Sydney Harbour Bridge Facts

On this page I describe Sydney Harbour Bridge facts.

This includes details, characteristics and circumstances that surrounded the development of this much loved icon.

I discuss key identities involved in the Bridges construction and opening, building and measurement facts and figures, as well as information and trivia relating to the Bridge after it was opened.

For a start, did you know that the Bridge is affectionately known as the 'Coat Hanger'!

The foundation plaque of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Prominent Figures in Construction and Development

Francis Greenway was shipped as a convict from England to Sydney in 1812 for forgery. He was the first to propose building a bridge to span the Harbour.

Greenway became the first prominent architect of Sydney. His works include Hyde Park Barracks, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Cadman’s Cottage, Macquarie Lighthouse at Watsons Bay and the Supreme Court.[1][2]

The engineering company that was employed to construct the Bridge was Dorman, Long and Co.[3]

The opening of the Bridge on Saturday, 19 March 1932, was a huge event for the city. In a controversial statement the ribbon was first cut by the sword of Captain Francis De Groot, protesting that the bridge should be opened by a member of the royal family.[4]

Some of the 6 million rivets of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
After the excitement had passed the ribbon was retied and the NSW Premier John Lang cut the ribbon again and officially opened the Bridge.[5]

The southern approach is built on Dawes Point. It was named after Lieutenant William Dawes, who was an officer of marines, scientist and administrator, and who volunteered to sail with the First Fleet. He was appointed to construct the settlement’s first observatory at Dawes Point.[6]

The northern approach is built on Milsons Point. It was named after James Milson, who arrived in Sydney in 1804. He originally worked as a keeper of Government House. He then leased the land around Milsons Point in 1822 and ran a successful dairy farm.[7]

Construction - Sydney Harbour Bridge Facts and Figures


An average of 14,000 people were continuously employed to construct the bridge between 1924 and 1932.[8]

For many Sydney inhabitants, the construction project was an 'iron lung' that offered employment. Bridge workers were the highest paid employees across all industries at the time.

Supports under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
To facilitate the need for steelworks, Milsons Point Railway Station was demolished. The steelworks in turn were demolished to make way for Luna Park.[9]

The constructed of the Bridge began simultaneously at both Dawes Point and Milsons Point, and was joined in the middle eight years later. [10]

To test the load capacity of the Bridge, 96 steam locomotives were positioned over the carriageway in various configurations.[11]

16 people lost their lives during construction of the Bridge.

Measurement Facts about the Bridge


The Bridge measures 1.15km when including both approaches.[12]

Initially the Bridge was painted three times. This used 272,000 litres of paint.[13]

The Bridge is held together by approximately 6 million rivets that add 3,200 tonnes to the weight.[14]

The Bridge pylons are 86.87 metres tall.[15]

134 metres is the distance from sea level to the top of the arch.[15]

Large bolts connecting the metal frame to the concrete supports of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
15,291m3 of granite was used for the facing of the piers and pylons.[16]

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the worlds widest span bridge, and the worlds tallest steel span bridge. It is the worlds fifth longest steel arch bridge.

Other Interesting Sydney Harbour Bridge Facts


An interesting Sydney fact is that at least 60-70% of the original Rocks area was demolished due to the Bridge construction, and government efforts to clean up the area, which was rife with disease and crime.

The construction of the Bridges northern and southern approaches saw around 800 families’ homes demolished without compensation from the government.[17]

When the Bridge opened, an average of 11,000 vehicles crossed it each day. Today the bridge carries 20 times more traffic.[18]

View from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Bradford Park
A year after the Bridge opened the Government proposed that barriers should be erected to make the pedestrian pathways suicide proof.[19]

During World War 2 there were two unconfirmed reports of planes flying underneath the carriageway and one confirmed report:[20]

  • American pilots supposedly flew Kittyhawks in February and May 1942
  • Three Dutch pilots were reported to have flown NEI-AF's in formation in May 1942
  • Flight Lieutenant Peter Isaacson flew an Australian Lancaster Bomber under the Bridge for fund raising purposes for the war effort

The Bridge Climb tourism company began operating in 1998. It has become an incredibly popular tourist attraction with tours leaving every ten minutes.

Bridge Climb tourists have included world famous people; Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark, Matt Damon, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Ferguson, Cathy Freeman, Kylie Minogue and Kostya Tszyu all having done the climb.[21]

The Queensland State Flag is flown from the top of the Bridge for a time if the Queensland Rugby League team wins the State of Origin competition that year.

References

1. Wikipedia. "Francis Greenway". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Greenway. Retrieved April 27 2011

2, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21. Australian Government. 'Sydney Harbour Bridge". http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/sydney-harbour-bridge. Retrieved April 27 2011.

3, 6 - 10, 14 - 16, 18, 19. R Billington. (1999). The Bridge. Peribo Pty Limited.

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