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Can you Spot the Difference? [Sydney Harbour Bridge]

State Records NSW is highlighting a number of anniversaries on its website this year. The Sydney Harbour Bridge features in two of these.

First Passenger Train to Cross Bridge

NRS 12685, Sydney Harbour Bridge Photographic Albums; [Digital id: 12685_a007_a00704_8734000067r] First passenger train to cross Sydney Harbour Bridge, 19/03/1932.

Between when this image was taken in 1932 and when our second photo was taken in 1952, the Bridge changed.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Series: NRS 9771, Miscellaneous correspondence files Department of Main Roads Dated: 1926-1978
Item: Image from [10/27345] File 42m457

Can you spot the difference? And no it’s not the train.
Stayed tuned for further information!

  • David Bromage says:

    The blockhouse towers on the pylons for the WW2 anti-aircraft guns.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm
  • Jenny Sloggett says:

    Well spotted to both beachcomberaustralia over on the Flickr site and to David Bromage. And in record time too. We thought these photos might have kept you guessing for a little while.

    For further information see our War and Australia webpage where we have posted material concerning the use of the Bridge pylons by the military and the raising of Lewis machine guns to two of the pylons.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm
  • alistair m cameron says:

    The 1932 photo shows 1500v overheads for the pantograph fitted train sets.

    The 1952 pic had 600v overheads for tramcars.

    I can advise a lot more tech data. I worked at Randwick tramway depot, and at ELCAR in Chullora on railway trains 1946 to 1952.


    PO Box 215 Bundanoon NSW 2578

    June 5, 2012 at 11:35 am
  • Richard Drury says:

    There are no flags flying in the 2nd photograph.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm
  • Jenny Sloggett says:

    Thank you, Alistair. Yes the photographs are taken from a slightly different angle.

    The 1932 image has the overhead wires for trains in the foreground and the wires for the trams on the eastern side of the bridge can be seen in the background. The 1952 image has a good closeup of the tram wires with the train wires in the background. The lane that was used for trams is now a roadway.

    Well spotted, Richard. The flagpoles in the outer corner of each pylons (and the flags that are flying from them) are not present in the 1952 image.

    Digital image 12685_a007_a00704_8734000109r
    entitled Public crossing Bridge after Opening Ceremony, 19 March 1932
    is the clearest image I can find that shows the flagpoles on two of the pylons. It can be accessed vis Photo Investigator on our website.

    I wonder if they were removed in 1942 when the gun emplacements were installed or at some other time?

    June 6, 2012 at 10:56 am
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Here’s the link to the image that Jenny mentioned in the comment above

    June 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm
  • enno says:

    The top photo shows the rail track and the bottom photo shows the tram track

    June 9, 2012 at 11:49 pm
  • Michael Leichsenring says:

    My name is Michael Leichsenring and I am a serving soldier in the Australian Army. I am doing some research on the history of Australian Air Defence.
    I am interested in researching the anti-aircraft gun emplacements apparently constructed on each of the Bridge’s pylons during WWII. In a prevous comment reference was made to, ‘the raising of Lewis machine guns to two of the pylons.’
    Can anyone please elaborate on this by providing achieve references (documents and/or photos)?
    Regards, Michael

    March 3, 2015 at 11:38 am
  • Jenny Sloggett says:

    NRS 9771 Correspondence files – Miscellaneous, 1932-1978 [Department of Main Roads], File 42m457 Anti-Aircraft Defence – Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1942 [10/27345] contains information on both the building and the decommissioning of the anti-aircraft gun platforms, and the changes made to the Bridge pylons to accommodate the anti-aircraft guns. One report dated 8 December 1942 states that there were three military units in occupation on the Bridge: a machine gun and flood light unit, the bridge guards, and the anti-aircraft battery.

    The file states that the officer in charge for the positioning of the guns in 1942 was Captain G Vincent of 221 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery. The anti-aircraft guns were located in the south-eastern and north-western pylons. There is also mention of sleeping accommodation being made for soldiers in the pylons, although details are not given. The anti-aircraft guns were removed on 23 October 1944. In a report on what would be needed to remove traces of the Army’s occupation, dated 8 November 1944, Item 2 and 3 are removing 8 x HD bolts from the south-eastern and north-western pylons, Item 4 is sealing 4 x MS cover plate and Item 5 is removing 8 x Lewis gun bed-plates.

    There is also information of our Digital Gallery War and Australia: World War II in the section called ‘Protecting NSW’

    March 5, 2015 at 5:27 pm
  • Cathie Martin says:

    Can someone tell me who was the first train driver in 1932. I believe it was my great grandfather – not Martin but I can’t find the proof. I hope some can help here. Thank you

    May 2, 2015 at 7:50 pm
  • Jenny Sloggett says:

    There were a number of “first” trains over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

    The very first train to cross the bridge was a steam locomotive, described in the Sydney Morning Herald “as an old goods engine” which crossed the bridge on 19 January 1932 to test the railway expansion joints, carrying officials including Dr Bradfield. See article and image in Sydney Morning Herald 20 January 1932 pp.11 and 14 available on Trove.

    After this steam locomotives were used on the bridge to lay ballast, install electric wiring for the electric trains, and to test the load capacity of the bridge. From 3 to 27 February 96 steam locomotives were used to test the bridge.

    On 11 March 1932 the first electric train went across the bridge to test the electric wiring for trains, as described in the SMH 12 March 1932 p13. This first electric train was described as “One of the ordinary eight-carriage train sets, which had just deposited its passengers at Wynyard station…” and then was sent over the bridge and back. The driver’s name is not mentioned.

    On 12 March 1932 speed tests were conducted on the bridge using an electric train driven by Driver Thomas Dart as described in SMH 14 March 1932, p.9.

    This practice of sending electric trains from Wynyard over the bridge for testing purposes appears to have continued as on 18 March 1932 two clergymen found themselves accidentally crossing and recrossing the bridge after boarding an electric train which they thought was taking them to Town Hall station, as described in SMH 21 March 1932, p.6.

    On 19 March 1932 the first train across the bridge after the official opening was driven by Driver Albert Arnold, with passengers paying ten shillings for the trip and receiving a special souvenir ticket. State Records holds memorabilia from Albert Arnold in NRS 20130 Records relating to the construction, opening and operation of the Sydney Harbour Bridge [Department of Railways]\Series\20130

    An image of the rosette Arnold wore can be seen on our website in the Threads digital gallery:

    There are also images of these various “first” trains on our Photo Investigator website:
    Type the word train into the search button under the heading “Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1923-1933, NRS 12685”.


    May 7, 2015 at 2:29 pm