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
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.