The following leaflet was prepared for the 50th Anniversary celebrations on 19 October 2013 by the Bribie Island Historical Society.
Saturday 19th October 2013
50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Bribie Bridge
Today, Saturday 19th October 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bribie Island Bridge. The building of the bridge allowed easy motor vehicle access resulting in Bribie Island’s rapid transformation.
While Bribie Island had long been a popular holiday destination the construction of the bridge allowed many people to choose to move here permanently.
Today is an opportunity to celebrate the history of the bridge: its design, its construction, the opening day and the anniversary celebrations that have occurred since.
Bribie before the Bridge
The earliest regular visitors to Bribie Island came by boat following the construction of the first jetty in May 1912 at Bongaree.
A number of steamships including the Koopa and Doomba transported holiday-makers from Brisbane to Bribie Island.
As car travel became more popular after World War II, Mr. Gordon Shields began a vehicular-passenger service between Bribie and Toorbul Point. Over the years the barge service was operated by a number of different people, with the last operator being Mr. “Snowy” Drenan. The ability to transport motor vehicles to the Island resulted in considerable home building and community infrastructure activity.
Constructing the Bridge
The idea of a bridge to Bribie Island had been discussed for many years and on 17 November 1959 came an official announcement that the bridge would be built. It was obvious that the bridge should be located near Toorbul Point where the passage narrows but the exact position was chosen after consideration of such additional factors as the depth of the channel bed, the length of the bridge and approach from each side, and the requirement for driven pile foundations.
On 29 March 1961 it was announced that the contract for the construction of the bridge was let to K.D. Morris & Sons Pty Ltd. The bridge was built from the mainland across to Bribie Island. The sequence of each span of the bridge involved pre-cast piles being driven, the reinforced concrete headstocks cast, pre-cast beams lifted into place and the reinforced concrete deck poured in-situ and finally the handrails erected. The pre-cast concrete elements were supplied by Concrete Industries Pty Ltd.
The construction of the bridge presented a number of unique challenges, one of the biggest being the driving of the long concrete piles. These piles were up to 85 feet in length and weighed over 12 tons each. It was necessary for the piles to be driven from a floating platform that remained perfectly stationary, using a ten ton hammer to drive the piles. As there was no plant capable of achieving this readily available in Australia, a special pile driving frame was mounted on a floating steel barge.
Construction of the bridge gave employment to a work force of up to forty men. There were no fatalities though several accidents did occur, the most common being men falling into the passage from their lofty footholds.
Opening Day Celebrations
The opening celebrations for the bridge took place on Saturday 19 October 1963. The events for the day included:
· A formal opening ceremony with dignitaries and invited guests
The bridge was officially opened by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Frank Nicklin. Speeches were given by Mr. Frank Nicklin and Mr. David Nicholson, Queensland Parliamentary Speaker and Member for Murrumba. Two memorial plaques on the mainland side were unveiled by Premier Nicklin and Sir James Holt, Co-ordinator General.
· An afternoon tea
The newly built Bellara Motel Restaurant was the venue for afternoon tea for the official party. A review platform was set up on the front lawn for the Premier and official party to watch the procession.
· A procession
The procession included: vintage and veteran cars, a horse guard, marching girls, buses, scouts and other local groups crossed the bridge into Benabrow avenue.
· A Debutante Ball in the evening.
In the evening the Bribie Ambulance Ladies’ Appeal Committee held a Debutante Ball at the Church of England Hall in Banya street. The debutantes were Yvonne Williams, Brenda Gould and Teresa Clarke. The flower girls were Michele and Terese Kendall.
Over the years there have been several anniversary celebrations held for the Bribie Island Bridge, including 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th and 40th year anniversaries. While some of the anniversaries coincided with other Bribie festivals others were more low key events.
1973 – 10th anniversary
The 10th anniversary celebrations were held on Saturday 20th October 1973. The toll was lifted for the day and bridge was closed to traffic while the procession was in progress.
1983 – 20th anniversary
The 20th Anniversary celebrations were held on Saturday 22 October 1983 and coincided with the annual Bribie Island Festival. The bridge celebrations included a parade, an afternoon tea and a commemorative publication.
1988 – 25th anniversary
The silver anniversary was celebrated with the Bribie Bridge Carnival which was held in October 1988 over five days. As part of the celebrations there were three commemorative publications, a carnival t-shirt and a display of artwork.
1993 – 30th anniversary
The Anniversary celebration was part of the Bribie Island Aquatic Festival which ran from 15 to 17 October 1993.
2003 – 40th anniversary
For the 40th anniversary a walk was held by the Rotary Club of Bribie Island to raise funds. Each person of a 10-person team walked four times over the bridge.
When the bridge first opened there was a toll of ten shillings. The popularity of Bribie as a holiday destination for people from Brisbane can be gauged by how quickly the toll paid off the loan for the bridge – it took just under 12 years!
The first toll ticket was purchased by Premier Nicklin and the last toll ticket was purchased by Bribie resident Mr. Stan Balmer on 22 March 1975.
The Toll Master for the duration of the toll, 20 October 1963 to 22 March 1975, was Mr. Jack Greenhalgh.
. At the time it was constructed the Bribie Island Bridge was the longest pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete bridge in Australia.
. The Bridge spans 2742 feet (835 metres).
. At the centre of the bridge there is a clearance of 24ft (7.3m) at low tide to cater for small craft.
. There are 104 beams each weighing 18 tons. The beams of pre-stressed concrete are each 72ft (21.9 m) long and 4ft 6in (1.4 m) deep.
. The bridge cost £350,000, a little over $700,000.
. The bridge now has 13 lights and walkway hand railing which were additions to the original design.
Acknowledgements: With thanks to Graham Mills, Barry Clark and Donna Holmes for compiling the above information leaflet. October 2013.