Monday, 29 September 2014

1964: Opening of the Gladesville Bridge

Photo was taken by the Author.

This year the Gladesville Bridge turns 50, and at this stage looks like it will be celebrated with little fanfare. Those who drive over it know little about its engineering feats at the time which makes it a special bridge. Did you know that at the time of completion, it was the longest concrete arched bridge in the world? The longest span is 305 metres while the length of the bridge itself is 579 metres.

But why was the bridge built? It was built to replace a bridge just 300 metres to the west, which would link what is currently Huntleys Point Road at Huntleys Point with Victoria Place at Drummoyne. The bridge itself opened in 1881.

Source: Star Photo Co., Company. Year Unknown.

It could only carry one lane of traffic in each direction plus a tramway. It had a section that could be swung open to enable taller ships to sail through. By the 1950s there were mechanical problems which would stop the bridge from closing. Add in urban growth and increasing use of the car by the growing populace and there was a problem.

The original Gladesville Bridge struggled to cope with increased traffic movements as this image from 1962 shows.
Source: Department of Main Roads. 1962. Accessed August 19 2014,

Meanwhile, there were plans to build a freeway running west from the Sydney CBD through Gladesville and the North Shore to link what is now the Pacific Motorway (M1) and north-west Sydney (The Castlereagh Freeway which evolved into the current M2 motorway). The bridge itself would form a section of the future freeway like the nearby Tarban Creek bridge which was completed the following year (1965).

Here is how the press covered it all the way back on October 2, 1964, when it was officially opened by Princess Marina. Despite the engineering achievements, it had to compete for attention amongst other news stories at the time. It was reported that 6000 attended the opening before being opened to traffic for peak hour. The Daily Telegraph reported congestion on the bridge and approaches occurring that evening in its paper the following day (October 3).

Source: Anonymous, 1964. "6000 see bridge opened: Ceremony by Marina", The Daily Mirror, October 2: 3. 

The Sydney Morning Herald was the only paper that provided special coverage of the opening. It produced a special supplement focusing on road projects in NSW and focused on the bridge itself. I have decided to share an illustration that they produced of its construction.

Source: Anonymous. 1964. "Much Work On Design." The Sydney Morning Herald, October 2: 14. 

The original Gladesville Bridge no longer remains but two of the spans remain; one each on each side of the Parramatta River.

The span itself
Photo was taken by the Author.

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