John Bradfield (engineer)

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John Bradfield

John Bradfield.jpg
Born26 December 1867
Died23 September 1943 (aged 75)
Resting placeSt Johns Anglican Church, Gordon
EducationIpswich Grammar School
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
Spouse(s)Edith Bradfield (Jenkins)
Children5 sons, 1 daughter
Parent(s)John Edward and Maria Bradfield
Engineering career
Employer(s)New South Wales Department of Public Works
Queensland Railways Department
ProjectsSydney Harbour Bridge
Significant designStory Bridge, Circular Quay railway station
AwardsPeter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal
Telford Medal

Dr. John Jacob "Job" Crew Bradfield CMG (26 December 1867 – 23 September 1943) was a prominent Australian engineer who is best known for his work overseeing the design and building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


Bradfield received his early education in Ipswich, Queensland where he attended Ipswich North State School [1] and Ipswich Grammar School. He then completed a Bachelor of Engineering in 1889 and then a Master of Engineering in 1896 from University of Sydney, where he was a resident of St. Andrew's College. He was a member of the Queenslanders' Association in Sydney.[1] In 1924 Bradfield received the first doctor of science in engineering at the University of Sydney for his thesis on electric railways and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Professional career[edit]

The original railway network for the Sydney CBD planned by John Bradfield

From 1889 to 1891, Bradfield worked for the Queensland Railways Department as a draftsman.[2][3] In 1891 he joined the New South Wales Public Works Department. In 1912 he was appointed Chief Engineer for metropolitan railway construction, when he commenced his long association with secretary Kathleen Muriel Butler.[4] In 1915 Bradfield submitted a report outlining a grand scheme for Sydney's railways involving the electrification of the suburban railways, a city underground railway and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. World War I led to the collapse of all three proposals.

During World War I, Bradfield worked with Professor Warren and Mr A.E. Cutler to establish the first civil aviation school, where pilots were trained for overseas service.[3]

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bradfield railway scheme[edit]

It was not until 1922 that the Bridge Bill passed through Parliament.[5] Much of his work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge involved the assistance of his secretary Kathleen Muriel Butler, who in spite her job title, was involved in the checking of specifications and the negotiations with tenderers.[4]

Bradfield had a grand vision for Sydney's railway system. Bradfield called for the provision of a network of underground city railway lines beneath Sydney's central business district, the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a new railway station, Central. While the central idea of an underground loop beneath the city was implemented, and stub tunnels built at designated interchanges for provision of future lines, many of his related ideas remain unimplemented. A larger network of lines was proposed for the western, eastern and southern suburbs, however most of these lines remain conceptual and have never been constructed.

The building of the bridge coincided with the construction of a system of underground railways in Sydney's Central business district, known today as the City Circle, and the bridge was designed with this in mind. The bridge was designed to carry four lanes of road traffic, flanked on each side by two railway tracks and a footpath. Both sets of rail tracks were linked into the underground Wynyard railway station on the southern end of the bridge by symmetrical ramps and tunnels.

The eastern-side railway tracks were intended for use by a planned rail link to the Northern Beaches,[citation needed] though they were used for tram services from the North Shore to Wynyard station. The intention was to operate tram services until the implementation of a heavy rail service to the Northern Beaches; however, when tram services were discontinued in 1958, they were converted into extra road traffic lanes, which now serve the Cahill Expressway and a city-bound bus lane.

The Depression, and later World War II, along with the post-War growth of motor vehicle usage led to projected patronage of passenger services in Bradfield's plan being overestimated. Parts of the city underground were constructed and exist as the present-day City Circle. Small sections were also built for additional proposed city lines, such as additional platforms at Wynyard and St James railway stations which have never been used for heavy rail transport.

In 1923, the first sod was turned on the city railway.[5] The City Circle was constructed originally as a stub line to St James, via the Town Hall, Wynyard and towards the Harbour Bridge. It was not until 1955 that the loop was completed by the construction of Circular Quay station. A line to the eastern suburbs was eventually built, but along a different alignment to that envisaged by Bradfield, who proposed a line along Oxford Street.

Bradfield retired from the New South Wales Department of Public Works at the end of July 1933 after 42 years of service with the intention of continuing to work as a consulting engineer.[6]

Other works[edit]

Bradfield was the designer and consulting engineer for the Story Bridge, Brisbane.[7] He also designed the Cataract and Burrinjuck Dams.

In October 1938 Bradfield published a proposal (known as the Bradfield Scheme) for diverting some coastal rivers of Queensland onto the western side of the Great Dividing Range.[8] However, it was never implemented. Bradfield designed the Circular Quay railway station. but it was not built until many years after his death.[6]

Significant projects[edit]

A number of his works are listed on the Australian,[9] New South Wales,[10] and Queensland[11] heritage registers:

Personal life[edit]

Graves of John and Maria Bradfield at St Johns Anglican Church, Gordon

Bradfield was born in Sandgate, Queensland, the youngest son of John Edward Bradfield (1823/4 – 1902) and Maria Crew (1828–1917).

He married Edith Jenkins, daughter of John Ventris Jenkins, in Brisbane on 28 May 1891.[14] They had one daughter Mary Margaret (1892–1984) and five sons: Edward (born 1893), Anthony Bailey (1895–1974), Alan (1903), Stanley George (1906–1951), and Keith Noel Everal (1910–2006).[15] Keith (known as Bill) Bradfield, an engineer with the Department of Civil Aviation, was responsible for changes to Alexandra Canal adjacent to Sydney Airport allowing the airport to expand between 1947 and 1970.[16]

Bradfield died at home in the Northern Sydney suburb of Gordon on 23 September 1943. A memorial service was held at St Andrew's Cathedral and he was buried at St John's Anglican Church, Gordon beside his daughter Maria.[2] His wife Edith died in 1954 and is interred with him.[15]


Bradfield in 1933

Named in his honour are Bradfield highways in both Sydney and Brisbane, the Federal electorate of Bradfield,[17] the North Shore Sewerage Bradfield Carrier[18] in West Killara and Bradfield Senior College, a school for the creative industries in St Leonards. A footbridge in his home town of Ipswich, Queensland was named in his honour in 2010.[19]

A Fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney,[20] Bradfield was awarded the Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal by the Institution of Engineers Australia,[21] and appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1933.[20][22]

In 1934 he was awarded the Telford Medal by the Publications Committee of the Institution of Civil Engineers of London for his paper The Sydney Harbour Bridge, and its Approaches.[23] In July 1936 the Institution of Civil Engineers in London elected Bradfield as a member of council representing Australia.[24] In August 1940, a plaque was placed on the Story Bridge recognising the contributions of many of those involved, including Bradfield in Brisbane.[7] He was awarded Queensland Institute of Engineers lifetime achievement award in 2007.

The Bradfield Highway, which is the main roadway section of the bridge and its approaches, is named in honour of Bradfield's contribution to the bridge.


  1. ^ "No title". The Queenslander. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 9 February 1933. p. 28. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b "OBITUARY". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 24 September 1943. p. 3. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b "List of New Year Honours". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 2 January 1933. p. 9. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  4. ^ a b "The bridge designer and his secretary". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 28 February 1924. p. 10. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  5. ^ a b Spearritt, P. Sydney's Century: A History. Retrieved 4 February 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Personal". The Brisbane Courier. National Library of Australia. 2 August 1933. p. 10. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Last bridge plaques now placed". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 14 August 1940. p. 6. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  8. ^ "Augmenting Queensland inland". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 1 October 1938. p. 6. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  9. ^ "Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bradfield Hwy, Dawes Point – Milsons Point, NSW, Australia". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government. 19 March 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  10. ^ "Statutory Listed Items" (Advanced search "Bradfield"). NSW State Heritage Register. Government of New South Wales. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Story Bridge (entry 600240)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  12. ^ "The Rocks (Argyle Street) Railway Sub-station and Switchhouse". NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Argyle Street Substation". Rapid Construction. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  14. ^ Queensland Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  15. ^ a b New South Wales Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  16. ^ "Alexandra Canal, Airport Dr, Sydney Airport, NSW, Australia". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government. 24 September 2002. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Profile of the electoral division of Bradfield (NSW)". Australian Electoral Commission. 22 February 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  18. ^ "Bradfield Carrier". Heritage item. Sydney Water. 1 January 2000. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  19. ^ "Footbridge named in honour of iconic bridge builder" (Press release). City of Ipswich. 17 August 2010. Archived from the original on 2 August 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  20. ^ a b "NEW SOUTH WALES TITLES". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 2 January 1933. p. 14. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  21. ^ "PERSONAL". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 26 December 1934. p. 8. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  22. ^ "No title". The Brisbane Courier. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 2 January 1933. p. 9. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  23. ^ "Dr. Bradfield Honored". Cairns Post. Qld.: National Library of Australia. 2 October 1934. p. 6. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  24. ^ "COUNTRY WOMEN". Western Mai. Perth: National Library of Australia. 9 July 1936. p. 43. Retrieved 7 December 2010.

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