Designed by Percy Allan, the bridge at Swan Hill was the first of its type, with a lift span and Allan Truss timber spans. The contract was let to the Farquharsons in 1895. They ordered the metal components from a Melbourne firm and all the timber from Wyong sawmills was shipped through Melbourne and sent from there by rail. The firm had just completed the Tocumwal Bridge and was able to use the same plant, but the major saving was the new design that halved the cost of both labour and materials with
the more economical design of lift, the substitution of timber for iron side spans, and the securing of foundations for the two river piers at Swan Hill at a lesser depth than at Tocumwal.13
Farquharsons built the Union Bridge at Albury in 1898 and the Cobram Bridge in 1902. The firm took just over twelve months to complete the Howlong Bridge in 1908 with the Dare Truss, ‘the latest type used by the PWD, with top chords and braces of Ironbark, the lower chords steel and the suspension rods wrought iron’.14
It was no accident that the bridge between Barham and Koondrook was the exception to Farquharsons’ Murray River full set of bridges. The very experienced Farquharsons’ bid of £12,000 was the second lowest of the six tenders submitted, making Monash & Anderson’s winning bid of £10,345 seem more risky than competitive, hinting at either desperation or determination to break the older firm’s dominance. Unlike the Farquharson brothers, John Monash and JT Noble Anderson were both graduate engineers. The firm had successfully completed the timber truss Tambo Bridge at Bruthen, Victoria in 1899, but their completion date of 30 April 1904 for the Murray bridge was overrun.
Their problems compounded, with difficulties in keeping a workforce together following prolonged delays in delivery of the 170 tonnes of ironwork ordered from Ballarat’s Eureka Ironworks. The subsequent loss on the contract might have been the reason Monash never tendered for bridge building again, though this was more likely due to the financial collapse of the business after other bridge losses, most dramatically the collapse of their Monier bridge at Bendigo and Anderson’s departure for New Zealand. John Monash went on to make his fortune with the firm’s possession of the Monier patent for reinforced concrete, and then had a distinguished military career. William Farquharson remained a bridge builder to the last. He died in 1925, aged 85 in the midst of building the new Allan Truss bridge over Goobang Creek that replaced Condobolin’s 1880 Bennett Truss bridge. His bridge was replaced in 2008, just short of the long lifespan of its builder.15