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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 6

I Construction During The Settlement Years

II The Use Of Timber As A Structural Material

III Structural Steel

IV Concrete Technology

V Housing

VI Industrialised Pre-cast Concrete Housing

VII Ports And Harbours

VIII Roads

IX Heavy Foundations

X Bridges

XI Sewerage

XII Water Engineering

XIII Railways

XIV Major Buildings

XV Airports

XVI Thermal Power Stations

XVII Materials Handling

XVIII Oil Industry

XIX The Snowy Mountains Scheme

XX The Sydney Opera House

XXI The Sydney Harbour Bridge

XXII Hamersley Iron

XXIII North West Shelf

Sources and References


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Roads (continued)

The Colony's second major road was built in 1794, linking Parramatta with the junction of South Creek and the Hawkesbury River, near the town of Windsor. Like Parramatta, Windsor had previously been settled by boat, but this time via Broken Bay rather than Port Jackson. This second road was important, as the land at Windsor on the river flats was the only fertile land discovered in the famine-ridden Colony and soon became Sydney's principal source of food. It was to maintain that position, at least until the Blue Mountains were crossed by road some nineteen years later.

A major problem facing the settlement of Sydney was that it was surrounded by vast sandstone ramparts and escarpments, interspersed with forbidding chasms and ravines. Thus all possible roads out of the region presented major road-making difficulties and all but the southern coastal route required a crossing of the Hawkesbury or one of its tributaries. The European practice of securing a shallow grade by following river valleys proved untenable. Often ridges and spurs, rather than valleys had to be used. The situation led one commentator of the time to describe the settlement as an 'island'. The problem proved to be widespread, as in much of the continent the surface geology was that of a plateau with eroded river valleys, which worked against roads following the rivers. On the other hand the need for water frequently resulted in major routes in the arid open plains closely following rivers and water courses.

In this context, the conquest of the previously impenetrable Blue Mountains was rendered essential by a severe drought in 1812, which had emphasised the Colony's lack of accessible, fertile land. A 330 km route through the mountains to the current town of Bathurst was established in 1813 by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson and surveyed by Evans in the same year. A farmer, magistrate and ex-captain and paymaster of the N.S.W. Corps, the fifty year old William Cox, was commissioned by Governor Macquarie to construct 160 km of the road from Emu Plains to the Bathurst Region. It was built by thirty convicts and eight guards over six months, beginning in July 1814, to a minimum width of 3.7 m to permit easy passing of carts, with a 6 m cleared width for major passing manoeuvres. Its main drawback was that one section at Mt. York had a grade of 1 in 4. Except for this area, by-passed by Major Mitchell in 1832, much of the route remains today as the Great Western Highway. Governor Macquarie and his wife made the initial journey over the road in April 1815, travelling with carriage and bullock cart.

Although an earlier track went from Prospect via Cowpastures Road to Macarthur's 1805 property at Camden, the first major road from Sydney towards the south was a 12 km link opened in 1814 between Parramatta and Liverpool, which Macquarie had established in 1810. The present Hume Highway follows the more direct route from Ashfield to Cabramatta, (which was established soon afterwards) and then uses the southern portion of this first road south. The line of the next southerly extension to Goulburn was due to Major Mitchell in 1830.

After arriving in 1810, the forty eight year old Governor Lachlan Macquarie recognised the need for good roads and wrote to his masters in London, requesting financial aid on the grounds that: 'permanent roads throughout this wide extended Colony cannot be constructed at the entire expense of the inhabitants for many years to come'.

In an ominous portent for the future, the Colonial Secretary replied: 'permanent roads and bridges will be the offspring rather than the cause of material prosperity'.

People in Bright Sparcs - Blaxland, Gregory; Cox, William; Ingles, Prof. O. G.; Lawson, William; Lay, M. G.; Mitchell, Major T. L.; Wentworth, W. C.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 345 - 346, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher