First published in The Age on October 16, 1923
AT JOHNSTON-STREET BRIDGE
Yarra Falls Mill Flooded.
Householders Remove Furniture.
Bathing in the Streets.
Whirling and eddying, bearing upon its broad bosom branches of trees, pickets broken from fences, sawn logs and other debris, the turbulent, muddy Yarra, after passing through the wide open reaches at Fairfield and East Kew, became a roaring, rushing torrent as it entered the more restricted confines between the high, precipitous cliffs at Studley Park. Approaching the Johnston-street-bridge the rising waters on Saturday began to encroach upon the premises of the Yarra Falls Shinning Mills. Yesterday, as the stream rose higher and higher, the mills were subjected to a severe flooding, in spite of the strenuous work of a number of willing helpers who endeavoured to minimise the damage done by the inrushing water by pumping it from the lower portion of the buildings. Other workers energetically occupied themselves in removing goods to a place safety.
Residents in six adjacent two-story houses were placed in an unenviable plight. On Saturday, after the occupants had been forewarned by the police, furniture had to be hastily removed, lighter articles being transferred to the higher stories. Further along the river other householders met with similar misfortune. Fortunately, not many houses are situated within reach of the flood waters. A good stretch of the eastern bank is ripe park land, while the western bank is mainly occupied by factories. Wallen road, Hawthorn, received a large intake of water, which flowed into Morang road. Yesterday the water in this road rose still higher and householders suffered severely. A barrier was erected, closing the road to all traffic. Mr. G. A. Gibbs secretary of the Metropolitan Board of Works, stated yesterday that an embankment placed at this point to prevent the flooding of the main Hawthorn drain had proved ineffective, owing to the unprecedented nature of the flood.
Yesterday the extraordinary spectacle of men and boys bathing in the street waters in swimming costumes was witnessed.
The house of Mr A. Burn, at the Studley Park boat sheds, was partially inundated. Articles of furniture were removed to a marquee erected higher up the bank.
Those who were rendered temporarily homeless in this manner or suffered in a minor degree from the flood bore their misfortunes in a philosophical spirit. Many had experienced floods before, but never one of such dimensions.
From Johnston-street bridge to Victoria-street-bridge the river at every point, where the nature of its banks permitted it to do so, spread itself out into wide expanses of water - many time wider than its original width. The Abbotsford Convent gardens were inundated, and resulting damage was caused. Further down the Collins-bridge was rendered useless. The bridge itself remained intact, but the waters had cut off the Studley Park approach to the bridge. Near this point several small trees were completely submerged. At Victoria-street-bridge only the top branches of bigger trees remained above the surface of the waters. Several telegraph poles were also almost entirely submerged. At this point a number of Chinese market gardens presented a devastated aspect. The waters that had nourished their soil and mode them productive over many years had spread ruin and desolation over their areas.
Between Victoria-street-bridge and Hawthorn-bridge many factories on the western banks suffered severely, and hundreds of pounds' worth of damage was caused. Higher up the Phoenix biscuit factory was almost entirely cut off by the overflowing waters.
Throughout yesterday crowds of sightseers converged from all directions to vantage points along the Yarra to witness the effect of the unprecedented flood. They were afforded a picturesque if somewhat awe-inspiring spectacle at the Johnson-street bridge, where it is estimated the waters rose considerably higher than the 1916 flood. At the Victoria-street-bridge, Hawthorn-bridge and other bridges along the Yarra enormous crowds collected during the afternoon. The high cliffs at Studley Park and at Burnley were also utilised by thousands of persons to obtain good views of the spectacle.
New Church-street Bridge.
Damaged by the Waters.
Serious damage was inflicted on the now bridge over the Yarra which is in course of erection at the bottom of Church-street. Several portions of the wooden superstructure, which being yet uncompleted was not strong enough to withstand the tremendous pressure of the rushing water, were broken off and swept downstream. The earth embankments at the bridge on either side of the river were also severely damaged. The temporary bridge, a short distance downstream, received a tremendous buffeting, the river rising almost to the level of the footway. Fearful that a large portion of the partially erected bridge higher up should break away at the one time and sweep down on the temporary bridge, threatening its collapse under the strain, two policemen were stationed at this point last night and nobody was allowed to loiter on the temporary bridges. The waters at this point were practically level with the banks last night, and if the river continues to rise today several adjacent streets must inevitably be flooded.
GLEN FLATS' INUNDATED.
Hawthorn Householder's Experience.
One of the most picturesque flood scenes was that presented below the heights of Heyington and Toorak, where Gardiner's Creek joins forces with the Yarra. A sharp bend in the course of the Yarra just below the junction of the two streams causes a banking up of flood waters, and for this reason the low-lying lands on the Hawthorn and Burnley side of the Yarra are quickly submerged in times of heavy flood. On this occasion the flood waters have formed a lake extending from Heyington to Kooyong, and northwards across to the Burnley horticultural gardens. The water has completely covered all fences in the locality, and the course of the river and Gardiner's Creek can be distinguished only by the rows of tall trees along their banks. The force of the water as it is turned by the steep embankments of Heyington is very great, and boatmen dare not venture into the seething lake in this neighbourhood.
On the eastern side of this sheet of water stands the new Scotch College. The main college buildings were above the flood level last evening, but the sports oval was partly submerged, and the college boat shed was under water up the roof. A short distance away, at the end of Hambleton-street, are a number of war-service homes, built by the State Savings Bank. The flood waters were splashing in the yard of one of these properties, while its owner was busily removing his fowls to a place of safety. "This block of land for sale," was the notice protruding from the water which completely covered an adjacent space. On the next block some new timber floated about. It was all that was left of a load which had been placed on the dry allotment the day before the flood came, in readiness for the builders who were to begin the erection of another house. People who visited the place yesterday commented on the absurdity of building homes on such low ground near a river, and condemned the authorities, State and municipal, who were responsible for the building of the homes.
An unpleasant experience befell Mr, J. Saunders, proprietor of the Hawthorn Glen Tea Gardens and boat sheds, whose property stands at the end of Hambleton-street. On Saturday he saw that the river was rising dangerously, so he removed his piano to a neighbour's home, and packed his furniture on trestle tables in his own house. Before the day wee out he had to obtain a boat to take his wife away. Yesterday the water was half way up the walls of his house.
O'Shannassy Aqueduct Damaged
Numerous Landslides Occur.
SUPPLY FROM THIS SOURCE CUT OFF.
The heavy- fall of rain over the watersheds of the Metropolitan Water Supply has replenished the storage in the Yan Yean reservoir, but it has done considerable damage, especially to the O'Shannassy aqueduct, where there has been a number of landslides. As a consequence of the continual rainfall upon an area which was a:ready in a very good running off condition due to the previous rains and also to the presence of heavy snow on the mountains of the O'Shannassy watershed, some unusual flooding has taken place. No damage has occurred to the works in the Maroondalt and Ian Yean reservations, where the results have been very beneficial.
Up till 9 a.m. on Sunday the depth of the Yan Yean reservoir had increased one foot. The maximum intake was on Friday, when it reached 88,266,000 gallons. At present the water is flowing in at a rate of about 66,000,000 gallons per day. This will be maintained for several days, and will then gradually drop off.
The chief engineer of water supply (Mr. Ritchie) stated yesterday afternoon that he had heard of sixteen landslides along the course of the O'Shannassy aqueduct, and there had probably been more, of these eight had broken into sections of the concrete lining. He was unable to say what extent of work would be necessary to effect repairs, nor how long the supply in the aqueduct would be cut off, but he was hopeful that in a few days the supply would be restored by the carrying out of temporary repairs, such as placing liming between the broken sections.
Apart from the cost of repairs, which cannot be estimated at present, there is no occasion for apprehension regarding the stoppage of the supply of water, as steps have been taken to curtail the supply usually drawn from that source. Water is being made available from Yan Yean, and the chief disability in that regard is that it will make a big demand on the Yan Yean supply which was being conserved for the summer.
The landslides were almost wholly confined to the aqueduct, and Mr. Ritchie points out that the areas affected were those where there have been extensive denudations of the forest. In all the areas where the forest cover has been maintained the damage is of a trifling nature. These occurrences, both of landslides and flooding, he says, afford additional evidence, if such were needed, of the folly of denuding watersheds and mountain streams of the protective fewest coveting. The damage caused by the landslides extends from Launching Place to Warburton.
One of the slides was so extensive that it will be necessary to construct a detour section of the aqueduct for about 850 feet around where the slide has taken place. It will also be necessary to provide an emergency section through the middle of the slide. The majority of the slides do not extend more than 30 or 40 feet. There is at least a width of 200 ft. of the hillside moving with a possibility of further damage being done to the aqueduct.
Several gangs of men have been sent out and with the cessation of the rain it is hoped the movements of the slides will modify. Mr. Ritchie expresses appreciation of the prompt assistance given by Mr. T. B. Molomby, general superintendent of transportation of the Railways department in providing special trucks to convey pipes to Warburton early on Sunday morning.
Referring to the tributaries of the Yarra. Mr. Ritchie says that he has never seen them in such a flooded condition. Traffic on the main Warburton and Woods Point road has been completely blocked. The chief obstruction has been caused by the Woori Yallock Creek, which was several chains in width. On Friday it was impossible for motor traffic, but on Saturday was only a foot deep.
Earth Fall at Belgrave.
Narrow Gauge Line Divided.
GEMBROOK TRAFFIC SUSPENDED.
Amongst the railway properties in different parts of the country affected by washaways and landslides following the exceptionally heavy rainfall is the Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook line, where traffic has been suspended on account of two classes of railroad interruption???washaways of track embankment into the guile below and falls of earth from the hills above on to the railway line. The most serious of these blockages occurred between Belgrave and Selby stations, near the acute turn in the narrow gauge line at the "horseshoe" bridge. Here an embankment and the bottom of a scrub-covered hill came down on the railroad in a heavy mass of rain-sodden soil, reinforced against speedy clearage by a tangle of long trees, old stumps, ferns and bits of fencing wire. At this spot the line was buried in about 6O tons of material for about a train's length to a depth ranging approximately from 6 to 18 feet. On the north side of the line is the hill from which the slide came, and on the south side is an almost- equally steep slope down to the gully, which, swelled by the heavy rain, is now a noisy and rapidly flowing stream. A few yards beyond is the bridge by which the railway takes at sweep round to cross at right angles the gully with which it runs parallel at the scene of the hill-slide.
Throughout Saturday Water was continuing to come down the hill to take short cuts across the railway line to the gully on the other side. At the spot where the main blockade occurred the work of the railway repair gangs was being hampered by an apparently continuous stream of surplus rain water, which collected on the rail way line to the height of the ballast truck and united the fallen embankment into one complete mass of oozing soil. To add to the workers' difficulties, it was necessary to do much timber cutting and tree baulk before the men with the spades and shovels could make appreciable impression on the obstruction across the line. Two minor disturbances of railway track took piece on the Gembrook side of Belgrave. In addition, on the Fern Tree Gully side, the track embankment fell into the gully just outside Belgrave, while on the Melbourne side of Upwey station an embankment had to be prevented from falling on to the railway track by means of a barricade planks. This incident was responsible Friday night and Saturday morning for complete interruption of the narrow gang passenger service from Upper Fern Tree Gully. Subsequently, however, temporary repairs permitted a service as far as Belgrave, beyond which the line was effectively blocked as regards through traffic to Gembrook and Emerald. The railway repair gangs, with officials of the ways and works branch, were present on the scene on Friday, when first signs of the trouble were in evidence. Since then work has been carried on throughout the week end.
Inquiries at Belgrave on Saturday showed that the last train to make the complete trip was on Friday morning. lt was stated that subsequently, during the incessant rain, gangers bad noticed signs of trouble. Throughout Friday the rain to quote local residents, "fell in inches," over three inches being recorded locally for the period. The rain water was crossing the railway line tromp the hills en route for the gully "in a sheet of water." It was cutting through the soft red soil and trickling down the sides of embankments where the substance was of stone formation. Assembling in long and quickly-deepening pools on the railway track, the water was then cutting its way down the slope to the gully. In this way the south side of the railway embankment on the Fern Tree Gully side of Belgrave fell into the creek, while reports from farther up the line showed that at places the earth was falling on to the line. The gangers, it was stated had already removed a quantity of earth from the spot near "horseshoe" bridge, and had got their ballast train over the spot on the Melbourne side of Belgrave when the fall away into the gully had occurred. On the Fern Tree Gully side of Upwey earth was also coming down from above on to the railway line. Meanwhile the heavy rain was continuing and water was making progress with its soil-loosening activities. Then came, the most serious of the series of landslips, the fall at the "horseshoe" bridge.
Passengers by the evening train on Friday found progress blocked at Fern Tree Gully as a result of the block at Upwey. In pouring rain the rest of their journey had to be made by road in motor car or horse vehicle. On Saturday morning passengers wishing to book for narrow-gauge stations were informed that progress beyond Fern Tree Gully was extremely improbable. About lunch time, however, came the information that they might succeed in getting through to Belgrave, and in the afternoon the less serious interruptions had been repaired sufficiently to permit of the train???three-quarters of an hour late???getting through as far as Belgrave. Further progress, in view of the main obstruction, was out of the question. So passengers philosophically set out up the line on foot.
Three-quarters of a mile beyond Belgrave station was the parting of the railway embankment, while the hill side was a short distance further on. Fortunately for the workers, there was hardly any rain on Saturday afternoon and evening. The extent of the blockage was the subject of much curiosity amongst the walking passengers, many of whom stood amidst the mud for over an hour watching the efforts of the men. The water and mud had extended until it seemed to be gradually surrounding the trucks into which the surplus mud was being thrown. Gangs of men were chopping and sawing at the fallen trees, which had to be drawn away with the aid of ropes. Every few moments digging would be impeded by contact with the stump of some old tree which for years had stood on the hillside above. Uprooted ferns of considerable girth were also a source some of delay in the clearing operations. The trees which had been brought down with the earth slide included gums and mucks. One low-lying piece of embankment on the south side of the line stood as a sort of peninsula between the natural gully below and the artificial quagmire formed by the blockage on the line, through which water was continuing to flow throughout Saturday. Difficulty was experienced by the workers in securing a foothold firm enough for their work. Planks had to be brought up and arranged as improvised platforms. Some of the long trees up-rooted were used in this way.
A suggestion was made for the continuance of work throughout Saturday night, but the question of sufficient lighting arrangements arose and it was decided not to work a night shift, but to resume operations early on Sunday. The repairs at Upwey permitted the night up and down trains to run between Fern Tree Gully and Belgrave on Saturday.
First published in The Age on October 16, 1923