I always wanted to see the Walter Taylor Bridge and its apartments in pylons. And since we were staying in Indooroopilly in December (you can read the history of the suburb here and here) I thought it’s a great opportunity to do this. A few weeks ago I organised a tour with Brisbane Greeters and through my Facebook page invited history and heritage lovers to join me. There were seven of us in total and we had two ladies from Brisbane Greeters that guided us and shared some interesting stories.
We met near the Indooroopilly train station and walked across the river to the Chelmer side and then walked back on the bridge to the main part of the tour – visiting the apartment in the northern pylon.
The idea to build a traffic bridge across the river in Indooroopilly had been around from the early days of the settlement. But serious planning hasn’t commenced until 1924 when Walter Taylor submitted a plan and details of a cross-river traffic bridge, which he proposed should he constructed between Chelmer and Indooroopilly. He suggested building a concrete reinforced structure. He argued that “the cost of painting steel structures is enormous; and wherever practicable, the concrete bridge should be erected because the maintenance charges are practically nil.”
Walter Taylor as the main man behind the project couldn’t get funds from the government. Soon the Indooroopilly Toll Bridge Ltd was created and in 1931 the company obtained a franchise from State Government under Tolls on Privately Constructed Road Traffic Facilities Act of 1931 (similar to Hornibrook Bridge linking Brisbane and Redcliffe). This permitted collection of tolls for 35 years from the opening date or until paid for, plus retention of ten percent interest per year and working costs.
The company was selling shares to get funding, yet couldn’t get all of the required money. Then Taylor decided to cheaply source a surplus cables used for the construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The opening of the bridge was very looked for by people of Oxley district as the vehicular ferry couldn’t cope with the demand at the time.
The residential accommodation provided in each of the towers remains unique in Australia. The apartments in the northern tower were occupied by the tollkeeper (Mr Green) and those in the southern tower were occupied by the bridge supervisor. The southern pylon also housed a kiosk and boathouse beneath road level, catering for summer visitors to the then popular Chelmer sands.
The Green family lived in the northern tower for over 70 years until 2009 when the last member of Green family moved out of the bridge apartment.
The tower at the Chelmer end was first occupied by John McDougall, a Scottish immigrant. You can watch a short video here and see the apartment inside.
Later on, the Chelmer tower was rented to university students through the 1970s and 1980s.
Walter Taylor died in 1955, and on 5 April 1956 the bridge was renamed officially as the Walter Taylor Bridge. The toll was finally removed from the bridge in 1965 when Brisbane City Council took it over.
I plan to organise more tours soon, so if you would like to be notified please sign up below to be first to know.