The Argus at KellyGang 31/1/1871 (6)
One of the complaints of the sub-contractor here is the want of plant. There are six trucks on the cutting, but according to his statement only two of them are serviceable, while the others are beyond repair, and have been so from the first. Instead of two, eighteen trucks might be kept going. At present, and for some time past, he has merely employed a sufficient number of men in the cutting to create work for two trucks. Two other sub-contractors have provided their own plant. But another and more serious accusation is made against the contractors, viz., that the men employed by them to measure sub-contractors' work, under-measure it; and from all one hears, the charge cannot be groundless, though it may have been exaggerated. It was only on Friday, for instance, that two men on the range "jacked out" (as it is called), because they could not, as they said, get fair measurement.
Every piece of work, of course, is measured by the Government engineers and the engineer representing the contractors; but the measurements which these gentlemen make are quite distinct, and necessarily so, from those by which the work of the subcontractors is paid. It would have been much more satisfactory for all parties, and the works would now have been further advanced, if there had been none of this sub contracting. It is only where there have been large subcontracts that the earthworks seem in a backward state; but whether it be owing to the fault of the subcontractor in undertaking to do what he could not do, or to the fault of the contractors, is a question which can only be decided upon positive information - a thing very difficult to obtain, because, while one side is ready enough to tell its own tale, the other appears to ignore the existence of any cause of complaint whatever, and suggests over sharpness on the part of the complainants.
There are three or four large works making slow progress, and these lie between No 101 cutting at Broadford, and N? near Tallarook. The other earthworks are comparatively light. The only men at work between Broadford and Seymour Flats are employed by sub-contractors. The sub contractor for the Sydney-road diversion seems to be a man who understands his business, and has more men in his cutting in proportion to the amount of work to be done, than are to be found in any other cutting on the line. Among the temporary works is a number of timber culverts, which occur at intervals in the descent of the Dividing Range , and are known by the name of "Roman bridges." They occupy the places in embankments which are to be hereafter filled by brick culverts, and they deserve mention as some of the curiosities of the line, though they are not much credit to it. There are only a few out of a considerable number of the brick culverts built, chiefly for the reason that the brickmakers along the line have been backward in furnishing good bricks. Some remarkable articles in the form of bricks have been deposited at several points of the line, only to be condemned by the Government engineers. The badness of the bricks is not, it is said, owing to the clay being poor, for it is of good quality. Bricks of the right sort seem now to be forthcoming. The contractors have been singularly fortunate in being able to procure the ballast required, for the first half of the line close to the works,
Good metal has been found all the way up to Hearne's swamp. Here, on this division of the works, there is a considerable supply already on the ground, ready for laying. On the upper half of the line, the ballast has not yet made its appearance in any quantity. The timber for the fencing and sleepers has been rather hard to get. There is very little to be had within nine or 10, or even 12, miles of the line. For the requirements of the first 28 miles, the bluegum for posts and rails and the redgum for sleepers, have been, brought to the works from the Plenty Ranges , where a large number of men are employed in sawing and splitting. For the requirements of the line beyond the Range, resort has been had to the table land near the Sugar-loaf Peak , where red gum of excellent quality has been met with. Not much fencing, has yet been put up, except near Essendon and at Hearne's Swamp.
The late wet season told greatly against this part of the work, inasmuch as it prevented the timber from being carted in from the forests. In rainy weather, the roads to the forests are very had, and even along the line itself, traffic is attended with great, difficulty when the soil is moist with rain. The masonry of the stone bridges seems to be going on fairly. A quantity of the iron for the cylinders of the Seymour bridges has been deposited on the banks of the Goulburn, and a little of the material for the temporary bridge. The arrangements for the erection of the bridge's material seem only to have been just completed; but the contractors are sanguine of having all the cylinders in before the summer season ends. The contract for the first section of the line was entered into in the months of May and June last, and it expires on the 31st March, 1872, giving the contractors about 14 months to finish what remains to be done. It is scarcely to be expected, however, that the railway will be ready for opening by the date named. The extraordinary weather which prevailed at the outset of the contract is recognised as a reasonable excuse for their being a little behind time; and the strike, which followed the floods, may be put down as another cause of retardation. Nearly the whole of the men who took part in the strike have disappeared from the works, and those who re- main only stay to work. The great majority of the men now on the earthworks are employed directly by the contractors themselves, as may be gathered from what has been already stated, and matters go on more smoothly than they did a little while back.
The contractors for the section under description are Messrs O'Grady, Leggatt, and Noonan, and their manager is Mr Michael Noonan. Mr Joseph Brady, who. has been connected with various works of a like kind in Australia , is their engineer. The Government resident engineer is Mr Robert Watson; the district engineer, Mr W F Hardie, with Kilmore for his headquarters; and Mr Hardie's assistants are Mr Peyton Jones, at Craigieburn, who has charge of the line from Essendon to the Dividing Range, and Mr Lunt, who has charge of it from the Range to Seymour.
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