Roads need re­pair as cars zoom in

The ar­rival of heavy mo­tor lor­ries and demise of horse- drawn trans­port forces the city coun­cil in 1922 to con­crete pot- holed Flin­ders St

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

MO­TOR ve­hi­cles were fast re­plac­ing horse- drawn trans­port, Townsville City Coun­cil con­ceded in 1922 when vot­ing to re­build Flin­ders St with con­crete.

The coun­cil bor­rowed £ 50,000 in Septem­ber 1922 for re­con­struc­tion of 130 chains [ 2.6km] of the street with con­crete as well as bi­tu­men and blue me­tal af­ter the fail­ure of resur­fac­ing in 1916 and ’ 17, blamed in part on fast, mo­torised traf­fic.

Plan­ners al­lowed for fur­ther change by re­serv­ing 10 feet [ 3m] in the cen­tre of the road for gar­den beds, which could be con­verted into a tramway if needed.

De­spite anx­i­ety over the mag­ni­tude of the state gov­ern­ment- guar­an­teed loan, al­der­men gen­er­ally ac­cepted the demise of the city’s equine herd.

Ald R Thompson was among the few dis­senters when the Flin­ders St scheme was dis­cussed in April 1922, ar­gu­ing that the ex­ten­sion of con­crete roads in Syd­ney was be­ing op­posed by cab­bies, “on ac­count of the ef­fect on their horses’ feet’’.

Con­crete might be suit­able in cold coun­tries but not in a trop­i­cal cli­mate, he said.

The coun­cil kept a team of 36 horses at its Rowes Bay sta­bles in 1922.

But the resur­fac­ing was backed by two prom­i­nent cit­i­zens – bar­ris­ter Robert J Dou­glas and for­mer coun­cil chair­man of works Percy Will­mett.

Mr Dou­glas, later a Supreme Court Judge, ar­gued the coun­cil must pre­pare for in­creas­ingly heavy mo­tor traf­fic on Flin­ders St be­tween the post of­fice and rail­way goods shed.

“Within a pe­riod of say the next five years, it can be an­tic­i­pated Townsville will be all mo­tor traf­fic,’’ he wrote in a let­ter to the editor of the Townsville Daily Bul­letin pub­lished in July 1922.

“It would be a great mis­take to find af­ter a few years that the road put down was un­able to with­stand the traf­fic.’’

Num­bers of li­censed mo­tor ve­hi­cles in the city had in­creased from five to 224 be­tween 1910 and 1921. Present­day con­veyances in­cluded 32 mo­tor buses and 31 mo­tor lor­ries.

Heavy mo­tor lor­ries were grad­u­ally dis­plac­ing horse­drawn lor­ries and heavy mo­tor buses had al­ready driven horse buses off the roads.

Mr Will­mett en­dorsed coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to con­crete be­tween the post of­fice and rail­way, based on hav­ing trav- elled on re­cently built con­crete roads in Syd­ney – at Spit Junction and Dou­ble Bay.

“You and ev­ery citizen must ad­mit that Flin­ders St has ... gone from bad to worse un­til at the present time its state on a dry day is de­plorable and on a wet day dis­gust­ing,’’ he wrote to the Bul­letin in a let­ter pub­lished in Au­gust 1922.

“I be­lieve that if tarred me­tal was used in that sec­tion, know­ing its faulty foun­da­tion, it would be a mass of pot­holes in a very short space of time.’’

Re­con­struc­tion was car­ried our grad­u­ally be­tween 1923 and 1926, when the Bul­letin re­ported work was near­ing com­ple­tion on drainage and gar­den plots in the Stan­ley St to Black­wood St sec­tion.


Horse- drawn car­riages and mo­tor ve­hi­cles share Flin­ders St, c. 1920.

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