Thomas Hartwell’s recollections

October 26, 2011

Thomas Hartwell worked on Campbell Bridge and supplied timber for its construction. His recollections of the bridge construction appeared in The Bingara Advocate, June, 26 1935. As you will see even he has the bridge opening details incorrect, which would seem very surprising as you would expect he was there for the opening.

“The bridge was started in 1884 and was opened for traffic on the 9th November, 1886. Mr. H. Royce was the contractor, he was a smart active man about 5’10, dressed in white. He gave his men orders in a sharp, short and decisive manner in a tone that meant no back answers. Mr. Royce had two other bridges going on at the same time. His overseer was a huge man of 20 stone weight named Mr. H.T. Fisher. He was a nice quiet man, well liked and respected by all under him.

The general wages for labourers was 10 pence per hour and there were a few earning 1/6 per hour and fewer still experienced men earning 1/6 per hour. The drivers got 2/6 per hour and there were 2 drivers employed, Scotty McInnes and a man named McCarthy.

The labourers would take the cylinders down to solid rock, then put 50 tons weight on each cylinder and let them stand for 3 days. Then, if they had not sunk, the cylinders were filled with concrete. The mode of filling with concrete was by means of a large concrete iron bucket that held half a ton of cement. The bucket was lowered down and a patent catch was released to open the door and let the concrete pour out. This procedure was continued until the concrete reached the top of the cylinder.

There were as many as 150 men working on the bridge at one time, and it spoke volumes for the expertise of the management, as there was not one serious accident during the whole course of the construction.

I had a team drawing timber for a temporary bridge, and had to get logs 30 to 40 feet long for piles and girders. The piles were shod with iron, and then driven down, with a monkey weighing a ton, until they would go no further.

The bridge builders built two spans of the temporary bridge, then built the permanent bridge on top. The temporary bridge would then be pulled down and another 2 spans would be built and so on until the bridge was completed. Actually speaking I handled every piece of iron on the bridge.

The bridge was opened by Mrs. W.R. Campbell, wife of the Parliamentary member for this district, Mr. W.R. Campbell. There isn’t a plaque or notice board to show the name and history of the bridge-the $32,000 spent on the bridge must have been all that was allowed.”

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