Rod greets me. Early last century, local visionary Walter Taylor conceived, designed, built, and funded the bridge. The one with clothes lines draped across its pylons. Rod’s taking me to the bridge of which he’s just as satisfied as Walter Taylor himself.
He talks with pride. Beside Taylor’s bridge is the Albert Bridge, the oldest railway bridge in Australia still in use. It was built in 1895 to replace its predecessor washed away by the 1893 floods, and remains one of the country’s largest truss bridges.
The star though is the suspension bridge. Its long looping cables and painted pylons set against a river bank of gums. Gold was discovered here when the bridge’s foundations were dug. Taylor, not wanting to risk the bridge’s completion, immediately took a 100 year mining lease. Its opening on 14 February 1936 followed a fortnight’s delay out of respect to the death of King George V. It’s still the longest span suspension bridge and the only Florianopolis-type bridge in Australia, meaning the suspension cables actually form the top chord of the truss. The cables were bought second-hand after they were used to hold up the unfinished halves of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bought at a good price too. It was called the Indooroopilly Toll Bridge until renamed the Walter Taylor Bridge in 1956 following the builder’s death. The new year marks its 80th anniversary.
Rod’s wife Jan takes over the tour. She says that the investment company made a very good return. So too did the first toll collector Mort Green, whose family were allowed to live in the north pylon rent-free in perpetuity. The last tolls were collected in 1965 but the Green family remained. Four generations living in the north pylon apartments until the last of them moved out in 2009. The washing line that graced the thoroughfare for 35,000 vehicles every day, was brought in for the last time.
The bright clean pylons are today famous in Brisbane’s west. They used to be natural concrete, but were painted for the first time in 1988, helping to make Brisbane look her best for World Expo 88. The bridge hasn’t breathed properly ever since, leading to damp in the accommodation. But the place definitely has atmosphere. Free tours are booked weeks if not months in advance through the Brisbane Greeters program. Be sure to say hello to Rod and Jan.