The Story Behind Brisbane’s Iconic Bridge

story bridge

In a story that has spanned eight decades, Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge has helped shape the way of life of people in Queensland’s River City, particularly those in Kangaroo Point and New Farm.

The idea of constructing the bridge can be traced back to 1925 when the Cross River Commission assigned by the Greater Brisbane Council included the Story Bridge in their recommendation of major public works projects.

Before that, ferries ruled the day.

During the mid-1800s, people used horses and rowboats to ferry people or goods across the river.

In the 1860s, more ferries crossed the river and residents started to ride on steam ferry by the 1880s. The first steam ferry commenced operation between Charlotte Street and Kangaroo Point in 1883.

When the idea of a bridge was first broached, the State Government refused to fund it, finding it too expensive and frivolous.

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Because of sectarian interests, the Story Bridge did not become a reality until after 10 more years.

The new Queensland Labor Government permitted the establishment of a Bridge Board in 1933 to plan a government-constructed toll bridge at Kangaroo Point.

Finally in 1935, the construction of the bridge commenced under consulting engineer Dr John Bradfield.

Dr Bradfield also designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the largest bridge in Australia. Evans Deakin-Hornibrook Constructions, known for their works in bridge building and enterprise, signed for the construction of the bridge.

Design and Construction

Story Bridge during construction of Stage four (Photo credit: State Library of Queensland)

The design of the bridge was inspired by the Jacques Cartier Bridge, a steel truss cantilever bridge crossing the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal Island in Montreal. Mr Bradfield, dubbed as the most likely person to handle the project based on his experience, recommended a steel cantilever bridge.

The construction of Story Bridge took five years, a year longer than what was planned due to shortage in steel. It used 12,000 tonnes of structural steel, 1,650 tonnes of reinforcing steel, 8,200 truck loads of concrete, and 1.5 million rivets.

Majority of the materials were manufactured in Brisbane, except for the steel that came all the way from Newcastle. The contract for the project cost around £1,154,000.

The bridge was considered a massive employment-generating scheme because more than 400 local residents were employed to work on site, office, and in the workshops. There were four deaths during its construction.

Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, Governor of Queensland led the opening of the bridge on 6 July 1940. The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by more than 37,000 people, equivalent to 10-percent of the entire Brisbane population at the time.

Behind the Name

Inspection of works by Bridge Board – Mr Story, Mr Brigden, Dr Bradfield, Mr Kemp and Mr Holt in 1936 (Photo credit: Queensland Government)

The bridge was first referred to as the Central Bridge during construction. Later, it became known as the Brisbane River Bridge, based on the tender documents for the project.

Before it was renamed Story Bridge, it was also known as the Jubilee Bridge for King George V. It was named after John Douglas Story, a public servant and one of the advocates of the bridge.

Story was born in Scotland and migrated to Queensland when he was a child. He worked for the establishment of the University of Queensland and was a government representative on the University senate. He was Under-Secretary for the Department of Education between 1906 and 1920.

A Heritage-Listed Bridge

In October 1992, the bridge became a part of the Queensland Heritage Register because of its significance to the Queensland community, as a symbol of Brisbane and as the largest steel bridge designed, fabricated and constructed in Australia by Australians.

Its association with the life of a particular person, namely its significance as a major work by Queensland contractors Evans, Deakin & Co. Ltd and Hornibrook Constructions Pty Ltd, was also deemed a significant aspect of its heritage listing.



Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Brisbane day climb (Photo credit: Story Bridge Adventure Climb)

Today, the bridge is more than just a vehicle and pedestrian crossing. You can now enjoy the stunning panoramic views from the top by joining the Story Bridge Adventure Climb.

It’s a journey of almost a kilometre up over the bridge’s superstructure with a viewing platform 80-metres above the Brisbane River as it flows past the city heart.

The two-and-a-half hour climbing experience is a unique way to get to know more about the history of the Story Bridge and Brisbane’s transition from a 19th century penal settlement to a 21st century metropolis.  

Story Bridge in the Present

Story Bridge at night, taken January 2019 (Photo credit: Kgbo/Wikimedia Commons)

The bridge has undergone various restoration work most of which involves stripping old paint and cleaning it, scraping and blasting off the old paint and then completely repainting the bridge the same colour.

The five-year restoration of the bridge, currently ongoing, is expected to require more than 33,000 litres of paint, at a cost of around $80 million.

To this day, it remains a vital part of everyday life in Brisbane. Not bad for an 80-year-old.