There would be hardly any traveller who leaves Sydney without taking a picture in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge is not only a tourist hotspot, it’s equally important to the Sydneysiders as it is the national icon and a respective landmark of Australia.
Knowing some Sydney Harbour Bridge facts could be fascinating especially when it carries loads of interesting stories.
So further wasting time, let’s begin our countdown of the top 29 Sydney Harbour Bridge facts that will surprise you.
1. Sydney Harbour Bridge is about to be 100 years old
There is a popular question “how old is the Sydney Harbour Bridge?” The accurate answer is that the Sydney Harbour Bridge is 90 years old and it will celebrate its centennial in 2032.
Though the construction of the bridge began in July 1923, it took eight years to complete. Finally, in March 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened its door to the public.
So according to its opening date, the Sydney Harbour Bridge will celebrate its centennial in 2032 with a big party.
2. It has a local nickname
Though the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the most popular landmarks in the world and the bridge is most appreciated for its majestic arch, the Sydney residents give it a silly name the “Coat Hanger“.
Yes, it’s true, due to its distinctive curving shape, the local nickname of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is Coat Hanger. Not only that, you will find many souvenir shops in Sydney that are selling actual coat hangers in the shape of this bridge.
So you can actually take the most famous Sydney attraction to your home. Just kidding!
3. The largest steel arch bridge in the world
The Sydney Harbour Bridge has the title of being the largest steel arch bridge in the world. With 134 metres of high towering arch clocks and 503 metres of long spans, it is the most massive bridge that the world has ever seen.
Though the Sydney Harbour Bridge is not the longest bridge in the world, it has no comparison in size. The bridge has two train lines, eight vehicle lanes, a footway, and a cycleway.
4. It took 8 years to complete with 1,400 workers
As the bridge is massive, it clearly took time and effort to build. 1,400 people have worked in the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for eight years. And then the bridge has taken the present shape.
These 1,400 workers were involved in the different sections of the construction work such as architect, engineer, carpenter, boilermaker, rivets, crane drive, and many more. And not all of them belonged to Australia, some of them came from Italy, Scotland, Ireland, and America.
It took 53,000 tonnes of steel and 6 million hand-driven rivets to complete the whole bridge. And to paint the bridge, workers used 272,000 litres of paint.
5. 6 million rivets were used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge
A rivet is a metal pin that is used to join two pieces of leather or metal together. And to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge 6 million rivets were used.
And the total weight of these 6 million rivets was 3,200 tonnes, where the largest rivet was 395 millimetres long and 3.5 kilograms in weight.
The interesting fact is each of these rivets was manually driven for constructing the bridge. And these were Australian-made rivets.
6. It cost 1.5 billion Australian dollars to build
The bridge proposal was quite ambitious and expensive during that time. And many of you are concerned that “how much did the Sydney Harbour Bridge cost?”
The answer is not that easy because it was recorded to be £4,238,839. But it’s not the final amount, there are other expenses like building approaches, interest, land resumptions, etc.
If you count it in today’s money, the Sydney Harbour Bridge cost nearly 1.5 billion Australian dollars to build. And the amount didn’t pay in one day. It took 56 years to fully pay for the bridge since it was open to the public. In 1988, the bridge had cleared its debt fully.
7. 16 workers lost lives during the bridge’s construction
Building a bridge over the Harbour is not only an expensive project but quite risky for those who worked here. When you’re working about 90 metres above the water, accidents could happen at any time.
In 1923, the technology was not so advanced, so the workers of the bridge didn’t get any safety barriers, harnesses, or protective equipment, and the steel was slippery too. For all these reasons sixteen people lost their lives during the construction of the bridge.
Furthermore, many workers had suffered from long-term health issues due to working in constant noise without ear protection.
8. 79% of the steel was imported from the other side of the world
For the construction work of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dorman Long Co. & Ltd was hired to provide steel. And they imported the steel from their mills in England which means the steel was flown halfway around the world to come to Australia.
79% of the steel came from England to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the rest was provided locally in New South Wales. 52,800 tonnes of steel were used for the construction work of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
9. Controversy about the designer of the bridge
There was a conflict between the two designers- Dr JJC Bradfield and Ralph Freeman. Dr JJC Bradfield who was the chief engineer of the project initially made the design and concept of the bridge. Later on, Ralph Freeman was hired by Dorman Long Co. & Ltd for making the detailed design of the bridge. He made the final design.
Now the conflict is that both designers had a bitter rivalry. So it was hard to mention one name as the bridge designer.
In the present day, Dr JJC Bradfield and Ralph Freeman both are mentioned as the designers of the bridge in the official plaque.
10. The arch of the bridge can change its height
It’s really an interesting fact about the Sydney Harbour Bridge that the arch of the bridge can actually change its height depending on weather and temperature.
Yeah, it’s like magic! The 134-metre high above sea level towering arch rises or falls up to 18 centimetres. Actually, the bridge expands or contracts when the weather is too hot or too cold.
11. The materials measurements of the bridge
Undoubtedly the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an expensive project and building this massive structure, required an extraordinary amount of raw materials. Let’s quickly check out what are the materials and the measurements needed to build this bridge.
- Steel – 52,800 tonnes
- Rock – 122,000 cubic meters
- Concrete – 95,000 cubic meters
- Rivets – 6,000,000
- Granite – 17,000 cubic meters
- Paint – 272,000 litres
12. “The Iron Lung” used to be another nickname for it
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was built when Australia was suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. Unemployment and economic problems were everywhere in the country.
During such a time, for the construction of the bridge, 1,400 people were hired. And these workers got employment opportunities to support their families during hard times.
That is why the bridge was named “The Iron Lung” for being one of the largest employment projects in the country in 1923.
13. You can have 360-degree views from the summit
Sydney Harbour Bridge is popular for its mesmerising vista which you can enjoy from the top of the bridge. Thousands of visitors come here each year only to visit the 360-degree views from the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It will not only give you the views of the Sydney skyline but the vistas stretching as far as Blue Mountain.
14. It takes 1,332 steps to reach the top
Yes, the beauty of the bridge’s summit has no match, but to get the view you have to pass 1,332 steps which are equivalent to 504 calories. The arch’s height is 134 metres above sea level which is really high and takes 1,332 steps to reach the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
But still, visitors of all generations come here to enjoy the vista of the bridge. Here you can see visitors as young as eight and as old as 100 climbing up to the bridge.
15. It’s the most climbed bridge in the world
Since 1998, when the BridgeClimb opened its door to the public, around 4 million local and foreign visitors have climbed up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and making it the most climbed bridge in the world.
You can also follow in the footsteps of these visitors and enjoy the spectacular beauty from the top. But make sure you have enough strength to step up 1,332 steps.
16. A surviving story
During the construction work, many accidents happened and it was, unfortunately, a common affair. Nearly 16 workers lost their lives during the construction. But there is also a surviving story.
A man named Vincent Kelly was a worker on the bridge. In October 1930, he suddenly slipped and fell nearly 55 metres down to the harbour.
But fortunately, he managed to somersault and land in the water feet first. Not only that he also managed to swim back to safety. But in this accident, he had to deal with some broken ribs.
For surviving the great danger, he was awarded a gold-plated metal by the Dorman Long and Co. and a watch by the Minister of Public Works.
17. The bridge is constantly being painted
To keep the fresh look of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it needs to be painted every five years. But do you know why it is constantly being painted?
To apply the paint on the bridge, it takes a team of 100 people and 2 robots. And the bridge is so massive that when the painting work has finished, it is time to start the process again. That’s why the bridge gets painted continuously.
18. A special paint uses to paint the bridge
For one coat, Sydney Harbour Bridge needs 30,000 litres of paint. And guess what, it is not the normal steel-looking paint. The colour, that is used, is a special one and this paint is only made for Sydney Harbour Bridge painting. Even the paint has a registered trademark and is known by the name of Sydney Harbour Bridge Gray. And of course, it is not available for sale to the public.
19. The bridge has “sisters”
There are two bridges that are similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can also say two sisters of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
One is the Hell’s Gate Bridge in New York and the other one is the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle, England. Both bridges have the same coat hanger design.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is inspired by the design of the Hell’s Gate Bridge in New York.
20. A museum in the southeast pylon of Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge has four towering pylons at each corner which are beautifully decorated to give an elegant look to the bridge. In short, the pylons have no other purpose except to enhance the style of the bridge’s appearance.
The southeast pylon of the bridge contains a museum which showcases interesting facts and history about the Sydney Harbour Bridge and much other necessary information about the bridge. Not only that, you can even watch rare video footage at the museum which was shot in the early years of construction.
To get to the museum you have to climb the 200 steps of the BridgeClimb. If you cannot make to climb to the summit of the bridge, still you can enjoy the Pylon Lookout as an alternative.
21. People get engaged and married here
Have you ever imagined getting married at the height of 134 metres above sea level? Nothing could be more memorable than the experience of getting engaged or married at the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Right?
Well, after the marriage of the first couple, Stephen Tierney and Claire Tullan in June 2008 at the top of the arch, Sydney Harbour Bridge has become a romantic hotspot.
The mesmerising view of the Sydney skyline could be your marriage background if you choose the bridge as a venue for your marriage. In 2018, a gay couple also celebrated their marriage down from the top of the arch.
22. Nearly 160,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day
The bridge has great importance not only to the Sydney residents but to outsiders as well. That’s why when the bridge first opened for transportation, about 10,900 vehicles crossed the bridge on a regular basis.
With time, the number has grown exponentially and at present, more than 160,000 vehicles use the bridge each day. According to this number, in a year nearly 43,000 million vehicles cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel.
23. The toll fee is $2.50 to $4.00 per vehicle and there is no cash booth
In the 1930s when the bridge first opened, the toll fee was only 6 pence for a vehicle and 3 pence for a horse. But in the course of time, the cost has increased and now it charges $2.50 to $4.00. The amount varies depending on peak or non-peak hours.
Remember you have to pay the fees electronically and you’ll not find any cash booths there.
24. The annual maintenance budget of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is $20 million
Maintaining the massive bridge is not easy and at the same time, it’s expensive. The Austrian government has fixed an annual budget of $20 million for the maintenance of the bridge. The expense of the bridge includes
- Salary of over 100 people who are hired to take care of the bridge each day
- Painting of the bridge every five years
- Replacing the road surface every 15 years
- Replacing the flags every 4 to 6 months
25. Meet Blinky Bill at the highest part of the bridge
You might be thinking who is Blinky Bill and why does it live at the highest part of the bridge, right? Though the “Blinky Bill” name is cute and truly it lives at 141 metres above sea level, it is actually a flashing air navigation light which has 700 watts of volts.
And it’s quite dangerous for normal people. That’s why two expert electricians change these red-blinking lights every two months.
The light was first installed in 1949 and it cost 600 US Dollars. Each of these bulbs lasts for 1,000 hours.
26. You would see three flags on top of it
Yes, it’s true, there are only two flagpoles at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, holding the flags of Australia and New South Wales. But in 2022, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet declared that there will be a third flagpole, carrying the flag of Aboriginal.
Before this declaration, the Aboriginal flag used to take the place of the New South Wales flag for 19 days a year. Now, the Aboriginal flag will be installed permanently to recognize the Aboriginal population in NSW.
27. Climbing and walking are the most popular activities here
After opening the BridgeClimb, climbing is the must-do activity on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Though it is quite challenging to reach the summit which takes 1,332 steps and if you’re faint-hearted you surely should not try this as the height is 134 metres above sea level.
But if you make to climb up the bridge, you can enjoy a stunning vista of the Sydney Opera House, the North Shore, the Central Business District, and even the Blue Mountain. You need to give some fees for climbing the bridge.
And if you’re in shortage of money and want to do free activities in Sydney, walking through the eastern side of the bridge can be a great way to enjoy the view of the Harbour, the Opera House, the city, Circular Quay, and Kirribilli.
28. Grand Opening Celebration
In March 1932, Sydney Harbour Bridge opened to the public and the opening celebration was epic. Nothing could match the excitement of this celebration. There were fireworks, a gun salute, a range of exhibitions, a sports carnival, and so many more. The whole of Australia celebrated the opening ceremony.
29. Sydney’s New Year fireworks display on the bridge
There is no argument about Sydney’s New Year fireworks, it’s undoubtedly the best New Year fireworks in the world. And of course, this New Year fireworks displays on the Sydney Harbour Bridge which is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Sydney. The whole bridge area is illuminated with the light of these fireworks. Sometimes it also falls down into the water and creates a dazzling waterfall effect.
These are the top 29 Sydney Harbour Bridge facts, hope you like them. And if you’re willing to read more interesting blogs like this, stay with us. I humbly thank you for your valuable time and request you to share your opinion.