Manuel Hornibrook’s words captured the excitement on Friday 4 October 1935 when the longest bridge in Australia spanned the 8,806 feet (2,686 metres) between Sandgate and Clontarf.
He said “The hour is come” as he drove over his creation that enabled Redcliffe, severely handicapped by lack of transport since the abandonment of the first white settlement in 1825, to be rediscovered for its natural beauty and as Brisbane’s most pleasant seaside suburb.
The Brisbane Courier Mail called it the longest viaduct in Australia. But locals proudly called it a bridge and a highway, and to them it was a miracle.
In the past Redcliffe had been isolated from Greater Brisbane, with the only access through a long, tiresome around-about trip by horse, motor car, bus or by steamer. It really took too much time.
The elaborate bridge pylons which were purely decorative showed that Hornibrook was not a profiteer, opportunist or mean. The use of timber rather than concrete for the superstructure was an economy measure, because concrete would have been more expensive, although it would have lasted much better in the salt air and a concrete Hornibrook Highway would still be open today.
The two concrete portals for the bridge gave it dignity and were a source of pride to locals. The portals justified the title the Hornibrook Highway, and made the crossing more like a real bridge rather than the economy-sounding ‘viaduct’ which was the technical engineering term for the structure.
Effective from 6 pm on 4th October 1935 Toll Charges were introduced. It cost 1/- (one shilling) for cars and utility trucks and if you carried more than 6 passengers an additional 3d for each person. Trucks up to 1 ton was also 1/-. Over 1 ton and up to 3 tons, it was 1/6. Over 3 tons, it was 2/6. Motor cycles cost 6d while Pedestrians and push bikes cost 3d. They were determined to make some money out of it.
With the opening of the bridge, the population grew rapidly and now it was much quicker to travel from Brisbane to Redcliffe by car. This meant that the steamship companies who were servicing the Peninsula began to lose business and the regular ‘day-trippers’ from Brisbane to Redcliffe slowly came to a close.
A boom followed the opening of the bridge, causing a surge in the population. This meant more traffic, and that meant a second bridge was needed. They hadn’t anticipated that the small seaside resort would turn into a city.
In 1931 Manuel Hornibrook persuaded the Queensland Government to pass legislation approving construction by M R Hornibrook Pty Ltd of a road toll bridge from Brighton to Clontarf. Hornibrook Highway Ltd was formed in March 1932 and within twelve months had raised thirty thousand pounds from investors who had confidence in the enterprise and in M R Hornibrook, whose first mentioned company had completed many years of successful construction work.
Premier Mr A E Moore turned the first sod of the project on 8 June 1932. Further fundraising for the project during the Great Depression proved difficult, but problems were overcome.
Hundreds of timbergetters were employed to obtain iron bark logs from Conondale and Mt Mee. A timber mill was bought and another was built in the Conondale district to help supply the 2½ million superfeet of timber needed for the job.
The bridge consists of 294 spans of which 290 were 30 feet (9.14m) long, two were 28 feet 6 inches (8.69m) and two were 24 feet 6 inches (7.47m).
Foundation piers (pylons) of the bridge consisted of 18 inch (45.7cm) and 15 inch (38.1cm) square reinforced concrete piles. Each pier consisted of three concrete piles surmounted by a reinforced concrete headstock to support the ironbark superstructure. This was constructed of six rows of 18 inch (45.7cm) and 16 inch (40.6cm) diameter dressed ironbark girders supported on similar corbels. 1752 girders were used, all 30 feet (9.14m) long, excepting twelve which were 28 feet 6 inches (8.69m) long.
Bridge decking consisted of ironbark and tallowwood planks 4.5 inches (11.4cm) and 5 inches (12.7cm) thick, 9 inches (22.86cm) wide and 26 feet (7.92m) long, totalling 11 696 pieces. Width of the bridge was 26 feet (7.92m) and it was covered with a bitumen surface averaging 2.5 inches (6.35cm) in thickness.
Low water clearance of the bridge over the Pine River channel was 21 feet (6.4m) and over the Hays Inlet channel it was 15 feet (4.57m) allowing small craft to navigate under it safely.
The Official Souvenir Book stated, “The bridge or viaduct from Sandgate to Clontarf spans by far a wider stretch of water than any (other) bridge in Australia and the quantity of first class hardwood timbers used in its construction is greater than (that of) any other bridge of its kind in the world, consisting in all of 2½ million superfeet of ironbark timber.”
The Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, officially opened the Hornibrook Highway on 4 October 1935, at last giving Redcliffe people easy access to Brisbane by road.
The toll for cars was one shilling per vehicle, (1966=10 cents) with toll collectors issuing tickets for forty years.