Friday, May 15, 2009

Victoria Bridge

My most embarrassing moment as a motorist was the time I ran out of petrol on the Victoria Bridge - in morning peak hour traffic. Running late for work, I knew that the dial was telling me that the need for fuel was pressing, but not only did I not have time to stop, I also had an empty wallet. The car coughed and spluttered and finally stalled just before I reached the city side of the bridge. In a humiliated panic, I got out of the car, and ignoring the insults and horn blasts of other harassed drivers, set off to call the RACQ. While I waited for them, I returned to my car, a rear-engined Renault R8, and threw the bonnet up in the time-honoured symbol of mechanical failure. When the RACQ mechanic arrived with the sorely needed fuel, he must have noticed my stressed countenance. After looking at the empty luggage compartment beneath the raised hood, in a jovial voice he announced "Mate, someone stole your engine!"

The original Victoria Bridge, which had opened in 1865 was wooden, and collapsed due to a wood-worm infestation. The replacement bridge, although made of iron, was still no match for nature and succumbed to the mother of all Brisbane floods in 1893. The next bridge was completed in 1897, and lasted until 1969, when it could no longer service Brisbane's ever-increasing traffic. Here is a picture, taken in 1952, of that bridge. Notice the line of traffic and the queue of trams trying to reach Brisbane's CBD - click on the picture for a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #62835)

When the latest bridge was opened in 1969, a reminder of the previous structure was left. On the South Brisbane side is one of the old bridge's portals, a pedestrian arch (below), and affixed to that is a tribute to a young Brisbane lad who was killed in a traffic accident at that spot while waving to returning WWI servicemen. Fellow blogger Cara at Brisbane Daily Photo mentioned in her recent post that, each Anzac Day, wreaths are still laid to his memory.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)
(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-C35-57.3)
The photograph above, from 1974, shows former Brisbane Lord Mayor addressing the memorial service for the lad.

And finally, the current bridge. Much more attractive than the old one, which I always felt looked like a bad Meccano structure, this one is all sweeping curves and open space. But it has the most confusing traffic flow. To allow Brisbane's buses to run on schedule, the traffic engineers have created separate lanes for them, but as a motorist you are never quite sure where you are meant to be, and I always have mild anxiety attacks as I am confronted by large vehicles of the bus kind seemingly heading straight towards me. This picture, taken from the Queen St end (click on it for a larger image) might give you some idea of what I am saying.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

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Next: The Gardens


  1. I love that break-down story - it gave me a good laugh!

  2. I love old Renaults. R8 was our family car at one stage.

  3. I drove the R8 all over Queensland - I lived in Maryborough for a while and Mount Isa for a while longer. When I got back to Brisbane I sold it and bought a new R16TS. It was OK, but the FWD wasn't really suitable here - the front universal joints became a problem.

  4. What a shame. Do you know if that R8 is still on the road?
    I worked for maryborough sugar for a couple of years but never lived there. Had to drive up from Brisbane quite often.

  5. Never saw it again after I sold it in 1973. But it was such a tough little thing it wouldn't surprise me if it were still going.

  6. Under Victor Bridge, on the Art Gallery side, at the base of the spiral pedestrain ramp, is a small sign showing the height of the 2011 floods.

  7. Hi Trevor I really enjoy referring to your Blog for info and awareness of Brisbane history and love your collection of photos (both new & historical). Do you know who the architect was of the meccano style Victoria Bridge (and the architect for the current version)? I not that the old stone portal is very similar in style to that of the Albert Bridge at Indooroopilly, could they have been designed by the same architect?

    1. They do look similar, don't they?

      The Victoria Bridge was designed by AB Brady and built in 1896. Brady was the Government Architect.
      The Albert Bridge was designed by HC Stanley and built a year or two earlier. Stanley was the Chief Engineer for Railways.


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