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The Construction of the Klang Bridge. The Federated Engineering Company won the contract to build the first road bridge across the river Klang, which was completed in 1908. The engineers in charge of the work were George Russell and James Craig.

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As the official opening of the Klang Bridge takes place on Saturday, some particulars of the new structure may be of interest. Owing to the development of the rubber planting industry in that part of Selangor which lies between the rivers Klang and Selangor, and the consequent increase in the traffic crossing the river where the town of Klang is situated on the southern bank, the Government decided that it was imperative that the river should be bridged. The bridge which has been erected by the Federated Engineering Company, as contractors to the Government is of the Linville type in four spans of 140 ft. carried on five piers; each pier consisting of two iron cylinders at 22 ft. centres, and braced to each other by horizontal and diagonal steel bracing. The river at the point bridged is tidal, is 560 ft. wide, and has a rise and fall of 17 ft. at spring tides and a current of 6 knots. The contractors commenced work on July 27th, 1907, by building a temporary bridge. It was at first intended to erect this on the screw pile principle, but the plan was abandoned owing to the soft nature of the soil, and, instead, solid drawn flanged steel piles, 8 in. in diameter were driven in from shear legs erected on two barges. These piles were furnished with earth plates 10 ft. from the points. Owing to the “spring” in the blue clay, the piles had to be weighted as well as driven. The spans were 25 ft. centres and the piers were connected at the top by hard wood laid longitudinally upon which were placed sleepers. At the positions for cylinders, special outside piles were driven, both up and down stream. Both the piers and the piles at the positions for cylinders were securely braced. The whole of the temporary bridge was built with Tamil and Malay labour and was designed by Mr. G. D. Russell, manager of the Federated Engineering Co.

 Ten cylinders, forming the five piers of the permanent bridge, were supplied and sunk by the contractors. The cylinders below river bed are of mild steel, having a bell mouth 9 ft. in diameter, tapering to 7 ft. 7 ¾ in., the sections being 5 ft. deep. Above river bed, the cylinders are of cast iron 7 ft. 7 ¾ in. in diameter tapering to 6 ft., the sections being 4 ft. deep. The sinking of the cylinders was commenced on Sep. 14th, 1907. The excavation in all cylinders was done on the open system by Chinamen digging the inside and filling cane baskets, which were hoisted to the surface by steam winches. The shore cylinders kept fairly free of water in the blue clay but when sand was reached, at a depth of 60 ft., a large amount of water had to be dealt with, a Pulsometer pump being used to keep the water under control. The south shore cylinders, after passing through 50 ft. of blue clay, 10 ft. of white china clay, 4 ft. of sand and 2 ft. of soft rock, finally reached hard rock bed. After the cutting edges had been packed with Portland cement, the cylinders were filled with concrete hearting. The steam cylinders were taken out along the temporary bridge in sections on trucks and built up on a staging at low water spring tides. 25 ft. of each cylinder was put in at once so that the tops should be above low water mark. The first stream south cylinders sank altogether 12 ft. of their own accord, and, on being pumped out, took a further run of 9 ft. The soils gone through in excavating were similar to those experienced in the south shore cylinders. The first stream south cylinders reached hard rock at 77 and the first stream north at 74. All the cylinders when finished were filled with concrete hearting. Owing to the great depth of water in mid-stream it was considered necessary to assemble 40 ft. of section before sinking the mid-stream cylinders. They reached hard stone at 82 ft. Great difficulty was experienced owing to water in the north shore cylinders after a depth of 60 ft. was reached. Four pulsometer pumps were kept going constantly, and approximately 42 million gallons of water were pumped out before hard bed was reached at a depth of 16 ft. Cylinder sinking was commenced in the middle of September, 1907, and completed in June, 1908. The north and south abutments were built entirely of concrete, reinforced at bottom with steel rails placed horizontally and resting on 125 concrete piles.

 To carry the superstructure, 10 additional pipe piles were driven at each span at 28 ft centres and weighted with pig iron to carry 6 tons safe load each. The superstructure was supplied through the Crown Agents for the Colonies by the Horsebay Co., Ltd., Shropshire, and was erected by the Federated Engineering Company in situ. The Linville girders are 140 ft. long and the total effective span of the bridge is 560 ft. The girders are 22 ft. centre to centre, and 21 ft. 6 in. deep between centres of intersections. The superstructure, which was assembled and riveted in position on the temporary staging, was designed to carry a live load of 150 tons per girder, equal to 1.200 tons on the whole bridge. The total weight of the superstructure is 560 ½ tons. The erection of the superstructure was started at the end of April and completed by the end of July. The whole of the erection and riveting of the superstructure was done by Chinese workmen under European supervision. The roadway on the bridge is 19 ft. clear, and is 8ft. 8in. above high water at spring tides. The north and south approaches to the bridge are 30 ft. wide; the south approach having a gradient of 1 in 30 and the north of 1 in 40.


From the Singapore Press and Mercantile Advertiser 22 May 1929 Page 2 .." photo taken on the occasion of the opening of Belfield Bridge by Sir John Anderson, many years ago. The photo contains, among others H.H. the Sultan of Selangor, Sir John Anderson, Sir. William Taylor, Mr. ( now Sir) Claud Severn, Messrs. H. M. Derby, R. W. Harrison, F.O. Saunders (Whittall and Co.) G. D. Russell (F. E. Co.) C. T. Hammerton, N. Walker, J. S. Mason (D. O. Klang) Conway Belfield ( Resident), Hiedley, Grandgeon, J. Gibson, C. Harley, H Wooten ( Harper and Co.), E. F. Townley (D. O. Kuala Selangor) Irving, Douglas (C.P.O.) Jack Murray and C. E. Spooner.'

The town of Klang wore a carnival aspect on Saturday in honour of the visit of His Excellency Sir John Anderson K.C.M.G.; High Commissioner, F.M.S., to open formally the new bridge across the river. Turning to the right on leaving the station into Main St., a profusion of decoration met the eye of the visitor. The whole length of the street was gay with flags and bunting, evergreens, Chinese silk inscribed rolls, purple, red and yellow favours. The whole street was surmounted by a white canopy and the tout ensemble was a very creditable imitation of Pall Mall on the occasion of a Royal wedding or a jubilee. Turning the corner into Market Street, one arrived at the approach to the bridge. Here two arches had been erected, one conveying a welcome to His Excellency from the Hindu community, and the other expressing similar sentiments on behalf of the India Muhammadan Society of Klang. The latter was adorned with pictures borrowed from the local Tamil theatre. The spot where the opening ceremony was to take place was also lavishly decorated and surmounted by a red awning and the bright garments of the native spectators added to the picturesqueness of the scene. His Excellency the High Commissioner and party, which included Mr. Claud Severn, Private Secretary, Capt. Gay, A.D.C., Col. Nelson, Commanding R.G.A. Major Ford, Army Service Corps and Mr. T.H. Reid of the Straits Times, travelled up by the Seamew. They were met at Port Swettenham by the Resident-General, Sir William Taylor, K.C.M.G., Mr. H.C. Belfield, British Resident, Selangor, Mr. C.E. Spooner, C.M.G., and Mrs. Spooner, who had arrived there by special train. His Excellency was met at Klang station by Mr. J. Scott Mason, D.O., Klang, and Mr. G.D. Russell, and the party proceeded by motor to the bridge. Here a guard of Honour of 50 police was stationed under Mr. W.W. Douglas and a large crowd had assembled, including a detachment of 200 Klang schoolboys. A feature was the large number of Malay ladies present decked out in brilliant attire. His Excellency was met at the bridge by His Highness the Sultan of Selangor, C.M.G. who had previously arrived by motor, and others present were Mr. M.S.H. McArthur, Acting Federal Secretary, Mr. J. Trump, Director of Public Works, F.M.S., Mr. E.R. Stokoe, State Engineer, Selangor, Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Mason, Mr. R.W. Harrison, Mr. H.M. Darby, Dr and Mrs. Gerrard, Mr. and Mrs. L.U. Stafford, Mr. and Mrs. W. Towgood, Mr. J. Gibson, Mr. A. Irving, Mr. E.F. Townley, Mr. C.T. Hamerton and Miss Hamerton, Mr. W.R.G. Hickey, Mr. F.O. Sander, Mr. Sydney Smith, Capt. Douglas of the Waterwitch and many others.

After His Excellency had inspected the Guard of Honour, while the band played sweet music, the inevitable photograph was taken, and an attempt to place garlands round the necks of the distinguished visitors having been frustrated, Mr. H. Conway Belfield addressed His Excellency as follows:- Your Excellency, This is the second occasion within a few weeks on which you have been good enough to come to Selangor to perform an opening ceremony. We all thank you for your presence here to-day which is the hallmark of your approval of a work which was commenced under your direction and will, we hope, meet with your satisfaction. This structure is according to local standards a work of the first magnitude. It is by far the largest road bridge in the Malay Peninsula, and its dimensions are such that I propose to ask your patience for a few moments while I give you some account of the history of its origin and the details of its construction.

 The first talk about a bridge over the river at Klang started about ten years ago at a time when Mr. Douglas Campbell was District Officer at Klang. At that time progress and development on the northern side of the river was comparatively small, and for some years the proposal was negatived. Three years ago, when the rubber industry had attained larger proportions, Your Excellency paid a personal visit to the spot and decided that a pontoon ferry was sufficient. This having been provided the planters set to work to obtain reliable statistics of the traffic across the river, and the dimensions of the traffic indicated by these statistics convinced Your Excellency and the Resident-General that a permanent bridge was necessary. The contract was therefore arranged.

The bridge is of the Linville girder type, and has four spans of 140 feet each, making a total length of 560 feet. The road is 20 feet wide, and the girders are five feet clear above high water level. The weight of the superstructure is 560 tons, or one ton per foot run. The bridge is supported by five pairs of iron cylinders filled with concrete, 522 feet below the river bed, and 204 feet above. The iron weight is 400 tons. The superstructure was sent out from England. The contract provided that the bridge should be completed within 10 months after the arrival of the last span. The last span arrived on June 3rd, and we may say that the bridge has been completed today. Thus the work has been completed 203 days before contract time. The estimate for the bridge, continued Mr. Belfield, was $300,000. The actual cost has been $260,000, so there is a saving of $40,000. This saving has been credited to a variation in the girders, a higher but lighter type having been selected, and also to the fact that no expert engineer has been placed in charge of the bridge-work. I think Your Excellency will be satisfied that the work has been done in a manner careful, efficient and expeditious. I have visited the bridge on many occasions and can offer personal testimony to the perseverance and industry of the contractors’ men and those who supervised them, first of all, Mr. Russell, and then Mr. Craig, who literally lived on the bridge so long as there was a log to sit upon, and had to contend with many unforeseen difficulties in the shape of tide, river traffic, tongkongs etc. It is through his perseverance and energy that the work has been completed so expeditiously and I am sorry he is not with us to-day. The facilities of the bridge, said Mr. Belfield in conclusion, are difficult to sum up in a few words. It brings the estates on the northern side of the river within a fraction of their previous distance from Klang station and town, and I have no doubt they will be spoken to by Mr. Harrison.

Mr. R.W. Harrison said:- Your Excellency. On behalf of the planters of the Kapar and Kuala Selangor districts and the general public of Klang, I thank you for coming to open the bridge. The bridge marks an epoch in the history of Klang, and only those who have had to use sampans and the pontoon ferry with numerous stoppages owing to the breaking of ropes and so on can realise the immense difference which the bridge makes. I believe I am correct in saying that the first step was taken by the planters in 1900, but they did not meet with support from the authorities. Though sundry concessions were made, it was not until August, 1905, that, as the result of a petition, legislation was brought in fixing the charges to be made by sampan-owners, who had previously charged what they liked. Shortly afterwards a pontoon ferry was provided, but this was recognised as being merely a makeshift, and quite inadequate to cope with the growing traffic. Early in 1906 the planters again decided to go into the question and to get statistics. The census taken surpassed all expectations. In ten days the number of foot- passengers was 33,000. Since then the importance of the district on the northern side of the river has greatly increased. In Kuala Selangor 10,000 acres have been placed under cultivation, and the number of immigrant coolies has doubled. The Kapar district last year exported half a million lbs of rubber. If a similar census were taken now, it would prove the foresight of Your Excellency in granting a bridge. In July, 1906, a deputation wanted on Your Excellency, and though it was received most sympathetically, we were in doubt whether our request would be granted. Some months later, however, we heard with gratitude that it had been granted. It gives us great pleasure that Your Excellency should be present at the opening of the bridge. That in so short a time the work should have been completed is marvellous and reflects great credit on all concerned. Mr. Belfield said that a saving of $40,000 had been effected on the bridge. The purpose of the bridge, I take it, is to facilitate transport and the convenience of passengers. I suggest to Your Excellency that, until facilities are provided at Port Swettenham for private sheds, it would be a good thing to pull down those shop-houses over there (on the right approaching the bridge) which, I am told, are, apart from other things, insanitary, and thus allow carts to go direct to the station instead of having to cross the railway twice and pass through the busiest part of town as they do at present. This would benefit Klang and would add the coping-stone to the Klang Bridge.

His Excellency in reply said:- Your Highness, Mr. Belfield, Mr, Harrison, Ladies and Gentlemen, It has given me great pleasure to be present here to-day, and to hear all these nice things said. It is most gratifying for me to be in a position after so short a time to declare this bridge open. The celerity with which it has been completed reflects the greatest credit on Mr. Russell and his assistants. It must be very gratifying to F.M.S. people that the contract was obtained after competition by a local firm and that the burden of the work has fallen on one whom I may term a local product. Mr. Russell and his family have been connected with the F.M.S. for many years. His father is a respected and valued Government servant and has given not one but many sons to the country. It must be very gratifying to Mr. Russell to have carried the work through so quickly and apparently to the entire satisfaction of those who are concerned with the bridge. I thank you again for the reception you have given me.

Before asking His Excellency to declare the bridge open, Mr. G.D. Russell said that they had only carried out the work to the best of their ability. There had been two notable incidents in connection with the work, the first on August 18th when His Excellency visited the bridge and was pleased to express his satisfaction, the second on that day, when His Excellency spoke so well of them. They had received much assistance from the P.W.D., both in men and money, and the latter had helped in many ways. They had also been fortunate in the weather and in local circumstances. The site of the bridge was close to the railway station, and so there was no delay in bringing up materials. He was sorry Mr. Craig was not present to make a better speech than he could. It was above all Mr. Craig to whom credit was due. He had, as Mr. Belfield said, literally lived on the bridge. Mr. Russell then presented His Excellency with a pair of scissors and requested him to cut the red and yellow ribbon who was fastened across the entrance to the main body of the bridge.

Before doing this His Excellency said:- I think that it is desirable that this bridge should receive a suitable name. I think it should be called by the name of one who has worked hard in this country for twenty-five years and who in modesty refrained from telling this morning of his own share in the work. I name this bridge “The Belfield Bridge.” (Applause). His Excellency then cut the ribbon and declared the bridge open. Subsequently His Excellency with Mr. Belfield, H.H. the Sultan, Mr. Spooner and Mr. G.D. Russell drove over in motor cars. An adjournment was then made just in time to avoid a heavy downpour of rain, which fortunately kept off just long enough.

LETTER FROM:-British Resident, Selangor
TO:- The Resident-General F.M.S.

17 September, 1908


Subject Bonus of $5000 to the Contractors of the Klang Bridge in consideration of efficient and Expeditious work
With reference to the recent completion of the bridge over the river at Klang, I have the honour to submit for your consideration copy of a letter from the State Engineer recommending that the Contractors should be paid a bonus of $5,000 from the savings on the vote in consideration of efficient and expeditious work. I also enclose copy of a minute by the Director Of Public Works endorsing that recommendation.

 2. The proposal is one for which no precedent exists, so far as I am aware, and the reasons propounded in support of the recommendation do not appear to me to be strong. At the same time there is no doubt that the Contractors made special and successful efforts in connection with this work, and though I do not find myself able to recommend the payment, I do not propose to offer objection thereto should you be of opinion that their efforts may properly be rewarded in the manner suggested.
3. The fact that a saving on the provision has been effected is not material to the question under consideration, and should not be put forward as an argument in support of the proposal. I have the honour to be,Sir, Your Obedient Servant,

Sd: H.C.B.
British Resident, Selangor
From National Archives of Malaysia (4776/08). Transcribed by P.C


The Acting Federal Secretary, F.M.S.
TO :-The Secretary to Resident, Selangor.

6th October, 1908.

With reference to the Resident’s letter No. 4776/08 of the 17th September, 1908, I am directed to inform you that His Excellency approves the grant of a bonus of $5,000 to the Contractors for the erection of Belfield Bridge at Klang. The No. of the High Commissioner’s office correspondence conveying his approval is 1474/1908. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Obedient Servant,

S. McArthur Ag:
Federal Secretary, F.M.S
Selangor Government Gazette Sept 25 1908 No. 33 Vol. XIX

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