Daniel Evans DSO and Arthur Deakin formed a partnership in 1910, Evans Deakin and Co., with great enthusiasm and little money.
The idea was formed aboard a coastal freighter on which they both worked, enabling them to see first-hand the opportunities opening up in Brisbane as a hub to service Queensland’s fast developing northern regions. Having purchased a successful Brisbane engineering business in 1922, in order to gain valuable workshop facilities, the partnership became a public company in 1924.
Acquisition of a large site at Rocklea adjoining a major railway line in the mid-1920s laid the basis for becoming one of Queensland Railways principal suppliers and repairers of railway rolling stock during the early railway expansion era.
When the railway business abated, growing demand for structural steel provided the company with new opportunities in building and bridge construction. Evans Deakin became the supplier of structural steel for most of Brisbane’s prominent commercial buildings, hospitals, and bridges during the 1930s.
Its greatest achievement during this era was to partner with MR Hornibrook when the Queensland Government decided in 1933 to build a bridge linking Kangaroo Point and Fortitude Valley as a means of alleviating unemployment. Evans Deakin supplied the steel, MR Hornibrook the concrete, and a joint-venture company undertook the construction, thereby bequeathing Brisbane its iconic Story Bridge.
Following the outbreak of WWII, Evans Deakin demonstrated its adaptability by applying engineering excellence to naval ship building. In a three-year period, the company worked on 365 ships of all types, mainly for the Australian and American navies and armies and built 17 Corvettes, more than and faster than anywhere else in the country. The company went on to construct 82 ships in all, the largest being the 37,000 ton Robert Miller tanker launched during the 1974 floods.
In 1980 Evans Deakin made a successful takeover bid for Walkers Ltd of Maryborough, itself a major producer of railway rolling stock, and in 2001 was acquired by the Downer Group in which its engineering and railway activities continue.
The company’s remarkable 90-year history reflected a wonderful partnership of complimentary abilities – Dan Evans, a talented engineer, with a deep interest in military affairs, and Arthur Deakin, in contrast, a pioneering entrepreneur well-endowed with commercial acumen. Together they created the greatest heavy engineering business in Queensland’s history, giving employment and apprenticeship training to many thousands.