History of Story Bridge in 60 Seconds

Photo of Alice Duffield
7 August 2017

A monstrous mass of steel, Brisbane’s Story Bridge is perhaps the most imposing of the city’s 16 river crossings. The 777m long structure reaches from the dramatic Kangaroo Point cliffs to the vibrant Fortitude Valley precinct on the edge of the central business district.

The bridge was designed in 1934 by Brisbane-born Dr John Bradfield, who was well known for his role as the chief engineer on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bradfield’s inspiration for the Story Bridge came from further afield however, drawing heavily from the design and functionality of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal, Canada. Bradfield’s incorporates a cantilevered section of more than 282m, making it the longest cantilevered bridge in the country.

Over 12,000 tonnes of steel were used in the construction, with most of the frames and trusses fabricated in a Rocklea workshop more than 10km further out of town. Large sections of the bridge were erected at the workshop to ensure each piece fit perfectly, before being dismantled again for transportation.

At the busiest period, over 400 men were employed in the bridge’s construction. Those working on the foundations worked in modified deep sea diver suits, as they were sunk more than 30 meters under the river’s surface.

There was little room for error, as the men worked on the bridge from each side – hoping to meet exactly in the middle. It all came together on 28 October 1939 and, according to the more poetic reports of the day, a rainbow formed in the sky as the final panel was locked into place.

A toll booth was established on one side to recuperate construction costs, at a fee equivalent to five cents per vehicle. This tolls were lifted much earlier than authorities expected, largely thanks to the increased traffic from United States army troops during World War Two (the city was the Allied Forces’ headquarters for the South West Pacific campaign).

The only reason you’d have to pay to cross the bridge these days is if you undertook a Story Bridge Climb. Popular with locals and visitors, this high altitude experience will certainly get your heart racing and is the most dramatic vantage point from which to view the city skyline.

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