The Jacques-Cartier Bridge, Montreal, upon which the design of the Story Bridge was based
Brisbane's Story Bridge, erected between 1935-40, was built as part of the Queensland State Government's employment-generating schemes during the 1930s depression. It is rare as it is the largest steel bridge designed, fabricated and constructed in Australia by Australians. The Story Bridge's other claim to fame lies in the poor bedrock of Brisbane. Unlike Sydney, which is built on sandstone, Brisbane basically lies on sand. In order to construct the Story Bridge it was necessary to dig down 40.2 m to establish a firm foundation. This means that the bridge can boast one of the deepest foundations in the world.
As early as January 1926 the construction of a bridge at Kangaroo Point had been mooted. Due to sectarian interests and prohibitive costs, however, the council chose instead to erect the Grey Street Bridge in 1929-32. In 1933 the new Queensland Labor Government gave the go-ahead for a government-constructed toll bridge at Kangaroo Point. This steel and concrete cantilevered bridge was constructed between 1935 and 1940 by contractors Evans Deakin-Hornibrook for the Queensland Government.
Dr. JCC Bradfield, designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was appointed consulting engineer in 1934. Although modelled on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in Montreal, completed in 1930, Bradfield believed it very important that the grey steel elevation of the bridge harmonised with Brisbane's natural skyline. It was to be the largest span metal truss bridge in Australia, and a landmark in the Brisbane townscape, and has become a symbol of Brisbane. Bradfield used his design for the bridge approaches for the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the model for the Story Bridge's approaches. From below, the approach spans of the two bridges appear to be identical to all but the trained eye.
The Story Bridge remains the largest steel bridge designed and built mostly by Australians from Australian materials. Approximately 95 per cent of the materials used were of Australian manufacture, and 89 per cent of the cost of works was expended in Queensland. All the steelwork, approximately 12,000 tonnes, was fabricated at the Rocklea workshop of Evans, Deakin & Co. Ltd. One truss of each type of approach span, and all joints of the main bridge, were assembled at the workshop then dismantled before removal, ensuring there were no difficulties in erecting the steelwork on site. The concrete work and erection of the superstructure was carried out on site by the MR Hornibrook organisation.
Construction of the bridge commenced in May 1935. The bridge was constructed simultaneously from both ends, with the main piers erected first. Excavations for the southern pier necessitated men working in watertight airlock chambers within steel caissons up to 40 metres below ground level. This was the deepest airlock work done in Australia at the time. The approach spans were erected by a hammer-head crane operating along a runway. Then the anchor-cantilever trusses were erected in five stages using a 40 tonne derrick crane running on a temporary track on the bridge deck. Finally the bridge was closed using a system of wedge devices inserted in the top and bottom chords of each truss at the ends of the suspended span.
From mid-1935 to 1940 the bridge was known as the Jubilee Bridge, honouring George V, but when opened on 6th July 1940 it was named after JD Story, the Public Service Commissioner and a member of the Bridge Board. Although an engineering success, the bridge was regarded initially as a white elephant, the toll being unpopular and the traffic demand negligible. Not until the arrival of American troops in 1942 was the Story Bridge fully utilised. Nevertheless, the final cost of £1.6 million was recuperated within seven years, and in 1947 the bridge was transferred to the Brisbane City Council and the toll was removed.
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