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Sydney Harbour Bridge

Board of Studies NSW

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  2. Building The Bridge
  3. Five million rivets: The timeline
  4. The Design of the Bridge
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The Design of the Bridge

Look and Listen

View the short film clip 'The Design of the Bridge' from Episode 1, 'The Bridge' of the Film Australia series Constructing Australia: Triumphs and tragedies in building a nation. To view the clip go to the following Screen Australia website (Film Australia website) resources for teachers: Scroll down to the 'Video clips' at bottom right of page. Select 'The Design of the Bridge'.

Look at these questions before you view the clip.

Questions for film clip ‘The Design of the Bridge’

  • What features of the bridge's design were unique at the time?
  • What evidence is there that Bradfield was planning for the future in his design?
  • What was used to test the weight-bearing strength of the bridge?

The history of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Investigate

All of the following events are mentioned in the short history of the planning and building of the bridge at the following website: The State Records Office: Archives in Brief 37 – A brief history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Using the information at this site, arrange these events in their correct sequence and provide a date for each (where it is mentioned):

  • JJC Bradfield becomes Chief Engineer at the Department of Public Works
  • Tenders are called for the construction of a cantilever or arch bridge. Twenty tenders received from six countries
  • Joining of two arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at centre
  • Beginning of construction of the Bridge
  • Bradfield travels overseas to investigate tenders for building a bridge
  • Francis Greenway’s letter to The Australian suggesting the idea of a bridge across the harbour
  • Suggestion for building a truss bridge
  • Official Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Dorman, Long & Co. Ltd. of Middlesborough, England wins the contract to build the bridge
  • Passing of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Act No. 28
  • Robert Brindley (naval architect) suggests a floating bridge
  • Peter Henderson (engineer) produces earliest known drawing of a bridge for the harbour
  • Suggestion for building a cantilever bridge

Do you know the difference between a truss, cantilever, suspension and arch bridge?
Find out at: http://www.answers.com/topic/bridge

Look and Listen

(i) View this 2-minute video clip excerpt from Henri Mallard’s 1933 film Sydney’s Harbour Bridge,

Watch the film clip again and answer these questions.

Can you explain the function of each of the following in the Bridge’s construction?

  • milling machine
  • main bearing
  • rivets
  • planing machine
  • creeper crane
  • chords
  • cross girders
  • cables

 

  • What was the weight of each main bearing, each cable?
  • How many rivets were inserted into the Bridge structure during its construction?
  • On what date were the two arches finally joined together?
  • How did Henri Mallard, the filmmaker, capture the drama of the Bridge’s construction?
  • What features of the Bridge did he most admire? What particular words does he choose to express his admiration?

Investigate

The following images are a small selection capturing some events in the history of the Bridge’s construction.

  • Do a web search and find out more information about these images.
  • Organise these images in their correct sequence and match them with their caption.
  • Write a longer caption (about 4–5 lines) for each image describing what is happening and briefly explaining the significance of this event in the history of the Bridge’s construction.

Useful sources for your search include:

Minister for Works turning the first sod
Minister for Works and Railways turning the first sod http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/theme/aib70-2.jpg
The Minister for Works signing the Contract
The Minister for Works and Railways signing the Contract. Digital ID: 12685_a007_00704_872200065r
John Bradfield (centre) with Professor Edgeworth David (right) of Sydney University on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during its construction, 1931
John Bradfield (centre) with Professor Edgeworth David (right) of Sydney University on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during its construction, 1931 (University of Sydney Archives). http://www.usyd.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=1638

One of the approach spans under construction
At last we meet! Sydney Harbour Bridge Photographic Albums 1923-1933, vol 6, State Records NSW http://www.hht.net.au/discover/highlights/bridging_sydney_scrapbook
Passengers on first train across the Bridge
Passengers on first train across the Bridge. Digital ID: 12685_a007_a0074_8723000174r 19/01/1932
One of the approach spans under construction
Junction of single and double line tunnels. Digital ID: 12685_a007_a00704_8722000135r 4/02/1925

Investigate

Vital statistics of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Compile a list of the most important/interesting facts and figures about the Bridge and its construction from your investigations so far. Other useful sites include:

Mastermind Quiz

Working in groups, use these facts and figures and other interesting snippets of Bridge history to design 20 questions for a class quiz. Have the groups test each other on their quiz questions.

Communicate

Use these and other resources you have found in your investigation of the history of the Bridge’s construction between 1926 and 1932 to present your own report on the highlights in this history.

  1. The timeline you constructed in Activity 1 – and other events of interest.
  2. NSW RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority) drawing of the bridge at different stages of construction.
  3. A wide range of visuals and information on the construction of the bridge can be found at:

Choose from the following formats for your presentation:

  • a narrative report with a selection of at least four visuals to illustrate key developments
  • a photo story for publication in Australian Geographic
  • a PowerPoint presentation of no more than 12 slides with accompanying images.

You are an eye-witness news reporter in the harbour on the day when the two arches are joined together.

  • Write or record your on-the-spot report of this significant moment in the history of the Bridge.
    OR
  • Write the newspaper story of this event that would have been published in the next day’s newspaper. (Choose an image to illustrate it).
    In your report you could include one or more of the following:
    • description of the harbour, weather, spectators at the time
    • details of the actual moment when the two arches are joined
    • response of workers, spectators to this moment
    • reflection on the significance of this event for the future.

Selected website resources

(or just google ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge Construction’)

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