Fracture Analysis of King's Bridge, Melbourne

by Ronald B. Madison, (M.ASCE), Chicago Sales Ofc., Bethlehem Steel Corp., Chicago, IL; formerly, Res. Instr., Fritz Engrg. Lab., Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem, PA,
George R. Irwin, Prof. of Mech.; Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem, PA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Structural Division, 1971, Vol. 97, Issue 9, Pg. 2229-2244

Document Type: Journal Paper


The fracture of the King's Bridge at Melbourne (1963) is of special interest because the responsible prior cracks were carefully photographed and the failure load can be estimated. With the aid of fracture mechanics and structural analysis, the critical crack size and failure load are compared with fracture toughness data for a steel regarded as comparable in toughness to that used in the Melbourne bridge. The results imply that rapid crack propagation developed when the tensile force on the crack was increased to a value intermediate between the crack propagation resistances expected for rapid (impact) and for slow loading. Structural redundancy of the Melbourne bridge allowed the bridge to provide continued service for 12 months after one of the four supporting girders suffered a major fracture. It is suggested that analysis of expected crack sizes and fracture toughness can be used to estimate the degree of fracture fail-safe behavior potentially present in steel bridges.

Subject Headings: Steel bridges | Failure loads | Failure analysis | Toughness | Girder bridges | Cracking | Bridge tests | Bridge failures | Australia | Victoria (Australia)

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