Thursday 12 January 2023

Ted Clayton remembers

The Bribie Bridge will have its 60th anniversary on 19 October 2023. The following article contains a personal account by Ted Clayton, written for the 20th anniversary in 1983.

Building toward the future of a resort

Near North Coast News, 19 Oct 1983, page 20.

20th Bribie Bridge Anniversary
Near North Coast News, 19 Oct 1983, page 17

A local resident who can give a first-hand account of Bribie Island at the time of the construction of the bridge is long-time Shire resident Ted Clayton.

Mr Clayton worked on the bridge construction and here gives a personal account of how the work proceeded:

"The construction of the Bribie Bridge coincided with the big credit squeeze of 1963. The population of permanent residents on the Island at that time was quite small, and most of the cash inflow came from visitors and people building holiday homes.

"I was contract building at the time, and was also stuck with a 'spec' house that wouldn't sell. The engineer in charge of the bridge job (Mr Noel Tedman) was living in flats at the end of South Esplanade. I approached him about a job and started work at Toorbul Point as a carpenter shortly thereafter.

"The site of operations at Toorbul Point had been a major army installation during the war years, and the country between Clark's jetty and the old barge landing site was strewn with the remains of jettys and facilities.

"A lot of this heavy timber went into the construction of the overhead gantry and the slipway that was used for the launching of pontoons carrying prestressed concrete piles and bridge beams. The timber piles for this slipway were cut locally and the fact that unskilled labourers were put to work sharpening these with blunt adzes meant that a lot of them were also cut locally - mainly around the shins.
Caption: The Bribie Bridge comes close to the Island - and completion.
Picture: R. Loseby
Near North Coast News, 19 October 1983, p. 20

"The slip as such was a conventional one with rail lines extending from below the low water mark up onto the foreshore, where they ran down the centre of the overhead gantry. The gantry was equipped with heavy manually operated chain blocks. The concrete beams and piles were stored alongside the track and lifted into the launching pontoons as required. The initial plan was for these pontoons to be hauled out to the site of operations by a wire rope which ran from a winch on the pile frame.

"This plan was never totally successful, and as the bridge extended it became less so. The wire cut grooves into outcrops of rock projecting from the bottom of the channel and was forever jamming.

"By this time I had progressed to 'general' foreman and as such I inherited the problem and shared it with the engineer. We decided that the job of towing could best be done by some form of tug boat.

"My friend Phil Dinte had a boat about the 20-foot (seven metres) mark powered by a 10 hp diesel. I approached Phil, he took the job and stayed with it until the bridge was finished - towing pontoons and ferrying workmen as required. the 10 hp was a bit light for the job but what it lacked in power Phil made up for it with his knowledge of the winds and tides in the Channel.

"When you consider that the beams themselves were 72 foot 2 inches (about 26 metres) long and were floating in clumsy pontoons, and throw in a few other items like the fact that the tide turns a half an hour earlier at the Toorbul Point end of the bridge, and the vagaries of the wind and waves, it was no small feat of seamanship.

"The engineer in charge of the project, Noel Tedman, was killed with most of his family in a tragic accident a short time after the bridge was completed. I understand that he was on his way to start up a contract of his own. He was a fine person with a lot of energy and a good engineer. He left a lot of friends behind."


Building toward the future of a resort [Ted Clayton remembers]
Near North Coast News, 19 Oct 1983, p. 20.

Bribie Bridge 20th Anniversary, special supplement,
Near North Coast News, 19 Oct 1983, pp. 17-20.