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Wheelers Bridge

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Creswick-Lawrence Road, Lawrence VIC 3364

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Features

  • Historical bridge
  • Information sign
  • Scenic views
This gorgeous old bridge crosses Birch Creek in Lawrence, and is surrounded by scenic views down the gorge and across to the huge mullock heaps of various nearby deep lead gold mines. Wheelers Bridge, completed in 1900, was only the third bridge completed in Victoria using the early Monier system of reinforced concrete. This bridge replaced an earlier timber bridge, and is still in use today (although at a reduced load limit due to it's deteriorating condition).

An information sign stands on a corner of the road and displays the following text:

WHEELERS BRIDGE

An Early Use of Reinforced Concrete in Victoria

Why an Arch Bridge?

The graceful curve of an arch bridge transfers some of the weight of the bridge and its traffic into a horizontal force resisted by the abutments. Longer bridges may have several arches. People have been building arch bridges for thousands of years. They're simple, they work, and they can be quite pleasing in appearance. To build a Monier arch bridge, timber formwork was erected and steel reinforcement was put in place. Then the concrete was poured into the worm. When the concrete had gained sufficient strength, the formwork was removed.

Building the Bridge

A timber bridge was built here in 1864. By 1889 it was in a "dilapidated state" and by 1898 the timbers were rotting. A two-span Monier arch bridge was chosen to replace it. 

Jenkins Brothers of Ballarat started work in December 1898. Monash & Anderson took over the construction in 1899 and the bridge was completed in March 1900.

The bridge was load-tested with two large traction-engines and formally opened with a ceremony on March 1900. 

Wheelers Bridge is the oldest Monier arch bridge in Victoria still carrying traffic (although the load limit has been reduced to 15 tonnes).

Monash & Anderson

Wheelers Bridge was designed and partially built by the Melbourne consulting engineers Monash & Anderson who started in 1894. 

General Sir John Monash (1865 - 1931)

In 1905 John Monash started the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. which continued to develop the use of reinforced concrete in Victoria. Following a brilliant military career in World War 1 Monash became Chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and led the effort to use Latrobe Valley brown coal to generate electricity. 

Joshua Anderson (165 - 1949)

Joshua Anderson's engineering career has been overshadowed by Monash's military fame. He was skilled in various disciplines and later worked as a municipal and consulting engineer in Victoria. 

Who was Wheeler?

The bridge carries the Creswick-Lawrence road across Birch Creek. It is named after James Henry Wheeler who represented the district in the Victorian Legislative Assembly for more then 20 years between 1864 and 1900. 

From Pots to Ponts

French horticulturalist Joseph Monier devised a method off making flower pots and garden furniture by using a mesh of thin iron rods to reinforce concrete. He took out a patent in 1867 and continued to find new uses for the method which makes the best use of each material.

The technique was soon applied to other structures and in 1875 Monier designed the first iron-reinforced concrete bridge (pont is the French word for bridge).

In the early 1890s the Sydney firm of Carter Gummow & Co acquired the rights to build Monier bridges in Australia. 

In 1897 Monash & Anderson forged a link with them and obtained sole rights to the Monier patent in Victoria. 


 

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