In commemoration of John Bradfield on the 75th anniversary of his death on 23 September 1943, I’m writing a series of posts exploring some of the ideas outlined in his 1924 engineering doctorate thesis and their relevance for Sydney a century later. Please see part 1 for the background to this series, and follow these links to part 2 and part 3.
While Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and its underground CBD railway are enduring testaments to the way in which engineer John Bradfield shaped this city, they represent only part of a grander vision.
Bradfield thought big. He wanted to solve the chronic traffic problems of Sydney in the early 20th century and provide a foundation for its continued growth by giving it a modern rapid transit rail system, based (as described in the previous article) on the latest European and American technology. He wanted to extend this rail network to the edges of “greater Sydney” as it then existed, but also to lay the foundations for rapid transit within the city’s inner suburbs.
At the heart of this network was the bridge and the CBD railway, but Bradfield also proposed three additional lines that would have filled the gaping holes in rail coverage in the inner city. Unfortunately, these were never built as Bradfield planned – had they been completed Sydney would in effect have gained a metro, a full century before the one currently being constructed, and consequently would have been a very different city to the one we know today.
This is the story of these abandoned and largely forgotten proposals and of the city that might have been.