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Alligator Creek bridge – an unusual and remarkable bridge

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018


Alligator Creek is a tributary of the Fitzroy River about 30 kilometers north of Rockhampton near Yaamba. In 1877 a bridge was built across the creek to improve travel for the growing volume of traffic as pastoralists established runs to the north of Rockhampton. It was a most unusual and innovative structure that has featured briefly in the histories of Australian bridges. Colin O’Connor in Historic Bridges of Australia notes that it was the first known Australian designed long span bridge. Greg Nolan in his thesis The forgotten long span bridges of Australia commented that it was a remarkable timber girder bridge ‘with a complicated system of under-strutting and diagonal metal ties’. Neither O’Connor or Nolan mention a designer or the correct date.

The bridge was opened in April 1877 and was designed by Alexander Jardine, the Engineer of Roads for the Central District (Rockhampton Bulletin 26 May 1877). The bridge was of a Fink truss design. Albert Fink registered the design with the United States Patent Office in 1854. It was one of a number of early patented solutions to the problem of how to build long spans to avoid the expense of building piers.

When a bridge was needed to cross Alligator creek in the mid 1870s, Jardine opted for a bold and daring solution. He rejected the traditional approach of a trestle bridge with piers and instead opted for what would have been considered an innovative solution.

Alligator Creek bridge 1920s

The bridge was in operation for 83 years and was only demolished when it could no longer take the volume and weight of traffic.

Alexander Jardine (1843-1920) features in Don Watson and Judith McKay’s Queensland Architects of the 19th century. Jardine was the son of John and Elizabeth Jardine, early residents of the Rockhampton district. At the age of 21 years, he was a member of an expedition party from Rockhampton to Somerset at Cape York. He later became a surveyor in the Office of the Engineer of Roads for the Northern District. In 1874 he designed, in conjunction with Frederick Byerley, the Engineer in charge, a timber rail bridge over the Dawson River which was the longest timber bridge in the colony. The bridge comprised timber piers with laminated arches of spotted Gum. Jardine later became Chief Engineer of the Harbours and River Department.

In 1881 Alexander Jardine married the well-connected Charlotte Elizabeth Mosman. Her brothers-in-law included Sir Thomas McIlwraith and Sir Arthur Palmer, who both served terms as Premier of Queensland. Her brother, Hugh Mosman, was a member of the Legislative Council. Jardine died in 1920 in London.

Plan of Alligator Creek bridge. Remarkably original drawings survive in the Queensland State Archives.

For a detailed view of the plan click here.

Location

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Embassy Hotel – a very 1920s hotel

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

The Embassy Hotel on the corner Edward and Elizabeth streets, Brisbane was constructed in 1928-9. It was designed by architect JP Donoghue and is a very 1920s hotel There are three defining characteristics that distinquish this hotel as of the 1920s era and which sets it apart from earlier hotels in Brisbane

The architectural style

The building is in the Commercial Palazzo style which is characterised by base (ground floor), shaft (levels 1-3 and cornice.

Cantilevered awning

In 1922, the Brisbane City Council adopted a policy that all new awnings over footpaths in the principal business streets were to conform to the cantilevered design. (Telegraph 12 November 1922). Consequently, a defining feature of 1920s hotels in the Brisbane CBD was the cantilevered awning. While the cantilevered awning was a distinctive feature of 1920s hotels in the CBD, it also had other consequences for hotel design. Until this time, hotels had awnings supported by posts with verandahs on the upper levels. Verandahs on the upper levels was very typical not only of hotels in the Brisbane CBD but throughout Queensland. No more in Brisbane, at least after 1922.

The lift and high rise

The Embassy Hotel was originally of four storeys ( a fifth was added in the 1950s). he inclusion of a lift in the Embassy Hotel is also a distinctive element of 1920s hotels. Brisbane CBD. Hotels built prior to World War 1 were generally of one or two storeys. Lift technology was not used extensively in any buildings in Brisbane prior to World War 1. In the 1920s, multi-storey buildings became more common and lifts were an integral part of these buildings. as in the Embassy Hotel.

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Brisbane Dental Hospital – some secrets

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

The Brisbane Dental Hospital is located prominently on the corner of Turbot and Albert streets, Brisbane. To the casual observer, there is nothing unusual about this well designed and substantial building. It was erected in 1938 -1941 as the main public dental hospital in Brisbane and the University of Queensland Dental College. But the building has some secrets that are clearly observable from the outside.

First, why is the building located well above the level of Turbot and Albert streets. It is clear that substantail excavation was necessary to provide the level ground on which the building now sits. But why not excavate to the level of the footpath to make the building readily accessible to the public. The simple answer – it wasn’t possible. The building sits over the railway tunnel from Roma Station to Central Station and could not have been any lower. This situation presented a major A major challenge for the design and construction of the building. Bridging the tunnel necessitated supporting the building of 5000 tons on six special concrete beams. In addition the problem of vibration was also an issue for the architects and engineers which was overcome by placing ‘special anti-vibration footings which acted like shock-absorbers at the base of the steel stanchions that rest on the beams’. (The Telegraph, 28 March 1941)

Second, look closely at the windows on the front and side. Yes, the windows for the ground floor and first floor are obvious, but what of the series of smaller windows between the two levels. The building was constructed with a mezzanine level to accommodate ducting for airconditioning. This was the first government building in Queensland to be fully air-conditioned. The very substantial plant was located on the roof and ducted to the mezzanine level and to the basement.

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Old Rainworth Fort

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Old Rainworth Fort is located 10 kilometres of Spring in central Queensland. Before visiting the place in June 2013, I was a little skeptical about the claims of being a ‘fort’. But even a short assessment proved otherwise. This building was clearly built as a fortified structure. Openings on only one side and slits in the walls at two levels.

Significantly this building was erected after the major conflict at the nearby Cullinlaringo station when 19 Europeans were killed in October 1861.

Main internal space with stairs to loft.

Loft space. Note the slits around the top of wall.

The only openings were on the eastern with timbers doors and presumably originally timber shutters.

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