The Coathanger. The Iron Lung. The Cathedral of Steel. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a beloved symbol of Sydney to thousands of visitors, and to more than 4 million Sydneysiders who call the Harbour City home.
On the eve of celebrating its 84th birthday, we list five great reasons why this world-class feat of engineering is held dear in the hearts of many, as much today as it was on 19 March 1932 when it opened to the public.
1. IT’S A VISION(ARY)
The majestic beauty of the Bridge’s visual design is undeniable. More so, the Bridge is considered one of the most important contributions to Sydney’s transport system to date – it has been in use for over 84years as is the catalyst for connecting the north and south sides of the Harbour.
Chief Engineer JJC Bradfield’s crowning career achievement, it is the fifth longest steel arch span in the world today. Bradfield travelled across Great Britain, Europe and the United States to investigate the latest engineering technologies and eventually became inspired by Hell’s Gate Bridge in New York, US. The pioneering approach led by Bradfield and his team to design and construct a Bridge with 6 lanes of traffic (now 8), a railway, two tramlines (now none), a cycleway and a pedestrian walkway in a city that was only 1.2m people large at the time is truly remarkable.
2. IT’LL STEEL YOUR HEART
Comprised of over 550,000 individual pieces of steel, the Bridge weighs approximately 52,000 tonnes. That’s the equivalent of 7 Eiffel Towers, or 153 Boeing 747s, or 19,260 Asian elephants!
The steel for the Bridge was sourced from BHP in Newcastle, NSW and also Dormon Long & Co from Middlesbrough, England.
3. IT’S AUSTRALIAN MADE
From 1926–1932, anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 Sydneysiders worked on the construction of the Bridge.
During the Great Depression, the Workers didn’t enjoy the same level of safety that we experience today. There were no safety rails, nets or even helmets. Even in these dangerous conditions, Workers’ were not deterred from the opportunity to be part of the construction of the Bridge so they could earn an income to enable them to provide meals and shelter for their families during this challenging period in Australia’s history.
4. IT’S RIVETING
Although welding had been invented back in 1830s, the process was still in its infancy until 1934 (two years after the Bridge opened).
The Bridge is held together by 5-6 million rivets – a short metal pin, or bolt – making it literally the largest riveted steel structures in the world. The total weight of all the rivets is estimated to be around 3,200 tonnes – that’s the same as 17 Blue Whales!
5. IT’LL STAND BY YOU
During construction, Bradfield load tested the strength of the Bridge with 96 steam locomotives that were brought down to Milson’s Point from Hornsby, a suburb on the Upper North Shore of Sydney.
Measurements were taken over 3 weeks during the testing – and the Bridge passed with flying colours!
FIND OUT MORE
If you’re interested in learning more about the construction and history of one of Sydney’s most recognisable landmarks, you can climb to the top with one of our interesting, entertaining an knowledgeable Climb Leaders. Find out more about the Climb here.