Symbol of Sydney
The Harbour Bridge
Irrespective of whether you view ‘The Bridge’ from a plane descending over Sydney or from the bow of a cruise ship passing through ‘the heads’, the enormity of this icon will have a lasting impression on you. For those who reside in Sydney, to either travel across ‘The Bridge’ or merely admire it over the beautiful harbour, the buzz remains.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is regarded as the Greatest Bridge of it’s type in the world.
In 1815 Francis Greenway (an engineer) had a vision of a bridge built to both impress and link the city of Sydney to the North Shore. Greenway wrote, that a bridge would give an idea of strength and magnificence that would reflect credit and glory on the Colony and the Mother country.
His vision fell on deaf ears when he presented it but by 1900 it was evident that a bridge crossing was necessary and so tenders went out for a suitable design. All designs submitted were inappropriate and so the momentum was lost.
After the war in 1923 enthusiasm for a bridge was rekindled.
Credit for persistence to make this project a reality went to J Bradfield who was known as ‘the father of the bridge’. His enthusiasm, engineering qualification and supervision skills made him the perfect candidate to see the project through.
He proposed a cantilever bridge, however, when tenders were submitted it was an arch design by the English firm Dorman Long & co who were awarded the contract.
The tender price was 4, 217,721 pounds.
Greenways vision had came to fruition over 100years later.
The design featured an arch with a span of 503 meters across. This huge span ranks third biggest in the world therefore aptly the name ‘Coat hanger’ was adopted as a fitting description.
The bridge can boast being the worlds largest (not longest) steel arch designed bridge and also largest for it’s load capacity.
The impressive pylons stand 89 meters high on each corner of the bridge and are made up of concrete. Granite was used to face the concrete to enhance the appearance. Many an artist has painted pictures just featuring the pylons and tourists are seen at his point marveling over the design.
Considering that the designs were drawn in 1923 there was much foresight into it’s future use as it has 8 traffic lanes, 2 railroad lines, 1 bus lane and a pedestrian pathway.
More than 16,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
These lanes are approximately 51 meters above the water level.
Construction of the Bridge began on the 28th July, 1923 commencing firstly with the approaches.
Two half arches built from each side of the shore each held back by 128cables anchored underground through U shaped tunnels. After the arches met, steel decking was then hung from the arches taking nine months to position. In 1930 the two arches met.
The steel plates are held together by approximately 6 million rivets, I repeat, 6 million!
52,800 tons of silicon based steel trusses were used in the construction.
The last rivet was driven through on the 21st January, 1932.
Before opening the bridge the load bearing capacity was tested by packing it with railway carriages, trams and buses all in different configurations. Some reports of the test state that 96 steam locomotives were used but either way the test was extensive.
In recent times the 200 steps built to the top of the arch are used for all who want to make the climb to enjoy one of the best if not the best views of Sydney.
The Opening - 19th March, 1932
The opening was a momentous occasion with huge crowds merging on Sydney’s harbour shores. It is estimated that up to one million people witnessed the official opening but not without incident.
The NSW Premier the Hon Jack Lang officially declared the Bridge open. However, Captain Francis De Groot of the para – military group, the New Guard had other intentions for the proceedings. He slashed the ceremonial ribbon with his sword firstly resulting in his arrest. Thereupon, the ribbon was tied together and the proceedings went ahead as scheduled.
An engineering masterpiece was OPEN.
Now the city of Sydney was linked by a majestic bridge to the North Shore, obviating the need to cross by ferry.
Not even the effects of the economic depression could dampen such an occasion.
Decorative floats, marching groups, and bands crossed the Bridge.
One can visualize how festive the day was with a gun-salute, a procession of passenger ships under the Bridge, a ‘venetian’ carnival, a fly-past, fireworks and more.
What a great moment it was for the crowds of people to be able to cross that day. 50 years later in 1982 the bridge was closed to traffic and opened to the public to walk over once again as a second celebration of it's original opening.
My grandmother was 36 years old in 1932 and I recall her once telling me of the ferry crossings. Unfortunately I did not ask her to relate her recall of life in Sydney and the Central Coast (north of Sydney) in those days. The bridge was a mile-stone in this ever developing city but transport to and from this point was far from luxurious.
Every New Years eve no expense is spared to show the world that Sydney has a famous Bridge, by the fireworks displays off it’s arches.
Thank you for reading my brief attempt to highlight this true ICON!