Bradfield's Bridge

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early Bridge competitions

Sydney Harbour Bridge Advisory Board
Report on designs and tenders submitted in connection with the proposed bridge over Sydney Harbour to connect Sydney with North Sydney / Sydney Harbour Bridge Advisory Board. Sydney: Government Printer, 1904.

Throughout the 19th century, there were numerous plans put forward to build a bridge across Sydney Harbour, but the first major step towards the realisation of the project came with the holding of a competition in 1900. The conditions set called for a single-span road and rail bridge with headroom of not less than 55 metres above high water for 183 metres of the span, though material and form was left open. The resulting entries, which were all anonymous, included a parabolic truss bridge, a three-hinged arched bridge, several suspension bridges, a combined arch and suspension bridge, and a balanced cantilever bridge with suspended span. All were rejected.

In 1901, the conditions were re-issued in a far more detailed form, specifying such aspects as the gradients, arrangement and character of deck, the foundations, and the material to be used. This time, the firms which submitted designs were named. They included among others William Arrol & Company, the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, and the Australian firms of Gilbert Weaver and J. Stewart & Company which submitted some six proposals.

Report on designs 1904

With no clear winner, three companies were invited to submit further designs: William Arrol, the E. & C. Bridge Company, and J. Stewart and Company. Finally one of Norman Selfe's designs for Stewart of a continuous, latticed-truss bridge was selected. Stewart's also submitted ten alternative methods of making the foundations, including a freezing process which had never before been used for bridge foundations, though it had been used to sink mine shafts. Unfortunately, the Government fell just before this lengthy report with its recommendations appeared, and the incoming government rejected the whole project.

This report covers the whole history of this early competition and most of the entries are illustrated. The serious contenders of 1902 and 1903 are discussed in some detail, along with the reasons given for their unsuitability. Both sets of conditions are included, and there are minutes of evidence taken from naval personnel and from some of the engineers involved. The final design of J. Stewart & Company is illustrated in full.

Lithographs for the Proposed Sydney Harbour Bridge.                                       
[Sydney: Government Printer, 1901].

Lithograph for proposed bridge 1901


These are the plans to accompany the conditions and specifications for the Sydney Harbour Bridge competition, as revised in 1901.

New South Wales. Department of Public Works.
Conditions of tendering, departmental specification and general conditions for the proposed Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Sydney: Government Printer, 1901.

Conditions of tendering 1901

Gift of K. N. E. Bradfield.

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