A view of the main bearing and arch ribs shows the two sides of the cantilever arches almost meeting. The bottom chord of one of the bridge panels is erected, weighing 61 tonnes. The panel is lifted by crane and a worker can be seen standing on it. Workmen rivet a chord joint. The panel is lifted. Summary by Poppy De Souza.
Filmed around 1930, just before the arches came together, this clip shows glimpses of the workmen on the massive structure of the bridge. The famous ‘coathanger’ has taken shape and construction is well past the halfway point.
A comprehensive pictorial record that chronicles the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge between 1925 and 1931, filmed by the Paramount Film Service, Sydney.
This extraordinary survey of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, easily one of the country’s greatest engineering feats, reveals the sheer scale and enormity of the project. Aside from Commonwealth sponsored productions of the Bridge construction, it is probably the only comprehensive moving image record of the project as a whole. Certainly it is the longest running, at over 100 minutes in length.
Filmed over a six-year period, it covers the preliminary work and excavations of the site, the construction of retaining walls and abutments at the approaching ends of Dawes and Milson’s Points, the slow building and positioning of the steel arches, and the finishing touches such as laying the road and rail tracks.
Many people were employed on the project – not just the workers on the bridge, but steel workers, stonemasons and engineers. Important sections of this film document the associated steelworks, granite quarry and stone dockyards that supplied the building materials to the Bridge itself. The first fifty minutes of footage covers the years 1927-1929 and mostly details the excavations and the building of abutments and support beams. The selected clips come from the last half of the film and cover the later years, 1929-1931, when the major part of the bridge span was under construction and beginning to take its shape. The camera work is executed from various angles and filmed from both fixed and moving positions at different points along the bridge. There are also aerial shots that survey the Bridge in the context of the harbour and surrounding cityscape, and progressive views of the bridge at various points in its construction.
Historical records not only provide an image of the times, but a comparison with the present. For example the workers on the bridge who climb dexterously along its narrow beams high above the waters below, wear almost no safety equipment and seem to defy both gravity and chance as they carry out their work. It is astonishing to think that only a handful of the workers perished during the Bridge’s construction given these conditions. A short section of this film also shows workmen doggedly battling rough seas in an unfriendly harbour!
The bridge was completed in 1931 and was, according to this documentary, ‘one of the greatest British engineering feats dominating the skyline’ in the British Empire. But while it may have been a great achievement for the British engineers and for the British Empire, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was undoubtedly Australia’s own. The National Film and Sound Archive holds a number of film prints of Construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge deposited from various private and public sources. The Paramount Film Service also filmed a newsreel special of the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.
Notes by Poppy De Souza.
This clip shows construction of one of the last panels in the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in mid-1930. It opens with a panning shot of the two cantilevered half-arches, showing how close they are to being joined. Next, a piece of the bottom curve of the arch, the 'bottom chord’, is lifted from a barge and placed in position. A sequence of a riveting team at work follows. The clip closes with a shot of one of the creeper cranes on top of the arch lifting a section of the bottom chord. Four intertitles describe the action shown on screen and supply the technical terms.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
This footage is silent, interspersed with intertitles. It shows the joining together of two sides of the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A view of the main bearing and arch ribs shows the two sides of the cantilever arches almost meeting.
Intertitle Erection of bottom chord 13th panel. Weight of piece 61 tons.
Intertitle The panel is lifted by crane and a worker can be seen standing on it. A boat passes under.
Intertitle Outer end of bottom chord 13th panel.
Intertitle Riveting a chord joint and holding up by a pneumatic dolly.
intertitle Lifting bottom chord section 13th panel.