The Argus at KellyGang 31/1/1871 (5)
Broadford, which is reached after a journey of 50 miles, is the only township on the Sydney road that the first section of the line passes through, and it has been dealt with in a manner which the inhabitants do not exactly appreciate. The line runs right through one church (the Presbyterian). and separates another (the Church of England) from the township. There will be, compensation in the one case, no doubt, but the inhabitants are wroth because they can't get it in the other. From Broadford to the River Goulburn, 12 miles, brought a good deal of high ground is passed over, there is little to be seen, except the Tullarook Ranges, which again come into view near the township of Tullarook. These ranges rise immediately behind the township. They attain a considerable height, and resemble in some fashion tho range of which Mount Macedon is the peak. Masses of granite are visible on the slopes.
It remains now to describe the progress which has been made with the works. The contractors have to carry out earthworks (cuttings and embankments), erect bridges and culverts, furnish ballast, lay sleepers, erect fencing, &c.
Something has been done with all of those works; and you cannot traverse a hundred yards of the line from Essendon to the Goulburn which has not been operated upon by the navvy. Most of the earth works, however, have been done in the rough; and what has been roughly finished will have to be gone over a second time in order that it may be dressed. The cuttings and embankments near Essendon are nearly finished, and from the toll gate on the Pascoovale-road (about the eighth mile) to Hearne's Swamp the earthworks, which are extremely light, may be described as completed in the rough. A considerable number of men are engaged on the embankment over the swamp, and it is in a forward state.
Thence to the range the earthworks are light. The principal earth-works, and those about whose early completion there may be some doubt, are included in the 22 miles of line which extend from the summit of the range to Tullarook. The greater number of the cuttings on the range are now in the hands of the contractors themselves (it was not so from the beginning). They expect to finish the cutting on the summit (No 52) in 20 weeks. The earthworks between this cutting and No 101, at Broadford, though all of there have not arrived at the same stage of advancement, are such as may be completed within the requisite time if expedition be shown. Cutting No 101, from which 24,000 cubic yards of stuff have to be excavated, has about one-eighth of the quantity removed. This is the work about which so many complaints were in circulation several months ago, when the labourers were alleging that they could not get their wages from the sub-contractor. No work has been done here for about three months.
At another large cutting, No 110, a dispute at present exists between the contractors and the sub-contractor, and seems to have been carried on almost from the commencement of the works. Sub-contracts are not, strictly speaking, permitted by the Government - at any rate, they are not rocognised, though they may not in practice be absolutely disallowed. When the contract was entered into, the contractors, being anxious to begin operations without delay, readily accepted the services of men who were available as sub-contractors, and who had horses, &c, at command, so that nearly every mile of the earthworks was at the outset under sub-contract. The contractors fixed the prices which were to be given for the different kinds of work, and furnished the plant-trucks, dobbins, carts, &c. Many of the sub-contractors, who had taken jobs in hand at rates that would scarcely remunerate them, or probably subject them to losses, got through the easy part of the work, and then disappeared from the line, leaving the heavy labour to be performed by the contractors themselves. There are several examples of what may be called abandoned cuttings, from which the earth alone has been excavated, and the hard material left untouched. A state of things such as this appears naturally to have disgusted the contractors, who have latterly gone to the other extreme, and have been trying to rid themselves of all, or nearly all, of the sub-contractors.
There are now few sub-contractors, perhaps not more than half a dozen, on the whole of the earthworks, and in a short time, probably, there will not be one. But some of the remaining half dozen would rather not throw up their jobs, though no doubt the contractors would prefer them to retire. Two or three of them accuse the contractors of having supplied them, with a ridiculously inadequate plant, and disregarded their requests for a full supply. At cutting No 110, for instance, where the excavations were commenced some five months ago, only 10,000 cubic yards, out of 48,000, have been taken out.
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