Titman jogs down memory lane of building Fitzroy Barrage

LOOKING back on the building of the Fitzroy River Barrage, Alan Titman has nothing but happy memories.

A boilermaker on the massive project, the Rockhampton man remembers a "very happy group of workers" who were not averse to a few rounds of cards once they had knocked off for the day.

Costing more than $6 million, the barrage at Splitter's Creek and new water treatment plant were part of Mayor Rex Pilbeam's vision for an abundance of water in Rockhampton's future. While Alan had worked on the construction of a wharf in Tasmania previously, he said nothing had prepared him, or other workmen, for the scale of the barrage project.

Concrete was mixed and poured on site 24 hours a day, with steel laid by cranes in several layers throughout the massive pillars.

To keep the concrete cool, Alan said sprinklers would run for seven days on top of each newly finished pour.

Alan saw the dusty, bare bottom of the river and the rocks, which were cleaned before concrete was poured on top in the early days of construction.

He said the concrete pours were large and could be up to 1.2m thick.

"At one point, we thought we might have had an Australian record for the most amount of concrete poured in one pour, but some mob in Melbourne beat us," Alan said.

To this day, Alan said he was amazed there were no complaints about the enormous amount of noise and dust generated during the project, particularly when the coffer dam was constructed and removed.

"There were huge amounts of noise and we worked 24 hours a day," Alan said. "All those people, particularly on the southern side where Rex Pilbeam lived, we never had one complaint from them to my knowledge.

"Whether old Rex did or not, I don't know, but we were never ever criticised for anything we did in relation to the noise and the dust."

But construction was not without its complications.

As the second coffer dam, on the southern side, was being built, Alan said the river flooded at least twice, which damaged some parts of the temporary structure.

MIGHTY STRUCTURE: During his time as a boilermaker on the project, Alan Titman (pictured above) snapped plenty of pictures as construction of the Fitzroy River Barrage progressed.
MIGHTY STRUCTURE: During his time as a boilermaker on the project, Alan Titman (pictured above) snapped plenty of pictures as construction of the Fitzroy River Barrage progressed. Alan Titman

Once the second coffer dam was finished, there was a "huge leak", which the work crew's pumps could not stop. Alan said a "massive pump" with 600mm diameter outlet, requiring a special power supply, was sourced from Melbourne's APM Paper Mill to find and fix the leak.

"They were a terrific mob of blokes (to work with)," Alan said of his colleagues.

"I'm still friends with quite a few of them now.

"Rex Pilbeam had terrific forethought; I think he's probably remembered for the barrage and the art gallery more than being shot."

Rockhampton City Council minutes show by 1969, Mr Pilbeam was holding meetings at the barrage and inspecting it daily.



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