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Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore. The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is an iconic image of both Sydney and Australia. The bridge is nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of its arch-based design.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Under the directions of Dr J.J.C. Bradfield of the NSW Department of Public Works, the bridge was designed and built by English firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough, and opened in 1932. According to the Guinness World Records, it is the world's widest long-span bridge. It is also the fifth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world, and it is the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134 metres (440 ft) from top to water level. Until 1967 the Harbour Bridge was Sydney's tallest structure.

Structure: The southern (CBD) bridge end is located at Millers Point in The Rocks area, and the northern end at Milsons Point in the lower North Shore area. It carries six lanes of road traffic on its main roadway, while on its eastern side are two lanes of road traffic (formerly two tram tracks) and a footpath, and on its western side are two railway tracks and a bicycle path, making the western side 30.5 cm (12 in) broader than the eastern side.

The main roadway across the bridge is known as the Bradfield Highway and is about 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) long, making it one of the shortest highways in Australia. (The shortest, also called the Bradfield Highway, is found on the Story Bridge in Brisbane.)

Tourism:Even during its construction, the bridge was such a prominent feature of Sydney that it would attract tourist interest. 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.

Not long after the bridge's opening, commencing in 1934, Archer Whitford first converted this pylon into a tourist destination. He installed a number of attractions, including a cafe, a camera obscura, an Aboriginal museum, a "Mother's Nook" where visitors could write letters, and a 'pashometer'. The main attraction was the viewing platform, where "charming attendants" assisted visitors to use the telescopes available, and a copper cladding (still present) over the granite guard rails identified the suburbs and landmarks of Sydney at the time.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimbing

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 saw tourist activities on the bridge cease, as the military took over the four pylons and modified them to include parapets and anti-aircraft guns.

After the war, in 1948 Yvonne Rentoul opened the 'All Australian Exhibition' in the pylon. This contained dioramas, and displays about Australian perspectives on subjects such as farming, sport, transport, mining, and the armed forces. An orientation table was installed at the viewing platform, along with a wall guide and binoculars. The owner kept several white cats in a rooftop cattery, which also served as an attraction, and there was a souvenir shop and postal outlet. Rentoul's lease expired in 1971, and the pylon and its lookout remained closed to the public for over a decade.

The pylon was reopened in 1982, with a new exhibition celebrating the bridge's 50th anniversary. In 1987 a 'Bicentennial Exhibition' was opened to mark the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia in 1988.

The pylon was closed from April to November 2000 for the Roads & Traffic Authority and BridgeClimb to create a new exhibition called 'Proud Arch'. The exhibition focussed on Bradfield, and included a glass direction finder on the observation level, and various important heritage items.

The pylon again closed for four weeks in 2003 for the installation of an exhibit called 'Dangerous Works', highlighting the dangerous conditions experienced by the original construction workers on the bridge, and two stained glass feature windows in memory of the workers.