The Story Bridge was officially opened some 81 years ago on 6 July 1940 and on that day an impressive 37,000 people gathered to witness the ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Queensland Governor, Sir Leslie Wilson.

Little is publicised about the Surveyor’s role in this historic bridge so we investigated through the assistance of historian and ex-surveyor Mr Bill Kitson, to find out how important the surveyor’s role was.

Firstly though some Story Bridge details…..

Story Bridge Construction 2

Story Bridge crew on the last day of construction. (Sourced: John Oxley Library/State Library of Queensland)

The Stats

  • Opened: 6 July 1940 (81 years ago today)

  • Height: 74 metres (243 ft)

  • Rivets: 1.25 Million metal Pins or bolts

  • Workforce: 400 workers (massive numbers in it’s time)

  • Tolled: 1 sixpence (5 cents) until 1947

  • Design: Steel cantilever

  • Total length: 777 metres (2,549 ft)

  • Deaths: 4

Background:

By the 1920s, Brisbane was growing and the Victoria Bridge — the only inner-city crossing at the time, was not able to meet the increase in traffic. In 1932, the Government of Queensland asked John Bradfield to design a new bridge in Brisbane.

John Bradfield was appointed on 15 December 1933 as the consulting engineer to the Bureau of Industry who were in charge of the construction of the bridge. In June 1934 Bradfield’s recommendation of a steel cantilever bridge was approved. The design for the bridge was based heavily on that of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal that was completed in 1930.On 30 April 1935 a consortium of two Queensland companies, Evans Deakin and Hornibrook Constructions, won the tender with a bid of £1,150,000.

Construction

On 24 May 1935 and at the height of the Great Depression, construction on the bridge finally began with the first sod being turned by the then Premier of QueenslandWilliam Forgan Smith.

The bridge has only one pier on the northern bank but two piers on the lower southern bank, one to bear the weight (the main pier) and, further to the south, one to prevent the bridge from twisting (the anchor pier). There was no need for an anchor pier on the northern bank as the bridge was anchored into the schist cliff face which was solid. The primary challenge in constructing the bridge was the southern foundations that went 40 metres (130 ft) below ground level. It was not possible to excavate to that level as water from the level would rapidly seep in. So a pneumatic caisson technique was applied where air pressure was used to keep out water. A dangerous task, so an on-site air lock hospital was set up and it successfully treated 65 cases of the bends that occurred.

On 28 October 1939 the gap between the two sides was closed and the bridge joined.

The bridge under construction, around 1934

The bridge under construction, around 1934

Governor of Queensland Sir Leslie Wilson and consulting engineer Bradfield inspecting the bridge, 7 July 1938

Governor of Queensland Sir Leslie Wilson and consulting engineer Bradfield inspecting the bridge, 7 July 1938

Naming

During design and construction, the bridge was known as the Jubilee Bridge in honour of King George V. On the opening day 6 July 1940, the Governor of Queensland Sir Leslie Orme Wilson named the bridge after John Douglas Story, a senior and influential public servant who had advocated strongly the bridge’s construction.

The Story Bridge 1958 (Source: QAlbum)

The Story Bridge 1958 (Source: QAlbum)

The Story Bridge today under lights

The Story Bridge today under lights

The Story Bridge today in the sunny Brisbane daylight.

The Story Bridge today in the sunny Brisbane daylight.

Part 2: The Story Bridge from a Surveyors Perspective

We know that the survey was conducted by triangulation method

Find out more about the surveyors role on site this Wednesday 14 July 2021.