Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932) Sydney, Australia
One of Australia’s most well known and photographed landmarks the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (but not the longest) steel arch bridge standing at it highest point 134m (440 ft) above Sydney Harbour. Of steel through arch design it carries rail, motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between Sydney’s central business district and the North Shore. The bridge has a total length of 1,149m (3,770 ft) across a 503m (1,650 ft) main span and five approach spans on either side.
Plans for a bridge to cross the Harbour date back the early 1800’s but it remained just an idea until 1900 when a world wide competition was held for the design and construction of a bridge. Unfortunately, delays caused by an economic downturn, a change of government and later World War I meant that the bridge was not built at that time. It was not until 1922 that New South Wales Legislative Assembly passed an Act authorising the construction of a bridge and world wide tenders were invited for the project.
A general design had been prepared by Dr. JJC Bradfield for the New South Wales Department of Public Works and an English firm Dorman Long & Company were awarded the contract. The first sod was turned in July 1923 and construction took 1,400 men eight years to complete. The bridge was formally opened on 19th March 1932 having cost a total of AU$6.25 million.
Originally nicknamed “Iron Lung” due to its provision of employment for Depression era workers it’s often referred to as “the Coathanger” because of the shape of its arch.
Nowadays the bridge carries eight traffic lanes and two rail lines, one in each direction. At the time of its construction the two eastern lanes were tram tracks but these were converted to road traffic when the Sydney tram system closed in the 1950s.
Since 1998 it has been possible for visitors to climb to the top of the southern side of the arch and this has become one of Sydney’s top tourist attractions.