Turning the First Sod.

From Engineering Heritage New South Wales

    Although in July 1923 no contract had been entered into to build the Harbour Bridge and even accepting that the commitment to build the structure was firm, no details of the bridge were known. The eventual list of designs offered demonstrates the many varied options. Irrespective of the issues which could arise on the northern approaches where the cantilever and arch bridges would require different alignments, the work as far as the proposed North Sydney station was fixed.

    To reassure prospective tenderers devoting effort and cost into their submissions and for political kudos a ceremony was held at the site of North Sydney station as a nominal start of the work on the whole bridge and railway project. The Act to build the bridge had been passed and this imposed a tax on properties which would benefit. It applied from the passing of the Act, not the commencement of work or the opening of the bridge, so the government had some incentive to demonstrate to voters that their cash was being used for its intended purpose.

    This photo spread appeared in The Sydney Mail on 1 August 1923.

SHB First Sod Photo 1.JPG

    Despite the showery weather there was a very large attendance on Saturday afternoon when Mr. Ball, Minister for Works and Railways, turned the first sod of the northern approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The ceremony took place on the site of the proposed North Sydney Station, a vacant allotment at the corner of Miller and Blue streets. Within the enclosure a platform had been erected, whereon seats were occupied by the Premier (Sir George Fuller), the Ministers for Works and Education, (Messrs Ball and Bruntnell), the Attorney-General (Mr. Bavin), Sir Granville Ryrie, and many other prominent men. Addresses were delivered by the Premier, the Minster for Works, and the Mayor of North Sydney. After the ceremony a banquet was held, at which various toasts were honoured. The speakers referred to the national importance of the work, and many warm tributes were paid to the ability and energy of Mr. Bradfield.

The Minister for Works was presented with a silver model of the bridge and later on, at the banquet, Mr. Bradfield (right) received a similar gift. On the left of the picture is Sir George Fuller, next to whom is Alderman G. T. Clifton, Mayor of North Sydney, by whom both presentations were made. 28 July 1923 SARA NRS12685.

Performing the ceremony of turning the first sod of the northern railway approach to the bridge. Beside him is Mr. J. J. C. Bradfield. The engineer for the bridge. 28 July 1923 SARA NRS12685.

This photo does not appear in the original article. 28 July 1923 SARA NRS12685.

The mayor of North Sydney is here addressing the crowd. Speeches were also delivered by the Premier and the Minister for Works. 28 July 1923 SARA NRS12685.
While the photo adjacent is the one used by The Sydney Mail, another near identical image shows the crowd with umbrellas raised. It was a wet day. 28 July 1923. SARA NRS 12685.

Richard Thomas Ball was an important player in the early stages of the bridge. To learn more of his life follow the link below. The link is available courtesy of the Australian Railway Historical Society, NSW Division, and Neville Pollard.

Richard Thomas Ball

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