Tower of length

One of the most recognisable of London’s landmarks is the Tower Bridge which spans the River Thames.

The decision to build Tower Bridge was originally made in 1876, but thanks to the bureaucracy of the time, work didn’t even commence for another eight years, and construction took a further 8 years.

Tower Bridge is what is known as a bascule bridge, bascule being the French word for see-saw, and that is basically how the bridge opens. The roadway is opened by a series of hydraulics, which were originally powered by steam engines. The top of the towers support walkways, which never proved popular during bridge opening times, because pedestrians would have to lug their luggage, or goods, up steep stairs, so it was more convenient to simply wait for the bridge to close and cross normally.

The overhead walkways were closed in 1910 due to lack of use, but were covered an re-opened in 1982. Today, the walkways are popular with tourists because you get tremendous panoramic views of London from them.

There have been times when the view from the walkways would have been utterly astounding. For instance, in 1912 and airman flew his biplane between the roadway and the walkway to avoid crashing into the bridge, and in 1952 a London bus driver had to leap across the gap when the bridge opened suddenly with his No. 78 bus caught right at the apex of the opening.

These days, as part of the attractions on the bridge, there is a permanent Tower Bridge Exhibition to visit. Although Tower Bridge is now powered by oil and electricity, the original steam engines maintained by a dedicated team of technical officers remain in their original location for all to see. This area is known as the Victorian Engine Rooms, the second section of Tower Bridge Exhibition. Over the past 28 years, the exhibition has been developed to keep pace with modern day needs without losing its Victorian essence.

Even if you have no real wish to negotiate the walkway or visit the exhibition, to walk across Tower Bridge is still one of the activities you must do when you visit London.
When you are n the bridge you can appreciate just what an ingenious example of Victorian engineering it really is, and even just to stand on the bridge to observe the River Thames traffic is a fascinating experience.

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