Building the Great Wonders of Queensland

In the 1930s they were billed as two of the great wonders of Queensland – the Hornibrook Bridge and the Great North Coast Road, the Bruce Highway.

The road was wide enough for two vehicles to pass.

Now known as the M1, there is an urgency for a six-lane road in 2015.

The Hornibrook Bridge was built and named after the chief engineer of the project, Sir Manuel Hornibrook and opened in October 1935.

It connected Redcliffe with Brisbane at Brighton, making the bayside resorts more accessible to city visitors who were able to drive to the peninsula for a glorious day’s outing.

At 2.6 kilometres long, it was the longest bridge in the southern hemisphere and the second longest in the world. Until its closure to road traffic in 1979, it was the longest vehicular traffic bridge in  Australia.

Locals and visitors admired the construction of this first wooden bridge. The hardwood used in piles and girders mostly came from a timber mill owned by the Hornibrook Construction Company in the Conondale  Range which was noted for its quality hardwoods, especially ironbark.

A toll had to be paid for the privilege of crossing the bridge.

Sometimes it also provided great excitement as waves washed over cars in a king tide.

The Bruce Highway was named after Henry Adam Bruce (1884–1958) who, history records, was a man of foresight. His parliamentary record extended from the 1920s to the 1950s.

As Minister for Public Works in the Queensland Government, the road committee unanimously voted to honour him, such was the regard for his efforts to push ahead with a road north from Brisbane.

Possibly the real beginning came in the 1920s with the realisation that there was tourism potential in the sea and mountain resorts of the north coast.

City visitors had been taking advantage of excursions by train but with more people owning cars there was a need for roads, especially roads that led to places for recreation such as beaches, fishing and  sightseeing.

In 1934, representatives from the shires of Redcliffe, Caboolture, Landsborough and Maroochy made up the Great North Coast Road Committee to promote a through road from Redcliffe Road to just north of  Eumundi.

The proposed road was just 100kms long. Town planners saw such a road as a strategic link to the north for development.

A burgeoning tourist industry saw opportunities but farmers preferred money to be spent on local roads and not some great main road.

However, newspapers sang the praises of this new road and the benefits it would bring to the towns it would pass through.

Extra pressure was put on to councils to improve side roads leading to the beach resorts of Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Coolum and Noosa.

Tourism promoters argued that if you owned a car you needed to be able to drive to the beaches on an all-weather road. Some feeder roads such as the road from Eumundi to Noosa were in a deplorable state.

Landsborough to Caloundra was not much better and needed urgent repairs to cope with the many new visitors driving up from Brisbane.

Tourism began to boom. With the increase of visitors along the North Coast Road, service stations, rest areas and caravan parks were established.

The Rustic Cabin at the Caloundra turnoff was one of the first roadside cafes catering for motorists. At beach resorts, boarding houses and hotels were built to accommodate visitors.

A motoring group spoke of the need for telephones to be installed at these resorts, as communication was often necessary.

When the day of the grand opening arrived in December 1935, a reserve at Glasshouse Mountains was chosen for the celebration with a basket picnic for dignitaries and visitors.

In 2007, the historic plaque and cairn marking the event was relocated to Settlers Rotary Park, outside the Glasshouse Mountains Information Centre due to a rail re-alignment.

 Some sections of the original Bruce Highway have been renamed. For example, the section now known as the Steve Irwin Way.

Now the Bruce Highway, the M1, is monstrous in comparison to its humble beginnings and what was once a long trip connecting city and coast is now a daily commute connecting coast and city.

It stretches 1678 km from 21km north of the Gateway interchange and finishes at Cairns, bypassing many of the little towns it was once so happy to connect.

Image: Hornibrook Bridge over Bramble Bay opened in October 1935. Sadly, time is the enemy of wooden bridges and this grand old bridge was used for pedestrians and bikes from 1979, then demolished in  2011. Two iconic entry portals remain to remind us of its glory days. A second bridge, the Houghton Highway, bridge was meant to duplicate the first in 1979. A third bridge named after World War One veteran Ted Smout  opened in 2010.