The Bridge: construction

The Bridge: construction
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Construction began in 1923 and the Sydney Harbour Bridge was completed in January 1932.

The greatest engineering challenge of its day anywhere on Earth, Peter Lalor, author of the book The Bridge says 'Everything associated with the project was without precedent, right down to the rivet sizes. Nobody had used rivets that large. Nobody had used that construction method on a bridge that large. Nobody had used steel pieces that large. So it was putting a man on the moon basically.' 

Excerpt from The Bridge, 2006 - Film Australia Collection © National Film and Sound Archive. Buy a copy at the NFSA shop.

Title Synopsis

Made to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2007, this is the definitive story of how a giant steel arch resembling a coat hanger became one of world's most recognised structures and an engineering triumph.

Massive, majestic and breathtaking, the bridge was the greatest engineering challenge of its day anywhere on earth. Nothing like it had ever been attempted in Australia. It not only altered the life of a city forever, it became a symbol of a bold young nation and a changing world.

And it was certainly visionary. At a time when there were only 30,000 cars and trucks in the entire city, the Bridge could carry 6000 vehicles and 160 trains every hour and all of Sydney's people could  have easily crossed it in a single afternoon. With its graceful arch rising high above the famous harbour, it remained the tallest structure in the city until the late 1960s.

The tale of its construction combines immense practical problems and intense human drama; personal conflicts and political intrigues.

Completed during the dark days of the Great Depression and opened in March 1932, it is the legacy of a fateful partnership between two  very different men—a brilliant engineer, JJC Bradfield and a maverick  politician, Jack Lang—who shared a relentless ambition to create "the people's bridge". Along the way, they managed to stir up more than  one hornets' nest, both at home and in Britain.

Today, it is impossible to imagine Sydney, and Australia, without it, but as the film reveals, the bridge the world has come to love may not only have been utterly different, but may never have been built at all.