April 25, 2020

Sydney Harbour Bridges: The Glebe Island Bridge

When I first arrived in Sydney as a 20-y-o in the early ‘80s, my work immediately required me to drive all across the city, day and night. Coming from quiet and orderly Adelaide, I often joked that I needed to learn how to drive all over again. The road system and culture was a whole other experience.

Present-day Anzac Bridge under construction c.1993. Traffic over old Glebe Island Bridge can be seen right of frame (Newscorp)

Today, out of choice as much as economics, I drive much less and it is very interesting to revisit locations I recall from 30 years ago and see how they are vastly changed. I’m sure older Sydney natives will notice this even more than I.

Present-day Anzac Bridge showing disused Glebe Island Bridge (Airview via Dictionary of Sydney)

One road I used to dread, was driving out of the CBD across the Glebe Island bridge. There always seemed to be a jam which was exacerbated enormously if the cantilever had to swing for someone’s yacht that was six inches too tall.

Now that the vastly overengineered Anzac Bridge has replaced the old swing Allan truss road bridge in 1995, the poor old thing lies with its electrically operated span permanently agape like some prostrate beast slain and left to rot.



The southern (Pyrmont) roadway. April 2020. (Roderick Eime)

I recently threw caution to the wind and walked out on the old southern roadway for a closer look. All access is closed, of course, so a bit of youthful ‘gibbonry’ was required to scale the rusty cyclone fencing. It was sad to see weeds sprouting up through cracks in the roadway and the old wooden gates, paint peeling, dangling from rusted hinges.

Inauguration plaque (Roderick Eime)
The plaque, installed during the bridge construction in 1903 reads:

“THIS BRIDGE WAS OPENED FOR TRAFFIC BY THE HON. SIR JOHN SEE  KCMG PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES JULY 1ST 1903 HON E W O’SULLIVAN MINISTER FOR WORKS”

In fact, the bridge was quite the engineering marvel of its time and featured in a supplement of "The Scientific American" on February 6, 1904.

I note that many future uses are being discussed such as cyclists, pedestrian and even light rail connections to Balmain and Rozelle. Cruise passengers, assuming the industry recovers, would also find this a most useful service. It’s also listed on several historic registers, so its preservation in some form seems likely.

One suggestion for future use

More: https://www.glebeislandbridge.com/



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