The Story Bridge

The Story Bridge is considered Brisbane and Queensland’s most iconic structure dominating parts of the CBD, Fortitude Valley, New Farm and Kangaroo Point. It spans Petrie Bight from Kangaroo Point to Fortitude Valley. While not having the worldwide recognition of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, it shares with the ‘coathanger’ the consulting engineer Dr JCC Bradfield. The approach to the bridge at Kangaroo Point and the bridge roadway is called the Bradfield Highway in his honour.

JCC Bradfield’s concept design of the bridge, then known as the Brisbane River Bridge.
The Story Bridge as seen from Captain Burke Park

It is the largest steel cantilever bridge in Australia and now (2018) carries approximately 91,000 vehicles a day. The total length is 1,072 metres with a main span of 281.7 metres. It is 24 metres wide, including footpaths and its summit is 74 metres from the ground. The river clearance at low tide is 35 metres.

Aerial view of the bridge site in 1931.
Concrete pouring during bridge construction 1936.

The bridge was constructed over five years by Brisbane contractors Evans Deakin –Hornibrook. As an employment-generating project in the mid-1930s, its construction significantly boosted the local economy with about 89% of the cost of works expended in Queensland.

Sod turning ceremony 24 May 1935

The first sod was turned on 24 May 1935 by the Hon. W. Forgan Smith, Premier of Queensland. About 400 men were employed in the workshops, construction and on site. Unfortunately four workmen died during construction.

Riggers have great views of the river during construction of the Story Bridge ca. 1938
Bradfield Highway as seen from the top of the bridge during construction, ca 1938

The bridge has had various names, including Brisbane River Bridge, Kangaroo Point Bridge, King George V Silver Jubilee Bridge, King George V Memorial Bridge (after the king’s death) or simply Jubilee Bridge. However, when it was opened on 6 July 1940 by Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, Governor of Queensland it was named Story Bridge in honour of John Douglas Story, the Public Service Commissioner and member of the Bridge Board. It was entered on the Queensland State Heritage Register on 21 October 1992.

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.

The Story Bridge has become one of Brisbane's most widely recognised landmarks. Its illumination, carried out by SEQEB in time for the 1986 Warana festival, reflects its unique status as a symbol of the city.” (State Heritage Register).

Since October 2005 the bridge has become a ‘must do’ for the adventurous and tourists being one of the few bridges in the world providing a bridge climb. Two-hour bridge climbs can be done at dawn, day and twilight and involve climbing 1, 138 steps and walking about a kilometre up over the bridge’s superstructure with a viewing platform 80 metres above the Brisbane River offering 360 degree views over Brisbane, the river and surrounding areas. Since September 2011 a climb up/ abseil down from the pylons into Captain Burke Park option has been available.

In 2014 three-metre high curved safety barriers were erected on the outer edges of the bridge walkway to help prevent suicide attempts. Protective mesh covers the horizontal gap between the roadway and the actual walkway on both sides of the bridge. Lifeline help phone booths have also been erected on footpaths on both sides.

Further reading:

Queensland State Heritage Register

Museum of Brisbane: Building the Story Bridge

Wikipedia: Story Bridge

Commemorative Plaques on the Story Bridge

 There are four plaques on the Story Bridge which commemorate the major events and honour the people involved. Some are showing the effects of weather and exposure. Photos: July 2018, John Gerard.

The Bridge Opening Ceremony

This plaque commemorates the opening of the Story Bridge on 6 July 1940 by Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, Governor of Queensland at the time. It was named after John Douglas Story, a senior public servant who had advocated strongly for the bridge’s construction. The highway from Main Street, Kangaroo Point to Bowen Terrace was named Bradfield Highway in honour of the bridge designer and consulting engineer, J.J.C. Bradfield. The road from Bowen Terrace to Ann Street was named Kemp Place in honour of the chairman of the Story Bridge Board, J.R. Kemp.

The Bridge Builders

This plaque commemorates the builders of the Story Bridge, Evans Deakin-Hornibrook Constructions Pty Ltd; the directors D.E.Evans, M.R. Hornibrook, A.J. Deakin, R. Clark and W.S Hurwood; and the construction engineers.

The Administrative Authority

This plaque commemorates the Bridge Board in charge of the Story Bridge construction project under the chairmanship of J.R. Kemp and board members including J.D. Story after whom the bridge was named. It also honours J.J.C. Bradfield, the designer and consulting engineer and J. A. Holt, supervising engineer.

The Workers

This plaque acknowledges the contribution of the Queensland workmen who built the bridge. The first sod was turned on 24 May 1935 by the Premier, W. Forgan Smith. Unfortunately four workers died during construction. The bridge was opened 0n 6 July 1940.