The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world's largest (but not longest) steel arch bridge, and, in its beautiful harbour location, has become a renowned international symbol of Australia. A brief history follows:-

Sydney Harbour Bridge & its Construction
The contractors, under Director of Construction, Lawrence Ennis, set up two workshops at Milsons Point on the North Shore. Here, the steel (79% imported from England, 21% from Australian sources) was fabricated into girders etc.

The foundations for the four main bearings, which carry the full weight of the main span were dug to a depth of 12.2 metres and filled with special reinforced high-grade concrete laid in hexagonal formations.

 

The four impressive, decorative 89 metre high pylons are made of concrete, faced with granite, quarried near Moruya, where about 250 Australian, Scottish and Italian stonemasons and their families lived in a temporary settlement. Three ships were specifically built to carry the 18,000 cubic metres of cut, dressed and numbered granite blocks, 300km north to Sydney.

 

After the approach spans were erected, work began on the main arch. Two half-arches were built out progressively from each shore, each held back by 128 cables anchored underground through U-shaped tunnels. Steel members were fabricated in the workshops, placed onto barges, towed into position on the harbour and lifted up by two 580 tonne electrically operated creeper cranes, which erected the half-arches before them as they travelled forward.

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Joining of the Arches
There was great excitement on 20 August 1930 after the arch was successfully joined at 10pm the night before. The steel decking was then hung from the arch and was all in place within nine months, being built from the centre outwards to save time moving the cranes.

As the project neared completion, the last of approximately six million Australian made rivets were driven through the deck on 21 January 1932. In February 1932 the Bridge was test loaded using up to 96 steam locomotives placed in various configurations.

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Opening Celebrations
The official opening day on Saturday 19 March 1932 was a momentous occasion, drawing remarkable crowds (estimated between 300,000 and one million people) to the city and around the harbour foreshores. The NSW Premier, the Hon. John T. Lang, officially declared the Bridge open. However, the Premier enlivened proceedings when Captain Francis De Groot of the para-military group, the New Guard, slashed the ribbon prematurely with his sword, prior to the official cutting. The captain was arrested, the ribbon was tied together, and the ceremony went ahead.

The opening celebrations included a vast cavalcade of decorated floats, marching groups and bands proceeding through the city streets and across the deck in a pageant of surprising size and quality, considering the economic depression.

The celebrations continued with a gun-salute, a procession of passenger ships under the Bridge, a 'venetian' carnival, a fly-past, fireworks, sports carnivals and exhibitions. After the pageant the public was allowed to walk across the deck…an event not repeated until the 50th anniversary of the Bridge in 1982.

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© 2003 Pylon Lookout™ (www.pylonlookout.com.au)