Interesting facts about the Sydney Harbour Bridge

sydney harbour bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of Australia‘s most well known and photographed landmarks.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge, also affectionately known as the ‘Coathanger’, was opened on March 19th 1932 by Premier Jack Lang, after eight years of construction.

Under the direction of Dr John Bradfield of the NSW Department of Public Works, the bridge was designed and built by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough.

The bridge’s design was influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City.

It is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134 meters (440 feet) from top to water level.


Its total length including approach spans is 1,149 meters and its arch span is 503 meters.

It was also the world’s widest long-span bridge, at 48.8 meters (160 ft) wide, until construction of the new Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver was completed in 2012.

It now carries eight vehicle lanes, two train lines, a footway and a cycleway.

The total steelwork weighs 52,800 tonnes, including 39,000 tonnes in the arch.


The arch can rise or fall as much as 18 centimeters (7 inches) due to heating and cooling.

At each end of the arch stands a pair of 89 meters (292 feet) high concrete pylons, faced with granite.

The granite face of the four 89 meter (292 feet)  high pylons of the bridge used around 17,000 cubic meters (247,202 cubic feet) of granite blocks quarried near the historic town of Moruya and transported to Sydney 300 kilometers north using ships specially built for such purpose.

sydney harbour bridge pylons

Sydney Harbour Bridge was constructed with approximately 6 million steel rivets. An estimated 272,000 liters (72,000 gallons) of paint were used to paint the bridge.

One of the most interesting facts about the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the reason behind the gray color of the paint. When it came time to paint the bridge after construction, the quantity of paint needed could only be found in the color gray.

sydney harbour bridge abstract

In February 1932 the Bridge was test loaded using up to 96 steam locomotives placed in various configurations.

It took 1,400 men eight years to build the bridge at a cost of 4.2 million dollars and 16 lives lost.

As many as 800 families living in its path were displaced without compensation.

Retired cavalry officer, Francis De Groot somehow worked his way into the honour guard at the Bridge opening. Just as the ribbon was about to be cut, he galloped forward on his horse and slashed it with his sword, declaring the Bridge open in the name of ‘the decent citizens of New South Wales’. After retying the ribbon as best they could, the ceremony continued. De Groot was carried off to a mental hospital, declared insane and later fined for the cost of the ribbon.

sydney harbour bridge opening

The official opening day on Saturday 19 March 1932 was a momentous occasion, drawing remarkable crowds (estimated between 300,000 and one million people) to the city and around the harbour foreshores.

In 1982 the bridge celebrated the 50th anniversary of its opening. For the first time since its opening in 1932, the bridge was closed to vehicles, and pedestrians were allowed full access for the day.

In June 1976, the one-billionth vehicle crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The first 500 million crossings took over 33 years while the second 500 million took less than 11 years.

In the early years, 11,000 cars traveled over the Bridge each day. Now more than 160,000 cross it every day.

sydney harbour bridge cars

The toll fee for a car used to be 6 pence. Today the fee for a car is $3.00.

One of the ongoing tourist attractions of the bridge has been the south-east pylon, which is accessed via the pedestrian walkway across the bridge, and then a climb to the top of the pylon of about 200 steps. The views from the top pylon are awesome.

sydney harbour bridge view

In 1950s and 1960s there were occasional newspaper reports of climbers who had made illegal arch traversals of the bridge, invariably by night. In 1973 Philippe Petit walked across a wire between the two pylons at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.Since 1998, BridgeClimb has made it possible for tourists to legally climb the southern half of the bridge.

During the Sydney 2000 Olympics in September and October 2000, the bridge was adorned with the Olympic Rings. It was included in the Olympic torch’s route to the Olympic stadium.

In 2005 Mark Webber drove a Williams-BMW Formula One car across the bridge.

Sydney Harbour bridge is famous for its extravagant fire works on New Years and other special occasions. People all around the world watch them live or on screen.