbidgee River
Fig. 1. 14: Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa as bridge construction gets under way in 1894. Photo:

Motor Transport

At the end of the 19th century, many wise men worldwide were giving much thought to roads and travel and means of travel. It was in 1901 that H.G. Wells in his prophetic Anticipations, wrote about ‘land locomotion’ in the 20th century, of ‘explosive engines’ using a portable substance, the decomposition of which would evolve energy about numerous experimental motors — about privately owned ‘motor carriages’.102 Also about the roads they would use — “probably made of a good asphalt sloped to drain, and used only by soft tyred conveyances, the perpetual filth of horse traffic and the clumsy wheels of laden carts will never wear them. Their traffic in opposite directions will be strictly separated — where their ways branch, the streams of traffic will not cross at a level, but by bridges.103

This challenging transitional period from 1855 to 1907 saw a move forward into self government with demonstrably a general benefit to the people of the district. There was an increase in scientific knowledge and a more scientific approach to engineering endeavour exceeding past performances and achievements. At the end, on 1 January, 1907, local government was extended to virtually the whole of the State of New South Wales with application specifically and relevantly to the district then centred on Queanbeyan.104 `

 The Tharwa Bridge
Fig. 1. 15: The Tharwa Bridge as first completed with timber trestles. Photo: Institution of Engineers collection.

The ACT Established

Following abandonment of Dalgety, the definition of the present area for the national capital was resolved, and in 1910 formal handover of NSW land was completed. Yarralumla Shire became but a fragment of its original size.

The Federal Capital Territory in 1910 thus inherited its roads from the Yarrowlumla Shire Council105 and the urban section of these roads appeared on Scrivener’s early plans.106 Only limited funds were made available for the maintenance of those roads and some poor conditions were apparent, particularly on the rural roads of the Territory. This was hardly surprising as, pending the implementing of a city plan, commitments on the existing roads were avoided. However, by 1913, work was proceeding to establish important ‘headworks’ for the engineering services for the future city, including water supply and sewerage, an electricity power house and a railway line from the existing system at Queanbeyan, while a survey by Charles Robert Scrivener, Director of Lands and Surveys, demonstrated the feasibility of a satisfactory route for a railway connection to Jervis Bay.107

Walter Burley Griffin’s tribulations, following his award of first prize in the international competition, began before he came to Canberra, and many of the criticisms related to roads and the planning of the road system. The Minister of the day, the Honourable King O’Malley, on 27 June 1912, referred Griffin’s design and the other premiated designs to a departmental board of experts for report.108 On 25 November, 1912 the board reported that it was unable to recommend any of the designs, and submitted for approval a design of its own.109 On 10 January, 1913 King O’Malley formally approved the board’s plan and instructed that work be commenced immediately. On 12 March 1913, when the name ‘Canberra’ was bestowed on the city, it was being constructed in accordance with the board’s plan.110

Fig. 1.16: Burbong Bridge over the Molonglo River on the road to Bungendore. The bridge was opened in 1898. The
central truss was identical with the Tharwa trusses. Photo by author showing steel girders which replaced
original timbers, and concrete piers replacing timber piles.
The Uriarra low level
Fig. 1.17: The Uriarra low level bridge over the Murrumbidgee River. The opening ceremony shown in the photograph
took place on 5 Oct., 1901. Photo: National Library of Australia (John Gale and Mrs Falleck collection).
There came a change of Government, and of Ministers, and for the first time, Burley Griffin was invited to visit Canberra. Subsequently, the departmental board was disbanded and Griffin was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction.111 It is not apparent that the members of the departmental board ever forgave Griffin for winning ‘the battle of the plans’.

On 13 October 1913, Griffin, in response to a request from the Minister, the Hon. W.H. Kelly, presented a ‘Report Explanatory’, a key to the whole Griffin plan.112 In addition, Griffin submitted a revised ‘Preliminary Plan’ and in the covering letter stated, very appropriately, “it must be understood that the original design was in the nature of preliminary study. This (present) stage of the work consists solely in the direction of determining the main lines diagramatically on the basis of a general system of organization, generalities necessarily preceding particulars”.113

Full authority to implement Griffin’s plan did not eventuate, and the onset of the 1914—18 war restricted funding.114 However, bridge progress continued at a low tempo, and in 1916, the first bridge over the Molonglo River, on Commonwealth Avenue, was completed. It was a six-span timber beam bridge on driven timber piles, built well below flood level and quite inadequately designed to withstand submergence. There were only four piles per pier, and only three of the five piers used the outer piles as rakers. The bridge survived about five years.115

In 1916 a Royal Commission was set up to examine various aspects of the Capital’s development, and in its report stated that Griffin had been faced with Departmental obstruction.116 The Minister formally approved the Griffin design and confirmed Griffin’s role in charge of all the work in connection with the National Capital.

Charles Robert Scrivener
Fig.1.18: Charles Robert Scrivener: ‘Contour map of the
site of the City of Canberra’ showing the existing
roads and road names. Photo: Copy of map
in Division of National Mapping.

The Griffin Roads

It is not surprising that Griffin proceeded forthwith and with increased vigour to establish his design on the ground, and this required a concentration of effort on road location, survey and road construction. He was asked by the Chief Surveyor, in this connection, ‘to supply a section of your various classes of streets’, to enable the Commonwealth surveyors to establish permanent reference marks in suitable positions in the streets.117 In his reply on 17 March, 1917, Griffin forwarded a schedule of ‘Type Cross Sections’:

Commonwealth and Federal (Kings) Avenues
Park and pathway 2 x 50’. Roadways 2 x 30’. Park and
tramway 40’.
Adelaide Avenue, Northbourne Avenue, etc
Park and pathway 2 x 20’. Roadways 2 x 30’. Park and
tramway 100’.
Business Highways
Park and parking 2 x 20’. Roadways 2 x 20’. Park and
tramway 20’.
Residence Highways
Individual parking 2 x 25’. Park and pathway 2 x 10’. Road-
way 30’ and park and tramway 30’.118

Griffin’s proposals for land use would have placed commercial buildings in ribbon form along some main roads, and fortunately were later abandoned. The dominant weakness in the Griffin plan however, was not in the area of National Capital design, of which it was later stated, in 1955, ‘nearly half a century of planning experience can add nothing to its quality’.119 The weakness lay in the supplementary planning outlines for the residential areas, where ‘the geometric formality of the central idea, when extended to the residential suburbs becomes absurdly extravagant’.120

The results of Griffin’s efforts to establish his plan on the ground were clearly visible by the year 1920. Commonwealth and Adelaide Avenues were constructed in preliminary fashion and became recognisable as part of the plan; so also were the short sections of Canberra Valley Avenue (Northbourne Avenue), Eastlake and Interlake Avenues (Canberra and Wentworth Avenues), Eastview Avenue (Sturt Avenue), City Circuit (London Circuit), sections of National Circuit, roads for the suburb of Braddon, Ainslie Avenue, a road to Acton and earthworks for a West Basin Boulevard on the north shore of the future Lake.

Griffin’s departure from the Canberra scene was the inevitable corollary to a decision by the Minister for Home Affairs, Sir Littleton Groom in 1920 to establish a “Federal Capital Advisory Committee”, to advise the Government on the construction of the City.122 Griffin, realising that there were to be elements of the old ‘departmental board’ and associates in the Advisory Committee, and believing that his, the approved plan for Canberra, might be prejudiced, declined to accept a position on the Committee.123

The fears which Griffin felt were verified after the termination of his appointment as Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction. Despite the Order in Council of January 1921, which established the Advisory Committee,124 and which specifically required the Committee to operate ‘on the basis of the acceptance of the plan of layout of the Federal City by Mr W.B. Griffin’, one of the first acts of the Committee was to recommend a return to the Departmental Board’s 1912 ‘plan’ of layout.125 The government firmly rejected the recommendation.

Notwithstanding this chastening admonition, it seems that further actions tending to undermine or prejudice the basic principles of the Griffin plan continued for some time. Only months later, in 1921, the Federal Capital Advisory Committee recommended to the Minister that a new bridge should be constructed over the Molonglo River ‘on’ Federal (Kings) Avenue.126 Plans were prepared for a 14 span timber beam bridge, not ‘on’ the Avenue but on a line angled off Federal Avenue and offset from it. It certainly bore no legitimate relationship to the road design for the parliamentary area set out in the approved Griffin plan 127

Crossing the ford
Fig. 1.19: Crossing the ford near the Power House Weir.
Typical of roads
Fig. 1. 20: Typical of roads in the 1920s. Photo: Department of Main Roads, NSW.
Steam engine
Fig. 1.21: Steam engine for gradall and other work.
The first Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
Fig. 1.22: The first Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, completed 1916. Photo: National Library of Australia (Daley
 Early road making
Fig. 1.23: Early road making in Canberra — Keystone steam shovel with horse and dray. Photo: Australian Archives
(Collingridge collection).
Roads constructed
1.24: Roads constructed at 31-12-1920. Date of
resignation of Walter Burley Griffin. Diagram
based on data from Department of the Interior.
 Proposed Bridge on Kings
Fig. 1.25: Proposed Bridge on Kings (Federal) Avenue,
March 1922.
Tenders for the construction of the bridge closed on 10 April, 1922, and on 3 May the contract was awarded to the lowest tenderers, Messrs. Sly and Starling, in the sum of £5, The contractors diligently placed orders for the timbers and other materials and by July 1922 had on site a large amount of their materials and plant, and were about to commence construction.

The Flood 1922

On the 27 July, 1922 heavy flooding of the Molonglo River occurred, and the timber beam bridge on Commonwealth Avenue was floated up and damaged.129 In the flood, the southern approach was breached about 60 feet wide and about 12 feet deep. In reporting to the Minister on these events, the Advisory Committee recommended that a new bridge be built over the Molonglo River on Commonwealth Avenue,130 and that the billabong where the breach in the southern approach road embankment had occurred, should also be bridged. The Committee then recommended that the contract for the Federal Avenue bridge and all the assembled plant and materials, should be transferred, in entirety to the Billabong site.131 Thus the flood saved the Griffin plan from conscious desecration in the important Kings Avenue area of the Parliament place.

The replacement for the damaged bridge on Commonwealth Avenue was to be higher and with longer spans.132 The design incorporated ‘composite’ trusses of the NSW, ‘Leychester’ type, each of the three spans being 106 feet 7 inches in length, resting on concrete piers and abutments. The lower chords were dual 12” x 31/2” rolled steel joists, and the dual vertical tension rods ranged in diameter from 11/2” to 21/2”. The roadway width, between kerbs, was 20 feet, and footways 5 feet wide were provided on each outer side of the bridge, the wind bracing being curved to provide headroom on the footways.133

In March 1923 the tender for the building of the bridge submitted by J.A. Jackson of Chatswood, Sydney, was accepted in the sum of £22,808.134 The foundation work involved mass concrete piers set two feet into a rock which was of uncertain quality. Excavations up to thirty-two feet below river bed level were found to be necessary for the founding of the piers. Otherwise, work appears to have proceeded satisfactorily and by October 1924 the two contractors Sly and Starling on the Billabong bridge, and J.A. Jackson on the Molonglo River bridge, had completed their tasks on the two contiguous sites.135 Commonwealth Avenue was again an uninterrupted access route and was showing some early promise of Walter Burley Griffin’s major boulevard.

There was extensive flood damage in 1922 on other roads in the ACT and it was most evident at creek and river crossings. Washaways on bridge and culvert approaches were numerous, but in addition many structures had to be completely replaced or rebuilt. The old low level bridge over the Molonglo on the Acton road (the Lennox crossing) was seriously damaged and was only temporarily replaced.136 On the Queanbeyan-Tharwa road an old ford on Jerrabomberra Creek was unusable, and a small timber beam bridge was designed for the site. The successful tenderer for the construction was J.A. Jackson, and the bridge was opened for traffic in December 1924.137 The Point Hut crossing on the Murrumbidgee River some distance downstream of Tharwa was washed out and dangerous. A causeway was designed expeditiously and in January 1923 its construction was authorised, the estimated cost being £500.138

Twenty-one years after an auspicious official opening in 1901, the low level Uriarra bridge was left derelict after the 1922 flood in the Murrumbidgee River.139 The concrete piers remained, but the superstructure was destroyed. Crossing of the river was extremely hazardous, and the despair of the settlers so isolated, was evident in a letter of 14 August, 1922 sent to the local Member of Parliament, the Hon. Austin Chapman: ‘We are in great trouble at Uriarra. We have lost our low level bridge. We have no way of getting to Queanbeyan. All we have is an old boat that the late E.W. O’Sullivan gave us when we got the low level bridge. It has been twenty-one years in the wool- shed’.140

Despite many pleas, fourteen years were to elapse before the Uriarra bridge was reconstructed. However, an alternative road to Canberra was quickly surveyed and put to construction, providing a link from the Uriarra Homestead road to the Cotter Road near the Cotter reserve.141 The new road was completed in June 1923, but high level access over the Murrumbidgee was not immediately available because of the damage to the Cottermouth bridge, caused by the same 1922 flood. A ladder had to be used to reach the western end of the deck.142

The Billabong Bridge
Fig. 1.26:The Billabong Bridge on Commonwealth Ave., translated from the Kings Avenue site in 1923. Photo shows a
flood in 1956 under the bridge. Photo: Australian Information Service.
The Second Commonwealth Avenue
Fig. 1.27: The Second Commonwealth Avenue Bridge nearing completion in 1924. Photo: National Library of Australia.
 A bridge similar to the second
Fig. 1.28: A bridge similar to the second Commonwealth Avenue Bridge with its three truss span c. 1924-5. Photo: National Library of Australia.
The first bridge at this location on the Cotter Road over the Murrumbidgee River was a timber 2 span low level structure built probably in 1913.143 It was used for the transport of men, materials and plant required for the construction of the mass concrete Cotter Dam, and was located close to the site of the Cotter pumping station and near the pipe line tunnel under the river. During freshes, which were not infrequent, this low level bridge was under water, and a new high level bridge took its place in 1915.

The location of the new bridge was some 100 yards upstream of the pumping station, and its five spans were supported on tall concrete piers and abutments founded on rock.144 The superstructure consisted of steel plate girders, and the timber deck provided a width between kerbs of only eleven feet, its height above the river bed being about 36 feet. There were two main spans each of 70 feet, the plate girders being 4 feet 6 inches in depth with twelve inch flanges. The eastern shore span and the two western spans were all 48 feet six inches in length, the girders being three feet in depth. The overall length of the bridge was about 288 feet.

The eastern abutment was built against a steep and firm river bank. On the western end of the bridge, an approach embankment was built on the heavy river gravel beach.145

Following the completion in 1915 of the Cotter Dam, with an overshot crest which created a highly interesting spillwater pattern, a very popular tourist attraction was created for Canberra. Most visitors to the city journeyed to the dam and in the process crossed the high, narrow bridge over the Murrumbidgee River.146

Lenox Crossing Bridge
Fig. 1. 29: Lenox Crossing Bridge following the 1925 flood. Photo: National Library of Australia.
Tractor hauling materials
Fig. 1.30: Tractor hauling materials across Cotter Bridge in 1915. Photo: Bert Sheedy.
The 1922 flood put this strategically important bridge out of commission for a considerable period. The piers and superstructure remained intact, but the western approach embankment was breached and washed away.147 As a result, the Cotter dam, the Paddy’s River Road and the new road to Uriarra were isolated, and the familiar stream of tourists was also halted. It was not surprising that design for an increased waterway under the bridge was urgently put in hand. The bridge was to be lengthened by the addition at the western end, of three 70 foot spans similar to the existing central spans, thus providing an eight span bridge approximately 500 feet in length.148

The estimated cost of the new works was £7,000, and construction was authorised on 31 August, 1922. Quotations were sought for the 70 ft. long plate girders, 4 feet six inches in depth and nine in number. The Government Dockyard was awarded the contract in the sum of £2 ,289. 14.10. 149

In a submission made on 16 July, 1923 by the Director-General of Works, the Minister was advised that the concrete pier foundations had to be taken down to rock 20 feet lower than expected, deliveries of the steel girders were delayed and an alteration to the western approach road was necessary.150 Additional funds of £3,000 were authorised by the Minister on the following day.

On 26 June, 1924 a further submission stated that the main work on the bridge had been completed, but additional flood bracing was required and was proceeding. The additional cost authorised was £700, bringing the total cost of the extensions to £10,700. The bridge was completed and in use about October, 1924.151

Among other bridges in the ACT built in the period prior to 1925 was one over Woden Creek on Jerrabomberra Valley Avenue, on the road to Cooma. This timber structure had a single span thirty feet in length.152 The successful tenderer for its construction was the firm of Sly and Starling in the sum of £495.12.6, and the bridge was completed in August, 1924.

On 27 July, 1923 the Queanbeyan Chamber of Commerce brought to the attention of Sir Austin Chapman, ‘a standing danger to people travelling daily between Canberra and Queanbeyan’. The Uriarra Road passed over the railway line at a level crossing with gates which travellers were themselves required to open and c1ose.153 There were dangers of unclosed gates and of straying stock on the line.

The Commonwealth Government supported the proposal to build an overbridge at a suitable cutting to the north of the level crossing, and agreed to pay half of the cost of the bridge. In addition land required for the new road of access to the bridge was acquired and formally transferred to the Queanbeyan Council.154

The earlier 5 span bridge
Fig. 1.31: The earlier 5 span bridge on Cotter Road showing (left) the Western approach road embankment later destroyed
in the July 1922 flood. Photo: National Library of Australia (Lea collection).
The bridge was duly built by the NSW Railway Authorities. It was always an obviously difficult bridge to negotiate, having two way traffic in a roadway width of only sixteen feet, with no pedestrian footway. It is interesting to note that in 1941 the Commonwealth Government and the Queanbeyan Council requested the Railway Commissioner to provide a footway for pedestrians regularly using the railway bridge.155 The requests were refused.

Federal Capital Commission, 1925

In the nineteen twenties some concern began to appear regarding the delay in having the Parliament moved from Melbourne to Canberra. Reflecting this mood, Parliament itself resolved on 28 June, 1923 that the transfer should be made by the year 1926.156 The first sod for the Parliament House, was turned on the 28 August, 1923.

While problems such as the ravages of the 1922 floods could be dealt with, and while roads and engineering services were being satisfactorily established, difficulties and delays occurred in the building, not only of Parliament House, but also of office accommodation, housing and other facilities.157 Here was inadequate co-ordination of the funding and construction programmes.

Thus, in April 1924, a Seat of Government (Adminstration) Bill was introduced into Parliament and became an Act in July 1924. It provided for the establishment of a Federal Capital Commission which would be responsible for the construction and also the administration of the Federal Capital.158

The question of the status of Walter Burley Griffin’s design was also resolved in the Act of July 1924. Section 4 sub-section (1) stated: ‘As soon as practicable after the commencement of this Act the Minister shall publish in the Gazette a plan of layout of the City of Canberra and its environs’.159 That plan of layout was required to conform to the Walter Burley Griffin plan of layout. Future variation proposals would have to be notified in the Gazette and would also have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Disallowance by either House would negate the proposal.160

The Commonwealth Parliament itself thus became the guardian of the Canberra plan, and this safeguard is still in force through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the ACT. The need for their approval to modifications to the City Plan is well established.

On 11 November, 1925 a plan duly appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette under the authority of the Minister for Home and Territories, with the simple preamble titled ‘Publication of Plan of Layout of the City of Canberra and its Environs’. It was in essence a plan of roads.

On 1 January, 1925 the Federal Capital Commission ‘assumed control of Canberra’s development, with very wide powers in regard to actual constructional and developmental work’.161 The Commission had primary responsibility to complete the Parliament House and provide buildings for transferred government departments together with the requirements of housing, schools, roads, bridges. In addition, it was responsible for the operation, servicing and maintenance of engineering and building works and for supplying land for private enterprise leases, the first of which had been auctioned in December 1924.162 The Commission had the further task of administering the Territory.

The 1925 Flood

The new Commission’s works programme was seriously disrupted when in May 1925 torrential rain fell throughout the ACT and the region, rivers rising to levels above the 1922 flood and which still stand as the record flood heights in the ACT.163 The Chief Commissioner, Mr John Butters, in an advice to the Minister for Home Affairs, stated ‘a phenomenal flood occurred on the Molonglo River, the water rising from practically normal to a maximum in a little over twelve hours’.164

One major result of the June 1925 flood in the Molonglo River was the damage to the newly completed Commonwealth Avenue bridge, which was said to be ‘almost floating’ at the peak of the flood.165 Washaways occurred on the approaches and the embankment at the Billabong bridge. Instructions given by the Commissioner to his Engineer for Roads and Bridges, Mr P.T. Owen, referred to ‘raising the bridge and embankment by three feet, wing walls and banks to be strengthened with piles and sheathing, and the Billabong bridge to be repaired and revetted’.

Subsequently, proposals for an extra truss span on Commonwealth Avenue bridge were adopted and in January 1926 tenders were invited for the truss.166 The successful tenderer was the NSW Government Dockyard at Newcastle. The work was completed and Commonwealth Avenue was open to traffic and in use, in time for the tenth Commonwealth Parliament to meet on 9 May, 1927 for the first sitting in Canberra.

There were other serious flood damages in the ACT. The ‘Robertson’ bridge over the Molonglo River near Queanbeyan was badly damaged and was closed to traffic.167 The Royal Military College gave useful assistance with some temporary bridge sections, and in August 1925 funds were sought from Treasury for ‘extensions and repairs to the wooden bridge over the Molonglo River on the Yass-Queanbeyan Road’, in order to make communications possible without passing through the deep ford in the river.168 The need for funds followed a request from Duntroon ‘to enable removal of the temporary military bridge’. The repairs and new spans were carried out by the Commission in 1926.

At Lennox crossing on the access road to the Acton area, a small low level bridge was damaged. Two additional spans were added to the existing bridge, improved approaches were constructed and the river channel was also realigned to reduce siltation and deposition of gravel against the bridge.169

Following the 1925 flood rains the Yass Road within the Shire of Goodradigbee became in many sections virtually impassable, particularly at the crossings of watercourses. The Shire Council, joined by the Yass Municipal Council, requested the Federal Capital Commission to construct a first class road from Yass to Canberra. The Secretary to the Commission, Mr Charles Daley, replied to the effect, ‘it is not within the scope or power of the Commission to spend moneys on improving roads outside the Territory. The Commission however would welcome an improvement in the Yass-Canberra road’.170

Other Roads and Bridges

In 1927 a bridge of two 25 foot spans was constructed at Ginninderra Creek on the Yass Road. The creek had some historical interest, and had been the scene of some fatalities in times of flood. The contractor, Mr Warren McDonald, tendered a price of £4,184 for the construction of the reinforced concrete bridge, apparently the first of its type in the ACT.171

The third Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
Fig. 1.32: The third Commonwealth Avenue Bridge with the additional truss span and other work carried out after the
1925 flood (still the highest on record). Photo: National Library of Australia (Strangman collection).
In the same year, a request that a road be constructed to a tourist resort on Mt Stromlo was presented to the Commission. In rejecting the idea, the Minister in this instance, referring to the research work in astronomy being carried out at Mt Stromlo, advised ‘the possibility of an outcry from a section of the public concerned only from the tourist standpoint, is a consideration of minor importance and cannot be permitted to detract from the obligation of making proper provision to meet the essential needs of the scientific.’172

Having in mind the tight programme for the Parliament House, office buildings and staff housing, the Commission’s programme for major road improvements was not extensive. Environmental conditions on the dusty unsurfaced roads continued to be unpleasant and have been graphically recorded in early cinematograph films now in the National Library.173 A commencement on a few lengths of tar and bitumen surfacing, both flush scales and bitumen penetration was made in 1926, when a sealed surface was being applied to the Commonwealth Avenue base course from City Hill to the Hotel Canberra.174 Short- age of funds led to the final, southern section of the Avenue being left with a waterbound macadam surface. A bituminous hot-mix plant was purchased in 1928, but was ‘very little used’ and was sold in 1935 to the NSW Department of Main Roads)175

In 1929 two bridges were constructed by the Commission.176 One was located on University Avenue over Sullivans Creek. It provided improved access to the Black Mountain area and to useful quartzite and gravel pits. The other was a dry-weather low level bridge over the Molonglo River at the foot of Church Lane, where a ford in the river existed and was shown on Scrivener’s 1914 plan.177 Ostensibly the bridge would connect to the old Narrabundah Road leading to Tharwa. In fact, the bridge, noted as Scott’s Crossing bridge, provided a dry weather route from Constitution Avenue to the centre of the Parliamentary area and meandered in an unofficial way towards Kings Avenue — originally Federal Avenue. The planning of a new steel bridge at Scott’s Crossing was later to be the subject of a scrutiny in depth by two Parliamentary Committees in the 1950s.

There was another dry-weather route across the Molonglo River in the vicinity of the Parliamentary area. A short distance upstream of Kings Avenue a low weir built in 1914 across the Molonglo River formed a sizeable pond from which water was drawn for the Power House steam engine cooling system. During periods of low river levels the river waters passed through a crenellated section of the wall of the weir and cascaded down into a channel, from which pipes led under a concrete causeway to discharge into the natural river bed. The track over the causeway continued somewhat tortuously toward Russell Hill and the road to the airport.178

The Federal Capital Commission, ‘having surmounted at short notice the precipitous task of accommodating Parliament and a portion of the public service in Canberra’179 was by 1929 under considerable stress. The situation arose partly from the financial stringencies imposed and related to the onset of the ‘Great Depression’ of the 1930s. But the main difficulties were associated with the Commission’s corporate and social responsibilities for the total administration of a Territory with ‘a new and growing community; a colony of displaced and in many instances disgruntled people’.180

A Keystone excavator
Fig. 1.33: A Keystone excavator of the Federal Capital Commission constructing Northbourne Avenue. Looking towards
Alinga Street.
London Circuit
Fig. 1.34: London Circuit under construction outside the first part of the Sydney/Melbourne building development.
Photo: National Library of Australia.
Scotts Crossing bridge
Fig. 1.35: Scotts Crossing bridge over the Molonglo River with Blundell’s cottage and Mt Pleasant in the background. Photo — NCDC.
On the second November 1929 Sir John Butters retired from the office of Chief Commissioner.181 Four months later the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930 was assented to and the responsibilities of the Federal Capital Commission were distributed among four Departments, an Advisory Council and later, a National Capital Planning and Development Committee.

Roadworks and Unemployment Relief

One of the last major works of the Commission was commenced in 1929, and was of great importance to the Federal Capital Territory. An agreement was reached between the NSW and Commonwealth Governments to build a new road, a ‘Federal Highway’, between Goulburn through Collector to Canberra,182 the Commonwealth to provide two thirds of the cost of the section within the State of NSW. Such a road had been under discussion by Parliamentarians for some time, the Hon. William Morris (Billy) Hughes being an earnest advocate.

By the time the Commission was dissolved, substantial progress had been made on the ACT section of the new Highway. The ominous signs of a severe financial depression were becoming obvious as unemployment became a dominant national concern.183 In 1930, 118 men were employed on the construction of the Highway, 97 on the NSW section and 21 on the ACT section south of the border to the junction with the Yass Road. The whole of the new road was sealed; in the ACT a road-mix surface course using Australian tar was applied.184

The Federal Highway was opened to traffic on 25 February, 1931, and a press release pointed out that the new road to Canberra was eight miles shorter than the older route through Bungendore. A pleasant finale to the project came when a saving in cost was found to have been made on the ACT section, and this was applied to the sealing of the dusty Northbourne Avenue pavement through to the Civic Centre.185 The requirement for this use of funds was that unemployed men should be used, on ‘broken time’. The sealing was completed by October 1931.

A ‘very important access’ to the Canberra Golf Links on the river flats below Commonwealth Avenue bridge, was badly damaged by a flood in 1930.186 This access, a suspension footbridge over the Molonglo River, was restored in 1932, a willow tree being removed, after environmental argument, in order ‘to allow the bridge to swing in a flood’. The treatment was to no avail, as in another flood in 1934 the suspension bridge was ‘completely lost’.187

A rural track leading from Tharwa through Gudgenby to Shannons Flat was described in a departmental memorandum dated February, 1933 as ‘a poor fine-weather country road through hilly country. The large expenditure necessary would not be justified. The work however would be very suitable for unemployment relief in the event of any additional funds being made available for that purpose’.188 It was noted that ‘only cars in good condition can negotiate the steep grade of Fitz’s Hill’. No funds eventuated.

Bridge over the Molonglo River
Fig. 1.36: Bridge over the Molonglo River near the old Royal Canberra Golf Club west of the Canberra Yacht
Club. Photo: National Library of Australia.
Another rural road received the same fate. A ‘Ginnini Falls Tourist Road’ was proposed to be constructed from Piccadilly Circus to Mt Franklin. It was suggested as a suitable unemployment relief work by the Advisory Council in June, 1933.189

Later in 1933 a proposal to eliminate a number of railway level crossings on the Royalla section of the Cooma Road was put forward, with the notation that “this work will materially assist in relieving unemployment”. Funds were made available in 1935, and the work was satisfactorily completed in January 1936.190

A question raised by Mr T.M. Shakespeare in November 1933 related to the building of “a low level bridge over the Molonglo River between Scott’s Crossing bridge and Queanbeyan”.191 The proposal gained the support of the City administration, in particular the Property and Survey Branch of the Department of the Interior. There had been complaints that stock being driven to the abattoirs near Queanbeyan, were straying away into the Civic area. The bridge appeared in the Estimates for 1936—37, and design was accelerated when a memorandum stated “the position with regard to stock traffic through the city area is becoming very serious”.192

Work on this “Dairy Flat” bridge commenced in November 1936, using day labour resources. The completion report by the Engineer, Roads and Bridges, Mr. L. Thornton, and dated 13 July, 1937, showed that the estimated cost of £3,000 had been exceeded by twenty-eight pounds ten and fourpence.193 When Lake Burley Griffin was constructed in the early 1960s, the piers of this old bridge were raised as far as was feasible, just above lake level. However the inconvenience of periodic inundation led to a decision in 1981 to build a new bridge at high level as one of the first components of the planned Eastern Parkway. The new bridge is to be at the east of the present structure.

The long period of agitation for the replacement of the Uriarra bridge over the Murrumbidgee ended when in January 1935 a contract was signed for its construction.194 The design followed the broad lines of the original, with strengthened concrete piers and a concrete deck and jack arches in cross section, poured around two longitudinal steel girders of 24”x 71/2”section. The girders were exposed over the 6 piers and both abutments. 195 Opening of the new bridge took place in March 1936.

There were flood rains in October, 1934 which caused damage to several bridges in the southern sections of the ACT, the most serious being the washout of approaches and bridge abutments at Tuggeranong Creek on the Tharwa road.196 The soil conditions induced heavy erosion in this Brennans Flat area, and an alternative location was sought for a new bridge ‘which would best offer opportunities for unemployment relief’.197

At that particular time, the road pattern had given priority to the Tharwa road route, there being in consequence no through route giving continuity to the road to Cooma.198 The replacement bridge over Tuggeranong Creek was accordingly built on sound foundation conditions on a new alignment of the Cooma Road closer to the railway line. At that period the Department of Main Roads, NSW was preparing to revise the formal classifications of ‘Main Roads’ adjacent to and abutting on the ACT. The building of the Tuggeranong Creek bridge on the new alignment subsequently made it feasible to raise to State Highway status a continuous road from the Victorian border, through Cooma to Canberral99 where connections existed with the Federal and Barton Highways and the Trunk Road 51 leading to the Coast.

Not far from Tuggeranong Creek an old road in Yarrowlumla Shire, the ‘Cooma Road’, formed a section of the ‘Kings Highway’ running from Royalla through Queanbeyan to Bungendore.200 The construction, under unemployment relief conditions, of the new Tuggeranong Creek bridge resulted in a greater diversion of road traffic from this old ‘Cooma Road’, to Queanbeyan’s ‘Tharwa Road’ and its connection near Canberra with the Monaro Highway. As a result, the old Cooma Road was changed in classification from Trunk Road 52 to Main Road 584. The appellation of ‘Kings Highway’ was then applied to Trunk Road 51 running from Queanbeyan to Bungendore and thence to Batemans Bay.

In NSW, as the financial depression continued, many unemployment relief works were significantly furthered by a far sighted and indeed compassionate special policy of loan-cum-grant aid particularly related to country Shires.201 Roads, causeways and bridges were built by the Shire Councils with unemployed labour under these ‘Spooner Scheme’ programmes initiated by the NSW Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Eric Spooner. The programmes and improvements made were markedly successful, not the least important aspect being the very favourable ‘total cost-benefit’ results arising from the cumulative savings in assessed transport costs on the upgraded road systems.

Road improvements within the ACT in the 1930s were almost invariably associated with their capacity to absorb unemployment relief workers. The road from Canberra City to Yass was no exception. There had been for some time a considerable public pressure to improve this road, which The Canberra Times of 1934 called ‘the Yass Road — a Highway that is not’.202 The section of road within New South Wales was for the first time to be an engineered construction, and the Federal Government provided two thirds of the State’s cost, subject to Canberra unemployment relief workers being engaged on the work.203 The roadwork was completed in September 1936, the actual finishing date having been delayed by one final week in order to resolve an argument about a difference of 1” in level of the road pavements at the junction of the ACT road and the new road surface.

Iron-tyred horse drawn waggom
Fig. 1.37: Iron-tyred horse drawn waggon Passing Parliament House on the way to the railways, circa 1926. Photo:
Australian Survey Office.

Pre-war Work

In 1938 it was reported that ‘the Cotter Road is the subject of much caustic comment by tourists, tourist organisations and other persons’.204 The problem appeared to be that while isolated sections of road, where on a sound alignment, were being surfaced, the intervening gaps had to await a satisfactory re-alignment before the bituminous surfacing was applied. By the end of 1939 most of the road was surfaced, Australia was at war, and minor roads, roads not of strategic importance, thenceforward received only minimal attention.

Bridges, on the other hand, had a greater significance and their maintenance and repair were in many cases upgraded. Both the Burbong and Tharwa timber truss bridges were about 40 years old when it became necessary to replace the piers, the piles having, as so frequently is the case, decayed in the areas where alternations of wet and dry conditions occur.205 The longevity of the eucalypt timbers such as ironbark and grey gum, and of brush box in decking, was well demonstrated by the Tharwa and Burbong bridges.

Replacement of the original timber piers on both bridges was carried out in the 1938-39 period. With falsework supporting the superstructures, the original piles in each of the piers of the Tharwa bridge were cut off below water level, and ten newly driven piles were similarly cut off. 206 A concrete cap encasing about six feet of the piles then provided a base upon which a reinforced concrete pier was constructed. In the case of the Burbong bridge, some new concrete piers were founded on rock, the remainder being founded, as at Tharwa, on concrete caps encasing both old and newly driven timber piles. 207 Both bridges had strategic significance during the early years of the 1939-45 war period.

On a smaller scale, a bridge over Woolshed Creek at Pialligo was also of significance. Originally built in 1893, it was destroyed by flood in 1938. A new location north and upstream of the old bridge was adopted and the necessary deviation of the old Yass Road — now Fairbairn Avenue — was carried out. The new bridge over the creek, with bare provision for two lanes of traffic, was completed in June 1940.208 Following floods in 1976, this bridge was raised and its deck widened in 1978 and the access redesigned.

A small bridge which provided a major and long sought benefit to local residents and travellers alike, was constructed in 1939 over the Gudgenby River on the Boboyan Road near Naas.209 Three 30 foot spans, each with three R.S.J. girders of dimensions 20 by 61/2 inches, rested on concrete piers and abutments founded on rock. The deck was of five inch hardwood giving a width of twelve feet between kerbs. The design, which was completed in July 1938, made provision for later widening.

Technology Advances

Expansion of knowledge in the engineering sciences during the 1930s deserves mention in a ‘heritage’ paper, particularly in relation to road construction techniques and to the ‘materials of nature’ with which engineers are so significantly concerned. There was a great surge of interest in ‘soil mechanics’, as then termed, with new understanding and new processes in soil and foundation engineering introduced through pioneering publications and professional journals.

There were two important aspects particularly worthy of mention. Firstly, the ‘multi-discipline’ approach in engineering science and practice, was accentuated by the influence and contributions of the soil scientist, the soil physicist, the agronomist and the geologist, particularly related to work on large earth dams. Secondly, a need had become pressing for more scientific testing and control of moisture levels and compaction procedures for soils and foundation materials, firstly in high earth dams, and subsequently in road and aerodrome pavements. Articles by R.P. Proctor in 1933 introduced important new ideas and testing techniques in soil compaction, and ‘on-site’ compaction testing laboratories became common.210 One of the First applications of Proctor’s work was on the Eildon Weir. Another early instance was the programme of war- time aerodrome runway construction with soil cement pavements which were fundamentally dependent on principles and test procedures initiated by Proctor.211 So in pioneering research and its application, another facet of an engineering heritage was developed and has progressed with continuing refinement into present day road construction practice.

Post-war ‘Work

During the war period, the population of Canberra increased by about twenty-five per cent, chiefly due to some wartime augmentation of administrative staff, and in June 1945 reached l3,250.212 The comparatively small influx, in terms of the total Federal staffing level throughout Australia, placed considerable strain on accommodation, services and roads. A letter in The Canberra Times described the situation: ‘We came into homes without fences or driveways, unsealed roads, no electric stoves, bath heaters or hotwater service, no insulation, and we waited weeks for a fuel copper. Transport — one bus in the morning, one in the afternoon’.213

A programme prepared in 1948 for the transfer of about 7,000 staff to Canberra was approved by the Government,214 possibly remembering the separation of the Executive and Parliament from many Departments of State during the war years, resulting in Canberra, as the National Capital and Seat of Government, conducting the war effort by telephone, telegraph and by uncomfortable journeys to various State capitals.215 But the programme failed, and the construction of the basic requirements of office and housing accommodation and services for the proposed transferees did not eventuate on time. ‘The Public Service Board painted a melancholy picture of the slowness of progress’, when presenting its 25th Annual Report to Parliament.216 It was further stated in the Report that ‘the implementation of the transfer arrangements seemed likely to belong deferred’. In 1952, four years after the programme was approved, the Board again ‘regretted the lack of progress, making it impossible to begin the transfer of Departments from Melbourne to Canberra’.217

A small bridge on the Queanbeyan
Fig. 1.38: A small bridge on the Queanbeyan to Cooma railway line near Tralee, associated with the Petrov espionage
investigation. Photo: Author.
An interruption of this mournful sequence might be excused in order to discuss a bridge of some note.

It appears from the records that a gentleman named Vladimir Petrov ‘resigned’ on 3 April, 1954 from his position on the staff of the USSR Embassy in Canberra, and decided to ‘tell all’ about the conduct of espionage and related activities in Australia.

In evidence given on 5 July, 1954 by Mr Petrov, before a Royal Commission,218 the three learned Judges forming the Royal Commission were told that a recent instruction from his Moscow superiors had been given to Mr Petrov to select hiding places into which agents could put secret information and through which documents could be transmitted.219 The first selected hiding place was at a bridge beneath the Queanbeyan-Cooma railway line where access under the railway line for vehicles was available.220 The location was some six and a half miles from Canberra.

Evidence was given that no other hiding places had been selected, and indeed the bridge was a singularly unusual hiding place. The fact that this well engineered timber bridge was also in good order after some 67 years of service, supports the view that, in the annals of espionage and engineering, it was a unique bridge and had made a contribution to the historical engineering heritage of the ACT.

A bridge with a happier record was built in 1957 over the Gudgenby River at the Glendale Crossing.221 Consisting of two 20 foot reinforced concrete spans integral with concrete pier and abutments, it was founded on rock at shallow depth. The concrete deck provided a width of twelve feet between kerbs.222 This bridge was a significant step towards extending the Boboyan Road to Gudgenby and Shannons Flat.

The Senate Select Committee — 1955 Report

While the ‘lack of progress’ in transferring staff to Canberra was continuing to create serious administrative problems, proposals which would materially and deleteriously affect the whole shape of the National Capital and the environment of the Parliamentary area, were being pressed forward in Canberra.223 The ‘Lakes scheme’, a vital and integral part of Griffin’s plan, had been truncated,224 and a long steel bridge at Scott’s Crossing had been proposed across the centre of the important Central Basin of the residual ‘Lake’.225 The combined effect of the various untoward proposals, and the faltering general programme for the building of Canberra, led to the formation in 1954 of a Select Committee of the Senate, under the chairmanship of Senator J.A. McCallum, ‘to enquire into and report upon the Development of Canberra’.226

The Senate Committee comprehensively examined the situation in respect of the Australian National Capital from its conception in Section 125 of the Commonwealth Constitution, to the year 1955. It found evidence of inadequacies and disabilities in programme performance and a serious lack of co-ordination due to the number of Government Departments involved in the administration and building of Canberra:227 It noted that ‘the lack of forward planning, the difficulties of finance from time to time and the lack of generally co-ordinated policy have left a legacy over the last 25 years of temporary buildings of various kinds — buildings of expediency’;228 it found evidence of a continuing effort to depart seriously from the Griffin concepts: it found much divided responsibility, and a pressing need for unified direction of development.229

West Lake from the Hospital Peninsula
Fig. 1.39: West Lake from the Hospital Peninsula to Government House, Yarralumla was eliminated from the City Plan on l1 June 1953.
The Senate Committee recognised that ‘the lakes scheme is the most important aspect of the Griffin plan’.230 In the absence of any decision on its future, other development, (including the location and construction of roads and bridges), would be endangered. It noted that insufficient investigation had been made into the lake scheme when in 1953 the whole of the lake, west of the Acton area, had been deleted from the official Gazetted plan of Canberra.231 It noted that there had been ‘those who feel the elimination of the West Lake would . . . permit of utilisation of the area for other purposes’.232 The sceptic could have added ‘to wit, the continued use of the area for a golf course’.

Little has been done to develop
Fig. 1.40: ‘Little has been done to develop the main features of the Griffin Plan’ (Extract from Senate Select Committee
Report, 1955). Scene of harvesting lucerne between Parliament House and St. John’s church in the late 1950s.
Photo: Australian Information Service.
There were other disquieting issues brought out during the course of the Committee’s investigations. In 1953 a proposal for a steel bridge over the future lake, located on the main axis on the Griffin plan from Mt Ainslie to Capital Hill, had been submitted for endorsement to the Standing Committee for Public Works. This Scott’s Crossing proposal was rejected, and the Senate Committee in its Report of 1955 commended the Parliamentary Works Committee for its action in preventing a serious departure from the Griffin plan and which in so doing, also prevented traffic difficulties being created in the centre of the ‘government triangle’.233

The Senate Committee further stated ‘it is to be hoped that the necessity will not again arise for serious consideration to be given to any proposal so fundamentally opposed to the main principles of the Griffin plan as that for a central bridge’.234

All of the problems encountered by the Committee supplemented its major concern at the lack of a ‘national character’ in the development so far in evidence. ‘The city has grown, but its main features are wide open spaces that serve to puzzle tourists and uninformed residents alike, while the Molonglo River still winds its way along its shallow bed. After 40 years of city development, the important planned areas stand out, not as monumental regions symbolising the character of a national capital, but more as graveyards where departed spirits await a resurrection of national pride.’235

In its Report dated 29 September 1955, the Senate Committee in noting that, in the past, ‘every forecast in regard to the transfer of Departments to Canberra has been woefully upset’, recommended the establishment of a single Authority for the administration, planning, construction and development of the Federal Capital.236 At the date of the Report, the population of Canberra was approximately 31,000.237

The Government of the day under Prime Minister Menzies subsequently moved to implement most of the Senate Committee’s recommendations, and in October 1957 a Bill to establish a ‘National Capital Development Commission’ was passed by the Parliament.238 Responsibility for the administration of the City, recommended by the Senate Committee, was firmly deleted,239 and the statutory functions of the Commission were stated in Section 11 of the Act — ‘to undertake and carry out the planning, development and construction of the City of Canberra as the National Capital of the Commonwealth’.

Provision was also made for a ‘National Capital Planning Committee’ of independent experts to provide supplementary advice to the Commission.240 The Government also received a Report sought from Sir William Holford, a world authority on city planning and development and who had been invited to visit Canberra.241 The Holford report, ‘Observations on the Future Development of Canberra’, included a number of advices on roads and bridges within the Central and Parliamentary areas of the City, which in particular gave rise to studies and then design of a link between Commonwealth and Kings Avenues. Now known as ‘Parkes Way’, it was to become the first ‘parkway’ in Canberra.

Continuing Advances in Technology

Before moving on from the engineering heritage of this period, several technical advances which emerged in the post-war years to 1958 are worthy of particular mention, especially in the context of a National Capital becoming increasingly the focus of national sentiment. The first mention should be of new techniques in prestressed and post-tensioned reinforced concrete construction. These were highly worthy of consideration in the Canberra scene, not only because high quality concrete aggregates were available in the ACT, but also because the higher design stresses permitted more slender and attractive forms of structure, particularly in the bridges. 242

A second development, related to road design from the viewpoint of safety in urban areas, flowed from a paper, ‘Subdividing for Traffic Safety’, presented at Berkeley University in January 1957.243 The paper included records and research data supporting road planning techniques for reducing the indiscriminate intrusion of traffic into residential areas, with consequent reductions of up to 80% in accident occurence.244 The analytically based paper did not present new layouts or new concepts, but in analysing and restating a number of sound principles in the pattern and layout of residential roads, provided proof of their effectiveness and practicability.245 It was thus most relevant in the ‘de novo’ Canberra scene, where the most effective and safe configuration was being sought for roads required in a rapidly expanding urban area.

A third development in road design and the aesthetics of road alignments also provided opportunities for improving the quality of travel in the future Canberra. Overseas research, especially in Britain and Germany, involving optical studies in three dimensional design of major roads, was particularly adaptable to design for landscaped roads and ‘driver perspective’ quality in the ACT.246

These several technical advances significantly influenced the design of roadworks in Canberra.

Onwards From 1958. Planning and Action

The situation in Canberra existant at the time of the first meeting of the National Capital Development Commission in March 1958 was found to be well described by the words of the Senate Select Committee’s Report of September 1955. The main features of the Griffin plan were in fact largely ‘grassy stretches’, and the Molonglo River was still ‘winding its way’ along a shallow bed past grazing cattle and lucerne crops.247 There was a monumental statue of King George V on the central axis of the plan, and also Cork Hill, a hillock blotting out a sector of the vista from Parliament House.248 There was the timber bridge on Commonwealth Avenue, showing signs of its age and inadequate in capacity.249 Kings Avenue did not exist beyond the little Public Library building in Barton. In the suburban scene there were signs of pressured expansion, but a strategy for co-ordinated planning and programming of works was still to be established.

The first meeting of the Commission250 set out to prepare its organisational arrangements, to establish specific responsibilities for longer term planning and programming, and to set in train an orderly assessment of research and priorities in preparation for a balanced initial construction programme in the 1958—59 financial year.251 Cancellation of the calling of tenders for a steel bridge over the Molonglo River, on Kings Avenue, was also directed.

The roads and bridges of the ACT were seen to be approaching the point where substantial shortcomings in capacity, safety and convenience required early attention. In the central, Parliamentary area however, road and bridge planning had to await decisions on the future of the lakes scheme,252 which was historically a controversial and contentious issue and had to be recognised as the linchpin around which a series of other issues had to be resolved. Action was accordingly put in hand urgently to prepare reports and data dealing with the lakes scheme. At a meeting of the National Capital Planning Committee, the statutory body set up to advise the Commission,253 an engineering sub-committee was asked to examine the lakes scheme.254 After inspections, discussions with Departments and an analysis of all data, the sub-committee reported: ‘technically there was no doubt that the lakes scheme was practicable, from a planning aspect the scheme was desirable, and the alternative to the lakes scheme involved the perpetuation of an untidy, empty area of land in the very centre of the City, remaining always under the threat of flooding and with little prospect of improvement in either use or appearance’.255

With acceptance of the report by the Commission, and then concurrence by the Government, it became possible to move into action which involved the co-ordination of the skills within and outside the Commission to relate research in such fields as hydraulics and foundation engineering, with long term planning of roads, bridges and land uses in the central area of the Capital.

The Parliamentary Triangle

The siting of new bridges on Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue was clarified in the lake studies and reports, permitting action to be taken early in 1959 to carry out the design of the bridges. Design of the Kings Avenue bridge was the first work put in hand and provided a pattern for future functional and performance criteria.256

Primarily the bridge had to reflect its importance as a lake crossing leading to the Parliament House, as well as a link between the road systems north and south of the future lake. The bridge had to contribute to the future water and landscape scene, and it had to withstand high flood flows. The design also had to provide for a high level of safe road performance, and allow for possible future public transport space. It had to be an economical structure built of materials available and appropriate for modern construction techniques. Its lighting was to be carefully studied, with a view to reducing the cluttering effect of stalk-like poles interrupting the smooth lines of a well designed superstructure.

The final design met these various criteria. The bridge was to consist of two separate structures corresponding to the dual carriageways of Kings Avenue, and excepting the outer placement of each footway, were identical. The length between abutments was to be 891 feet, and the seven spans included two shore spans of 93 feet 6 inches, two spans of 132 feet, two spans of 143 feet and a central span of 154 feet. The roadway widths were 26 feet, allowing two lanes of eleven feet, each kerbside lane having an additional four feet for safety clearance. The clear space between structures was to be 44 feet, adequate for future mass transport needs.

In elevation, the semi-continuous prestressed reinforced concrete beams, four in number and spaced at eight feet centres in each span of the structure, were to increase in depth incrementally towards the centre of the bridge, the resultant line of the soffits creating a pleasing visual impression of a taut bow.

Construction was authorised in 1959.257 Driving of the clusters of piles under piers and abutments created some minor interruptions only. The eighteen inch steel tube piles after being driven were filled with concrete, reinforcing steel being placed in the upper sections of concreting. On tests, the piles provided more than specified load bearing capacity.

Kings Avenue Bridge
Fig. 1.41: Kings Avenue Bridge with superstructure well advanced . The large gantry was cantilevered forward to carry the
pre-cast beams into place on the piers. Photo: Australian Information Service.
The concrete beams were cast and prestressed in a casting yard on the old Kings Avenue roadway, and were picked up and progressively placed by a travelling gantry, over a dry lake bed.

When completed, the Kings Avenue bridge, in its relationship to the total landscape of the ‘National Capital areas’ and to the adjacent road system, had a significance only exceeded later by the Commonwealth Avenue bridge. It was the first new element in the process of building some National Capital character into the ‘graveyard’ described in the Senate Committee’s Report, and in particular it was to give rapid access between Parliament House and the airport, and to the important Russell offices.

Kings Avenue bridge was formally opened by Prime Minister R.G. Menzies on 10 March 1962.

Commonwealth Avenue bridge, to be built over the dry bed of the future lake, was to be the fourth bridge occupying the site. The new bridge demanded a design of outstanding quality, and was to accommodate six lanes of traffic, three on each of the dual structures, and with footways cantilevered out from them. Foreshore roads on each side of the lake were to pass under Commonwealth Avenue. In broad perspective, an aesthetically pleasing design was required, with a generally horizontal impression and with reasonably long spans resting on slim piers, in order to provide a sense of visual continuity between the central and west basins of the future lake.

The final design, incorporating engineering and architectual advices,258 was considered to have satisfactorily met these requirements. There were two shore spans of 180 feet, two intermediate spans of 210 feet, and a central span of 240 feet. Piers were to rest on clusters of bored vertical and raked piles 6 ft in diameter, belled at the base to 9ft; at the southern abutment, limestone rock provided a satisfactory foundation.

Each bridge superstructure was designed in elevation as a single geometrical arc formed by a continuous prestressed concrete box girder having a uniform depth of nine feet throughout the 1020 feet length of the bridge. The roadway width was to be 37 feet, accommodating three traffic lanes eleven feet wide with the kerbside lane being widened by four feet. An asphaltic concrete wearing surface for the roadway was designed to be placed on the top element of the box girder members, and footways, six feet wide, were to be cantilevered out from these box girder members.

The construction of Commonwealth Avenue bridge was authorised, in the 1960—61 Civil Works programme and the tender submitted by a joint venture including the contractor then building the Kings Avenue bridge, was accepted.259 Work commenced in March 1961.

Building of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge called for extremely close attention to dimensioning and to the procurement of the highest quality materials. Crucial to the design concept was the production of a high strength concrete specified to achieve a standard compressive strength of 6,000 pounds per square inch at 28 days. Locally available aggregates, crushed porphyritic dacite rock and a range of sands, after extensive grading tests were found to be capable of meeting the specification requirements. In the final outcome, the average tested strengths of the concrete used in the superstructure proved to be over 7,000 pounds per square inch, a result reflecting great credit on the contractor, and on the design and supervision teams brought together in the building of the bridge.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge under construction
Fig. 1.42: Commonwealth Avenue Bridge under construction. Timber trestles supported the 10 feet long 45 ton pre-cast
segments placed to fine tolerances. Photo: Australian Information Service.
Commonwealth Avenue Bridge under construction across the dry
Fig 1.43: Commonwealth Avenue Bridge under construction across the dry lake bed in October 1962. Photo: NCDC.
The works area for the bridge
Fig. 1.44:The works area for the bridge showing the diversion road, the assembly of extra 45 ton pre-cast segments and, at
top left, the excavation of Cork Hill from the front of Parliament House. Photo: NCDC.
Commonwealth Avenue Bridge as completed
Fig. 1.45: Commonwealth Avenue Bridge as completed. Photo: Australian Information
Fortunately no floods occurred in the Molonglo River while building was in progress. As a result there was little impediment to the use of the extensive timber staging to the exacting degree of accuracy required for the initial support of the superstructure.

Noteworthy in itself, especially in a heritage sense, was the technology involved in the pre-designed method of construction of the concrete box girder superstructure. For each bridge one hundred and two identical reinforced concrete box segments each ten feet in length were cast on site and after curing were placed by gantry in precise position on the timber staging of each bridge. The three inch wide gap between each segment was filled with fine concrete to form in total the box girder continuous over the length of 1,020 feet. This was post tensioned by external high tensile steel cables one-and-one eighth inches in diameter. Subsequently, after final tests and checks on the stressing operation, the cables were encased in fine concrete for protection from corrosion.

The Commonwealth Avenue bridge over the lake and floodway of the Molonglo River was opened to traffic in November 1963. From any viewpoint it was considered to be a fine and monumental example of skilled engineering science allied with a high level of aesthetic quality and form. It is appropriate that it remains the principal entry point into the Parliamentary area of the National Capital.

A final accolade accorded the Commonwealth Avenue bridge was bestowed by the Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies in October 1964 when, in a ceremony marking the inauguration of the lake called ‘Lake Burley Griffin’, he described the bridge as ‘the finest building in the National Capital’ 260

Concepts and Configuration of the Road System

The governmental decisions to proceed in 1958 with the establishment and growth of the National Capital involved the provision of a very wide range of urban developments and services. The pressing requirement for early action and longer term planning in respect of roads was recognised by the National Capital Development Commission in its initial reports to the Parliament, and in reports issued to the citizens of the city.261

Standards of performance of the total road system were to be assessed in terms of safe and expeditious travel for private vehicles and public transport, a satisfactory cost and cost-benefit balance, and adaptability for future expansion. From the beginning the Commission linked its forward road planning with the planning of future suburbs and centres of employment, and sought compatibility of each class of road with the land uses being served. From this requirement flowed the preparation of a classification of road types.262

After much research and consultation, principles of road classification were established by the Commission and the pattern or configuration of the road locations within the ACT was actively implemented. A paragraph in the annual report of 1958—59 referred to early work in this field, with ‘the pattern of roads in subdivisions discouraging the movement of fast ‘through’ traffic in residential areas, and of traffic channelled into arterial roads skirting the neighbourhoods, the design of the main arterial roads providing for limited access to ensure safe and free movement of traffic’.263

Decisions on the classification of roads are of necessity involved with the mathematics of road usage, future traffic flows and consequent road capacities. The Canberra Area Transportation Study carried out in 1964, provided useful forecasting data, using computerised origin-destination programmes intended to be adaptable to new external factors and to differing growth rates for the ACT. In general terms, the transportation data facilitated the location of the main routes within the ACT, and the programming of stage-by-stage construction could be related to actual growth in road traffic and in public transport, and to budgetary disciplines.

The location of the major urban arterial roads had to be defined at an early stage and in advance of residential subdivision planning, and the Commission gave a great deal of thought to the location studies and to the form of the arterial roads which the growth of the Capital would require. In a report of 1964 a solution was brought forward to the question of insuring the compatibility of major transportation routes with a sound urban environment.264 After extensive examination by the Commission and advisers, a concept of an ‘urban corridor’ emerged, providing for the location of major urban arterial roads external to but adjoining residential and other urban areas. These roads would accommodate safe free-flowing traffic under controlled access conditions on divided carriage-ways. Such a road could be designed to provide ‘priority’ lanes for bus operations, and some lengths of the median space could be designed for future express public transport usage, graduating from the conventional bus to advanced types of light fixed or guided rail systems. 265 The important planning requirement inherent in the concept was the early definition of the corridor reservation, in order to permit design for the adjoining residential or other urban lands to be carried out in programmed sequences.

Road diagram
Fig. 1.46: Road diagram 1961— an initial study of future
locations and patterns of arterial road routes in
the ACT. Plan: NCDC.
The 1969 Strategy Plan
Fig. 1.47: The 1969 Strategy Plan for Metropolitan Growth. — NCDC Annual Report 1970-71.
Supplementing the urban arterial corridors, the report brought forward the concept of a ‘parkway corridor’ system, providing for presently unpredictable future demands for transportation, with safe free-flow movement within landscaped corridors, functioning also as a major bypass of city and town centres and as high standard routes connecting with the adjoining State Highways and National Route systems.

The design of the parkway corridors involved multi-discipline design teams, particularly in respect of landscaping and ‘three dimensional’ flowing alignment design. Implementation was seen to be very adaptable to staged construction, and a high level of safety and amenity in travel journeys was achieved. 266 As had been seen in some overseas projects, the opportunity existed for multi-purpose uses such as cycle paths, and equestrian routes to be incorporated in the design of the landscaping of the parkway corridor. This has been carried out in the development of the Parkes Way extension and the first carriageway of the Tuggeranong Parkway.

The need at any particular time for arterial road capacity was modified and reduced in scale by the planned distribution of diversified private enterprise employment in new town centres of the ACT. The amount of such employment was also increased by the building in those centres of some government office accommodation, housing those departments with lesser claims for proximity to the Parliamentary area.267 This rational distribution of employment capacity between Civic Centre and the new towns, provided an opportunity for shorter journeys to work, to shopping and to recreation areas but it modified the growth of retailing and entertainment facilities in Civic Centre.

Consequently by the 1980s, the growth of these facilities at Civic Centre appeared to falter due in part to the ageing of the surrounding population and the development of new shopping facilities in the town centres of Woden and Belconnen. Concern was expressed that Civic’s primacy be strengthened particularly in regard to tourist activity and entertainment facilities.

Statistically, the pattern, classification and purpose-design of roads in an environment of balanced employment distribution, have in total produced in Canberra a smaller than average mileage of roads per capita than in other Australian cities, with a higher than average level of safety and performance.268

The combination of road
Fig. 1.48: The combination of road engineering and landscape design has resulted in a very satisfying appearance and
sound performance of Parkes Way. Photo: NCDC.

Suburban Access Roads: Concepts and Design Aspects

Planning for the internal suburban roads was significantly influenced by the need to establish fundamental residential areas or neighbourhoods as safe ‘precincts’ where the pedestrian would have precedence in travel to schools, shops and recreation facilities, and where ‘short cuts’, speeding and through traffic would be ‘planned out’. It was stated by the Commission ‘we are working on the principle that the individual is more important than the motor car’.269 The road pattern in the newly planned neighbourhoods was found to reduce accident occurrence and severity very markedly. Accident numbers were in general about one third of those occurring in the older ‘gridiron’ suburban layouts, and this level of improvement was consistent with results in similiar overseas situations.

Another development which greatly added to residential amenity came when engineering management advances led to the use of ‘serial’ or long term contracts for land sub-divisions and servicing.270 These resulted in innovative techniques and great economies of scale in the construction of residential roads and estate facilities. With the high technology engendered by these stable and comprehensive contracts, it became feasible to raise many construction standards. For example, asphaltic concrete or ‘hotmix’ road surfaces became economically feasible.271 In replacing the flush seals of the ‘bitumen and chips’ era, added smoothness, and reduced noise levels were achieved, with added amenity in the neighbourhood.

The long term contract economies also made possible a further improvement in neighbourhood safety. It was found that, at economical cost, pedestrian underpasses could be provided under the principal circulatory internal roads of the precinctual areas and thus give safe walking access to schools, shops and other facilities.272

A related aspect of the long-term contracts is worthy of noting. In carrying out full estate development, programmed to meet the Government’s requirements for staff transfers and private enterprise growth in the National Capital, excavations and trenching for underground water, drainage and sewerage services were carried out economically by specialised equipment. There was careful co-ordination of the programme timetable for these underground trenching operations with that for road construction. The beneficial result was the absence of road openings and costly restorations familiar in other places.

Development of equipment and plant contributed in very considerable measure to the more rapid and cost effective construction of both roads and bridges. Ready mix concrete of high quality almost entirely took over from on-site installations on many works, and the availability of large mobile cranes and pile drivers gave improved flexibility in organisation and programming of works. On road works, basic excavation machinery increased in size, and loading into the larger, higher heavy trucks became the province of the highly mobile front-end loaders. The ‘Caterpillar 12’ type of grader retained its place as a superb piece of machinery for creating longitudinal and cross-sectional accuracy of road bed for the reception of the improved road pavement materials. The high density pavements of crushed rock consolidated by vibrating rollers and then given asphaltic concrete surfaces, provided high quality and durable road profiles in estate subdivision roading and in the stronger, heavily loaded arterial roads of the ACT.

A Canberra neighbourhood
Fig. 1.49: A Canberra neighbourhood bounded by arte-
rial roads with improved internal road patterns.
The road accidents in such areas are about one
third of those in older layouts. Plan: NCDC.
A pedestrian underpass built
Fig. 1.50: A pedestrian underpass built as part of the
original land servicing contract. Photo: NCDC .
Tuggeranong Parkway bridge
Fig. 1.51: Tuggeranong Parkway bridge over the Molonglo River. Photo: Author.
Ginnznaerra Drive passes
Fig. 1.52: Ginninderra Drive passes over Lake Ginninderra. Photo: Author.
 Commonwealth Avenue passing over State Circle
Fig. 1.53: Commonwealth Avenue passing over State Circle. Photo: Author.
Landscaped carparks
Fig 1.54: Landscaped carparks of the automatic and semi-automatic type have been provided. Photo Author
it metropolitan wide network
Fig. 1.55. A metropolitan wide network of cycle paths is used by people of all ages. Photo: NCDC.
The first carriageway of Tuggeranong Parkway
Fig. 1.56: The first carriageway of Tuggeranong Parkway provides efficient and pollution free travel on the periphery
rather than through the urban areas. Photo: Author.
Footbridge in Commonwealth Gardens.
Fig. 1.57: Footbridge in Commonwealth Gardens. Photo: NCDC.
The first major transportation
Fig. 1.58: The first major transportation corridor in Canberra to a new town.
The carillon
Fig. 1.59:The carillon, gift from the United Kingdom, has
been embellished with this curved footbridge,
Photo: A.I.S.
Pedestrian ovepasses
Fig. 1.60: Pedestrian overpasses provide safer movement
in city areas. Photo: A.I.S.
 Pedestrian malls
Fig. 1.61: Pedestrian malls have been created in city areas by the closure of streets to traffic. Photo: A.I.S
An overseas example
Fig. 1.62: An overseas example of a multi-purpose transportation corridor.
Yarra Glen provides safe
Fig. 1.63: Yarra Glen provides safe efficient movement of private vehicles and public transport on bus-only lanes. Space is
available for future public transport in the median. Photo: Australian Information Service.


During the past twenty five years electronic science has increasingly influenced the design, construction and management of roads and has made a significant contribution to the engineering heritage. Traffic engineers have used the electronic computer to provide data processing and analyses of origin-destination type surveys. Electronic traffic signal installations sense vehicle movements in volume and time for individual intersections, and for groups over an area traffic control system. These have provided opportunities for safer and more efficient use of both suburban and arterial roads. In some situations they act as a first-stage solution to complex intersection movements, pending the construction of grade-separation structures.

In the design of new arterial roads, multiple inputs to computers have enabled comparative studies of alternative routes, earthwork quantities, alignment, grades and profiles to be readily examined in print-out form. Such studies in 1964 of the proposed Hindmarsh Drive route were the first to be undertaken in the ACT. Another application of computers became available in seeking improvement in roadside environmental quality as seen by the users of arterial roads. The production by computer of three-dimensional perspective sketches based on trial alignments provided an opportunity to design arterial roads with ‘free-flowing alignments’ which, in conjunction with landscape design, would ‘persuade the driver over its course by its fluency and singleness of purpose’.273

Bridge design procedures involving complex computations for ‘indeterminate’ structures have been greatly aided by the employment of high speed computers. The expanding field of design in pre-stressed and post tensioned reinforced concrete structures also benefitted by the use of electronic strain gauges, particularly in the control of final stressing of high tensile cables.274

Programme and construction control were greatly refined following the introduction in the early 1960s of computer aids. Rapid print-out of job and total programme progress, time and cost information became available through network analysis and critical path techniques.275 Opportunities were thus given at short call to recognise problems at an early stage and to initiate orderly remedial adjustment of operations and performance in terms of both time and cost.

There are many other instances of the use of electronic aids. Microcircuitry, radar and laser technology can be expected to extend further their contribution to scientific design and management of roads.

Engineering and Landscape Design

In 1911, tree planting was accepted as one of the necessary elements in the plans to construct the National Capital, and this was demonstrated by the first sizeable plantings carried out in 1915. Today, the wide ranging pattern of trees and other vegetation is a conspicuous and satisfying feature of the Canberra scene, all the more remarkable when it is realised that the central areas in their original natural state were almost devoid of trees.

The present high standards of landscape have evolved through a conscious understanding that there should be a harmonious association of trees and landscaping with the topography and topographical features, landforms, roads and structures. The value of multi-disciplinary design teamwork has nowhere been better demonstrated than in the joint efforts of engineering and landscape professionals.

Future Development

A review of our heritage has additional value when we identify from our past experience the desirable direction for future development. Looking back on the work done in Canberra on roads and bridges, a major lesson for the future is the need to complete the peripheral dual carriage- way parkways. They will probably have to be staged and part of that staging may involve single carriageways in the first instance, like Tuggeranong Parkway. But the need for them is undeniable. One of the soundest developmental concepts proposed for Canberra, and supported by overseas experience, is the idea of a well landscaped parkway with separate carriageways like Parkes Way that can carry through traffic with minimum pollution, maximum safety and a consequent reduction of traffic volumes in the urban areas.

Associated with this essential future development is the need to reserve the routes for the intertown public transport system and to progressively build and use components of it as has already been done in a modest way on the approaches to Belconnen Town Centre. No conflicting development should be allowed to prejudice such Inter- town Public Transport routes.

The completion of these two key items of the city’s infrastructure will provide the generations to come with a heritage in transportation that is worthy of our National Capital.


Acknowledgement is gratefully made of the generous and valuable assistance given by many organisations, their officers and by many historically minded people; including the following: The NSW State Library Mitchell Library Archives, Office of NSW Department of Main Roads, NSW Department of Lands, NSW Department of Public Works, NSW John Fairfax and Sons Ltd., Australian National Library Australian Archives Office, Australian Survey Office, Department of Transport and Construction, National Capital Development Commission, Department of the Capital Territory, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Dr Keith Carter ANU Research School of Social Sciences and Pacific Studies, Australian Heritage Commission, Dr J.M. Flood Canberra and District Historical Society, Australian Federal Police, Yarrowlumla Shire Council, Queanbeyan City Council, Tallaganda Shire Council, Professor L.D. Pryor, Mr Lyall Gillespie, Mr Bruce Moore, Mr Bert Sheedy and Mr Russell Wenholz

References and Notes

  2. Archives Office of NSW: ‘The Throsby Papers’ [return]
  3. Ibid: Letter to Governor Macquarie 1 September 1819 [return]
  4. GED MARTIN: Episodes of Old Canberra p. 10 [return]
  5. Ibid [return]
  6. ‘Throsby Papers’: account by Joseph Wild [return]
  7. Ibid [return]
  8. ‘The Throsby Papers’ [return]
  9. LACHLAN MACQUARIE: ‘Journals of his Tours in NSW’. State Library of NSW. [return]
  10. ‘The Throsby Papers’ [return]
  11. Ibid: Throsby apparently found the Yass River when returning [return]
  12. ‘The Throsby Papers’: Journal of Charles Throsby Smith, December 1820 [return]
  13. Ibid [return]
  14. Ibid [return]
  15. ‘The Throsby Papers’ [return]
  16. Ibid. Australian Magazine: ‘Colonial Incidents; 12 May 1821: State Library of NSW [return]
  17. ‘The Throsby Papers’: Letter to Governor Macquarie 10 May 1821 [return]
  18. Ibid [return]
  19. Ibid: Throsby informed the Governor in his letter of 10 May 1821 [return]
  20. Ibid: and in ‘Australian Magazine-Colonial Incidents’ of June 1821: State Library of NSW [return]
  21. CAPTAIN MARK CURRIE: Journal: ‘An Excursion to the Southward of Lake George’ June 1823 [return]
  22. Ibid [return]
  23. Ibid: probably a trackway found through the ‘Argyle Forest’. [return]
  24. Allan Cunningham’s Journal, 1824. Archives Office of NSW [return]
  25. J.H.L. CUMPSTON: ‘Thomas Mitchell’: p. 53 [return]
  26. Ibidp.89 [return]
  27. Ibid [return]
  28. GWENDOLINE WILSON: ‘Murray of Yarralumla’ p.32 [return]
  29. WA. MACDONALD: ‘Old Goulburn and the Southern District’ [return]
  30. ‘Old Sydney Road’ on current maps [return]
  31. HILAIRE BELLOC: ‘The Road’ p.l86 [return]
  32. Ibid p. 188 [return]
  33. The Sydney Road properly connected to the new Village plan [return]
  34. Later, the road was used by gold seekers [return]
  35. The ‘road’ also initiated access into the Naas and Gudgenby areas. [return]
  36. BRUCE MOORE: Discussions on roads to Murrumbidgee [return]
  37. Location shown on Scrivener’s map dated 1914 [return]
  38. ERROL LEA-SCARLETT: ‘Queanbeyan-District and People’ p.90 [return]
  39. Plans in National Library of Australia [return]
  40. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW [return]
  41. ERROL LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan — District and People p. 16 [return]
  42. Ibid
    1. The Monitor, Sydney, August 1838 [return]
    2. J. DEMARR, Adventures in Australia, p. 47 [return]
  43. WILSON: Murray of Yarralumla p. 121 [return]
  44. SAMUEL SCHUMACK: Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers p. 21 [return]
  45. ERROL LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan p. 53 [return]
  46. Ibidp.76 [return]
  47. Ibidp.90 [return]
  48. WILSON: Murray of Yarralumla p. 220 [return]
  49. LEA-SCARLETE: p. 95 [return]
  50. Department of Main Roads, NSW: ‘The Road Makers’ p.44 [return]
  51. Ibid: p.45 Possibly a ‘first’ cost-benefit study [return]
  52. LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan p. 85 [return]
  53. Ibid [return]
  54. Ibid p.89 [return]
  55. Ibid p.95 [return]
  56. Ibid p.97 [return]
  57. Fords: e.g., Australian Archives CRS Al, 23/1705 [return]
  58. SCHUMACK: Tales and Legends p. 120 [return]
  59. Goulburn Herald: 9 August 1856 [return]
  60. LEA-SCARLEYF: Queanbeyan p. 38 [return]
  61. Ibid [return]
  62. Goulburn Herald 19 August 1858 [return]
  63. Goulburn Herald 21 August 1858 [return]
  64. Ibid: 23 January l86l [return]
  65. Ibid: 9 September 1865 [return]
  66. Ibid: 30 April 1873 [return]
  67. Ibid: 19 September 1874 [return]
  68. Queanbeyan Age: 29 May 1873 [return]
  69. Ibid: 7 Aprill875 [return]
  70. Ibid: 5 March 1896 [return]
  71. LEA-SCARLETT: ‘Queanbeyan — District and People’ p. 148 [return]
  72. Goulburn Herald: 8 September 1877 [return]
  73. LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan pages 88, 94 [return]
  74. Goulburn Evening Penny Post 16 July 1891 [return]
  75. Queanbeyan Age: 12 March 1879 [return]
  76. Ibid: 2l Januaryl893 [return]
  77. Goulburn Evening Penny Post: 12 July 1892 [return]
  78. Queanbeyan Age: 21 February 1874 [return]
  79. Ibid: l7April 1873 [return]
  80. Bridge designed by NSW Public Works Department 1893 [return]
  81. Refer to ‘Inheritance from Pre-History Man’ [return]
  82. LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan p.90 [return]
  83. BRUCE MOORE: Discussions on roads to Murrumbidgee [return]
  84. There had been pressure for 44 years: LEA-SCARLETT Queanbeyan: p. 90 [return]
  85. The ford had been used by bullock teams for 50 years [return]
  86. PWD of NSW: Design plan details, 6 February 1894 [return]
  87. Goulburn Evening Penny Post: 20 March 1894 [return]
  88. LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan p. 9 [return]
  89. Ibid: p.90 [return]
  90. Ibid: p.91 [return]
  91. Goulburn Evening Penny Post: 2 April 1895
  92. Ibid: 3 Marchl896 [return]
  93. Designed by Public Works Dept., NSW [return]
  94. Goulburn Evening Penny Post: 19 August 1897 [return]
  95. Queanbeyan Age 28 March 1900 [return]
  96. Ibid:9July1898 [return]
  97. Ibid [return]
  98. Goulburn Evening Penny Post: 8 October 1901 [return]
  99. Designed by NSW Public Works Dept [return]
  100. LEA-SCARLETT: Queanbeyan p. 165 [return]
  101. T.J. BARKER, April 1975. Address to Canberra and District Historical Society [return]
  102. HG. WELLS: ‘Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought’ [return]
  103. Ibid: ‘Locomotion in the Twentieth Century’ [return]
  104. The Local Government Act, 1906, established Shire Councils covering all rural areas in the Queanbeyan-Monaro District [return]
  105. GERALD O’HANLON: History of Yarrowlumla Shire: 22 February 1956 [return]
  106. CHARLES ROBERT SCRIVENER: Director of Commonwealth Lands and Survey: 1914: ‘Federal Territory — Contour Map of City Site’ [return]
  107. The route could be indicative or a direct road connection [return]
  108. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 17 [return]
  109. Ibid [return]
  110. Ibid: paragraph l8 [return]
  111. Ibid: paragraph 19 [return]
  112. Ibid: paragraph 20 [return]
  113. Ibid: paragraph 2l [return]
  114. Ibid: paragraph 23 [return]
  115. Bridge severely damaged by 1922 flood [return]
  116. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 24 [return]
  117. Australian Archives: CRS A 192, 1917/233 dated 26 February 1917 [return]
  118. Ibid: CRS A192, 1917/233 dated 7 March 1917 [return]
  119. Senate Committee Report 1955: Australian Planning Institute — Statement: paragraph 117 [return]
  120. lbid:paragraph 118 [return]
  121. Australian Archives: authority for the Boulevards CRS Al, 1717/ 193 [return]
  122. Senate Committee Report 1953: paragraph 26 [return]
  123. Ibid: paragraph 25 [return]
  124. Ibid: paragraph 27 [return]
  125. Ibid: paragraph 28 [return]
  126. Australian Archives: CRS A199, FC 24/71 [return]
  127. Australian Archives: Plan of bridge No. C85 dated 10 March 1922 [return]
  128. Ibid: papers CRS A199 FC 24/71 f. 1562 [return]
  129. Ibid:CRSAI99FC24/71 f.1562 [return]
  130. Ibid: CRS A199 FC 24.71 f.l562 [return]
  131. Above proposals forwarded to Minister for Works and Railways 14 September 1922 [return]
  132. Australian Archives: CP464/2 [return]
  133. Australian Archives: Dept. of Works Plans C 129 dated 10 March 1923 [return]
  134. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 [return]
  135. Queanbeyan Age: 24 October 1924 [return]
  136. Australian Archives: CRS A199, FC 24/71 f.1562 [return]
  137. Australian Archives: CP 464/2, A 24/985 [return]
  138. Australian Archives: CRS Al, 23/1705 [return]
  139. Australian Archives: CRS A199, FC 24/71 f.1562 and CRS A292, C2224 [return]
  140. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C2224 [return]
  141. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 A24/2316 [return]
  142. Queanbeyan Age: 1 August 1922 [return]
  143. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 A24/2242 [return]
  144. Australian Archives: CRS A2 445 [return]
  145. River gravel beach seen in illustration [return]
  146. Tourist postcards carried bridge photograph [return]
  147. Submission to Minister for ‘Works dated 14 September 1922, No. 1562, stated river gravel beach washed away to depth of 16 feet [return]
  148. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 [return]
  149. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 [return]
  150. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 [return]
  151. Australian Archives: CP 464/2, A24/2242. Plan C 144 [return]
  152. Australian Archives: CP 464/2 [return]
  153. Australian Archives: CRS Al, 26/4235 [return]
  154. Australian Archives: CRS Al, 26/4235 [return]
  155. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C20823 [return]
  156. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 53 [return]
  157. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 23 [return]
  158. Seat of Government (Administration) Act: effective 1 January 1925 [return]
  159. The plan of lay-out was limited to the Burley Griffin design area [return]
  160. Departure from, or inconsistency with, the approved Plan is prohibited [return]
  161. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 33 [return]
  162. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 55 [return]
  163. Bureau of Meteorology: data records [return]
  164. SIR JOHN BUTTERS: letter to Minister 2 November 1929 [return]
  165. SIR JOHN BUTTERS: letter to Minister 2 November 1929, on the day of his resignation [return]
  166. Australian Archives: CP 698/23, E1/27/1126 [return]
  167. Australian Archives: CP 698/23, E1/25/275 [return]
  168. Ibid [return]
  169. Federal Capital Commission: Annual Report 30 June 1925 [return]
  170. Australian Archives: CRS Al, 25/17651 [return]
  171. Queanbeyan Age: 2 November 1926 [return]
  172. Australian Archives: CRS Al, 27/4460 [return]
  173. National Library: ‘Canberra-Federal Capital’: film A 10004971 [return]
  174. Australian Archives: CP698/2, 25/116 [return]
  175. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C7542 [return]
  176. Federal Capital Commission: Report to Minister, period ending 30 June 1929 [return]
  177. Ibid [return]
  178. An ‘unofficial’ but convenient road [return]
  179. LIONEL WIGMORE: The Long View: p. 119 [return]
  180. Ibid:p. 119 [return]
  181. National Library of Australia: Federal Capital Commission Reports: Transmission of 1928/29 Report on 2 November 1929 [return]
  182. Australian Archives: CRS Al, 31/1711 [return]
  183. Ibid [return]
  184. Ibid; the use of tar was not common practice [return]
  185. Ibid [return]
  186. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C2445 [return]
  187. Ibid: CRS A292, C734l [return]
  188. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C3173 [return]
  189. Ibid: CRS Al, 33/7794 [return]
  190. Ibid: CRS A292, C239I. Assistant Crown Solicitor, H. Whitlam, gave an ‘opinion’ on sub-contract issue. [return]
  191. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C20351 [return]
  192. Ibid [return]
  193. Ibid [return]
  194. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C2224 [return]
  195. Plan C 738, Works and Services Branch (CRS A2190) [return]
  196. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C734l [return]
  197. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C2391 [return]
  198. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C7341 [return]
  199. Department of Main Roads: ‘The Roadmakers’: The Main Roads System 1 January 1939. pp. 158, 160. [return]
  200. ACT Tourist Map 1934 [return]
  201. Unemployment Relief works were carried out in local government areas adjacent to the ACT [return]
  202. The Canberra Times: 13 August 1934 [return]
  203. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C2849 [return]
  204. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C2760 [return]
  205. Eucalypt piles immersed for 50 years found in virtually new condition when drawn (personal experience) [return]
  206. ‘Works and Services Branch: drawing C 844 [CRS A2190] [return]
  207. 209.Works and Services Branch: drawing C 989 [CRS A2l90] [return]
  208. Australian Archives: CRS A292, C3938 [return]
  209. Works and Services Branch: Plan C 1021 [CRS A2190] [return]
  210. R.R. PROCTOR: Engineering News Record September 1933: ‘Fundamental Principles of Soil Compaction’ [return]
  211. W.C. ANDREWS: ‘Soil Cement Airfield Pavements’: 1942 [return]
  212. Australian Bureau of Statistics [return]
  213. LIONEL WIGMORE: The Long View: p.l53 [return]
  214. Senate Select Committee Report on Development of Canberra: 1955: Paragraphs 77 to 79 [return]
  215. SIR PAUL HASLUCK: Official War History; and LIONEL WIGMORE: The Long View, p. 147 [return]
  216. Senate Committee Report: paragraph. 80 [return]
  217. Ibid: paragraph. 82 [return]
  218. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette: Monday 3, May 1954 [return]
  219. Evidence to Royal Commission: 5 July 1954 [return]
  220. Ibid [return]
  221. Department of Works: design 19 October 1956— Plan CC 6723 [CRS A2190] [return]
  222. Provision was made for future widening of the bridge [return]
  223. Senate Committee Report 1955: paragraph 260 [return]
  224. The elimination of ‘West Lake’ was gazetted 11 June 1953. The Standing Committee on Public Works stated: ‘Gazettal carried out in undue haste’: paragraph 50 [return]
  225. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: Report on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, 1955 paragraph 7 [return]
  226. Report of the Senate Select Committee brought up 29 September 1955 [return]
  227. Ibid: paragraph 81 [return]
  228. Ibid: paragraph 226 [return]
  229. Ibid: paragraph 23 [return]
  230. Ibid: paragraph 413 [return]
  231. Ibid: paragraph 411 and 413 [return]
  232. Ibid: paragraph 412 [return]
  233. Ibid: paragraph 260 [return]
  234. Ibid: paragraph 261 [return]
  235. Ibid: paragraph 430 [return]
  236. Ibid: paragraph 152 [return]
  237. Australian Bureau of Statistics [return]
  238. Act No. 42 of 1957: Date of Commencement 10 October 1957 [return]
  239. HON. ALLAN FAIRHALL: ‘Second Reading Speech, 28 August 1957’ [return]
  240. The Committee to consist of the Commissioner, and 2 architects, 2 engineers, 2 town planners, 2 other persons with special knowledge and experience in artistic or cultural matters [return]
  241. SIR WILLIAM HOLFORD, Professor of Town and Country Planning, University of London, and technical adviser to the British Ministry of Town Planning [return]
  242. Examples: the present Lake bridges [return]
  243. HAROLD MARKS: ‘Subdividing for Traffic Safety’: 24 January 1957 [return]
  244. Ibid [return]
  245. Ibid: within 86 differing areas, over a 5 year period, the improved road patterns when compared with unimproved patterns, experienced 10 accidents per year as against 77 per year. [return]
  246. W.D. SPENCER: ‘Three Dimensional Design of Roads — The Co-ordination of Horizontal and Vertical Alignment’: 1948 [return]
  247. Senate Select Committee Report 1955: paragraph 430 [return]
  248. The Statuary was repositioned: Cork Hill produced clays for brickmaking and backfill on lake works [return]
  249. Public Works Committee reported 1955, on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge [return]
  250. Commissioner J.W. OVERALL; Associate Commissioners W.C. ANDREWS, G. RUDDUCK; Acting Secretary LYALL GILLESPIE; Secretary-Manager R.B. LANSDOWN [return]
  251. The programme was set out in the ‘Second Annual Report’ of the Commission [return]
  252. At the 12th March 1958, the Lake, legally, was to terminate at the Acton-Hospital area [return]
  253. National Capital Planning Committee advising the Commission: Prof. HI. ASHWORTH, Mr W.P.R. GODFREY, Mr M.J. LEA, Dr F.W. LEDGAR, Mr R.A. PRIDDLE, Mr G. WALKLEY, and SIR DARYL LINDSAY, Prof. TRENDALL. [return]
  254. Mr M.J. LEA, Mr R.A. PRIDDLE, Mr W.C. ANDREWS [return]
  255. Report submitted 24 July 1958 [return]
  256. Consultants: G. MAUNSELL and Partners, and WILLIAM HOLFORD and Partners [return]
  257. Contractor: M.R. HORNIBROOK (NSW) Pry. Ltd. [return]
  258. Consultants: G. MAUNSELL and Partners, and WILLIAM HOLFORD and Partners [return]
  259. Supervising Engineers: Commonwealth Department of Works in association with the designers [return]
  260. Prime Minister SIR ROBERT MENZIES on 17 October 1964, speaking at the ‘inauguration’ ceremony at Regatta Point [return]
  261. Annual and Special Reports, Planning and Development Exhibitions. A ‘5 Year Planning Report’ for the period to 1964 was distributed 28 February 1959. [return]
  262. Annual Report July 1958 to June 1959: p. 14 [return]
  263. Ibid: p. 15 [return]
  264. W.C. ANDREWS: ‘Transportation and Urban Planning’, 1964 [return]
  265. Ibid [return]
  266. Including landscape amenity and ‘three dimensional design’ [return]
  267. Annual Reports detail private enterprise and government offices in City and Town centres [return]
  268. Statistical studies, NCDC [return]
  269. WIGMORE: The Long View, p. 201 [return]
  270. Reports from PETER FUNDA, Executive Engineer (Construction), NCDC [return]
  271. Annual Report 1962—63 [return]
  272. Annual Report 1963—64 [return]
  273. W.D. SPENCER: ‘Three Dimensional Design of Roads. The Co-ordination of Horizontal and Vertical Alignment’: 1948 [return]
  274. Testing procedures used on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, etc., by consultants and Commonwealth Department of Works. [return]
  275. Procedures developed by K.A. MYERS, Business Manager, NCDC [return]

Records in Australian Archives referred to in the notes to this chapter: Department of Works and Railways, 1916-1932

Central Office, Melbourne

CRS A199, Correspondence files, annual single number series with FCW’ (Federal Capital Works) prefix to 1917, then ‘FC’ (Federal Capital) prefix, 1913-1926.
CRS A292, Correspondence files, single number series with ‘C’ prefix (Canberra Works), 1930-1950.

Works Branch, Federal Capital Territory 1912-1925

CP 464/2 Correspondence files, annual single number series with ‘A’ prefix, 1923-1924
CRS A3560 Mildenhall collection of glass plate negatives, c.192I-1935
Note: The photographs cited as located in Australian Archives come from this series.

Department of Home and Territories, 19 16-1928.
Department of Home Affairs [II], 192 8-1932.

CRS Al Correspondence files, annual single number series, 1903-1938.

Lands and Survey Branch, 1911-1932

CRS A192, Correspondence files, ‘FCL’ (Federal Capital Lands)series, 1913-1924

Federal Capital Commission, 1925-1930

Engineer’s Department

CP 698/2, Correspondence files, E series (Engineers) 1925.
CP 698/23 Correspondence files, El series, 1925-1930.

Department of the Interior [I], 1932-1935

Works and Services Branch

CRS A2190 Engineering drawings, C and CC series, by 1923-1959.
Note: The drawings cited in the notes with C and CC prefixes come from this series
CRS A2445 Mechanical drawings, single number series with the prefix, 1910
Note: The drawings cited in the notes with an M prefix come from this series.
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