March 19 – Sydney Harbor Bridge

Posted on March 19, 2015

Happy birthday to a bridge?

Sure! Why not?

This arched bridge is iconic and, along with the nearby Sydney Opera House, gains instant recognition among millions of people all over the world as being in Sydney, Australia.

Some people call it “The Coathanger,” because of the arched design, but Sydneysiders generally just call it “The Bridge.”

From the date the bridge was opened on this date in 1932 until 2012, it was the world's widest long-span bridge, and it remains the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge and the Number 1 tallest steel arch bridge in the world.

When you see an arched bridge, do you ever wonder how on earth engineers manage to make it? Here are two things that helped make the Sydney Harbor Bridge:
  • Tunnels were dug on each shore. Steel cables passed through these tunnels and attached to the top portions of each half-arch to stop them from collapsing as they extended outwards towards one another.
  • Creeper cranes” were erected on each side of the bridge. These cranes were fitted with a “cradle” that could lift materials and men into position. Then the cranes would “creep” along the arches as they were built further and further out across the water, slowly closing the gap between.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge was begun in July of 1923. Finally, in August of 1930, the two halves of the arch finally touched each other. The bridge was completed in January of 1932.

You may wonder why the bridge builders waited two months before opening the bridge.

But of course the bridge had to be tested!

On January 19, 1932, the first test train safely crossed the bridge. In February, 96 steam locomotives were positioned end-to-end on the tracks for a load test. 

Eventually, after three weeks of testing, the bridge was declared safe for use, and the work sheds were demolished and the area cleaned up to get ready for the official opening.

You know how opening ceremonies are, right? They're....ceremonious!

Dignitaries were invited, people gave speeches, and there was a lovely ribbon ready for the Labor Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, to cut.

The "some guy in a military uniform"
turned out to be a man named Francis
de Groot.
Presumably he did NOT say, "I am Groot!"
Just before Lang cut the ribbon, though, some guy in a military uniform rode up on a horse and slashed the ribbon with his sword, apparently declaring the bridge open in the name of ordinary people.

The man was arrested, the ribbon was retied, and Premier Lang cut it again—and the bridge was officially open.

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