The Day We Opened Tower Bridge

This England - - News - Jenny Tyler

In Au­gust 2015 my hus­band and I were lucky enough to be guests of the Mas­ter of Tower Bridge. On a won­der­ful sunny day, with his spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion, we were in­vited into one of the four con­trol cab­ins on Tower Bridge. It was very in­ter­est­ing to be high above the river and we ac­tu­ally spot­ted a seal with an eel in its mouth from this great view­ing place. The sun sparkled on the river where many boats and tugs sailed up and down, and we saw hun­dreds of peo­ple on the bridge and along the sides of the rolling wa­ter.

We were shown the var­i­ous con­trols in the cabin by the chief tech­ni­cian, who was very knowl­edge­able and help­ful. We were also al­lowed into the ma­jes­tic en­gine room and then the huge, at­mo­spheric bas­cule cham­ber, which is down many steep steps.

There was a large cruise ship due in, and at the ap­pro­pri­ate time we watched with mount­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion as the bridge was cleared and made ready to be lifted.

To our de­light, but rather scary sur­prise, the chief tech­ni­cian asked us if we would like to work the con­trols to open the bridge. He had al­ready pointed out the var­i­ous but­tons that needed to be pushed in se­quence, and the fi­nal lever that com­pleted this fa­mous task. We couldn’t be­lieve that we would be of­fi­ci­at­ing.

On the cabin’s ra­dio we heard the captain of the ship say­ing they would be sail­ing through as ar­ranged, and ver­i­fy­ing per­mis­sion, which was granted.

The cruise ship, with its pi­lot ship in front, was by then in sight. My hus­band, John, was told when to push the ap­pro­pri­ate but­tons by the chief tech­ni­cian who was stand­ing close by. I watched in awe as the bridge be­gan the glo­ri­ous five-minute lift­ing ma­noeu­vre. For the last minute, I was al­lowed to hold and gen­tly lift the lever to com­plete the open­ing. I am 70 years old and, wow!, I never thought that I would do that. It was in­cred­i­ble! I feel hon­oured to have had such an ex­pe­ri­ence. The guests on the ship were wav­ing and the crowds were cheer­ing as the great ship sailed through. I felt so proud to be Bri­tish.

The bridge is lifted on av­er­age 15 times a week and you can look on the web­site to find out when. Ev­ery­one can visit “The Tower Bridge Ex­hi­bi­tion”, where you can go on the re­cently in­stalled glass-bot­tomed walk­way and look out at won­der­ful views of Lon­don. You can also see the prodi­gious Vic­to­rian en­gine rooms. Tower Bridge was built 120 years ago, and 40,000 peo­ple go over it ev­ery day: mo­torists, cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans. It is a truly great icon of Eng­land, well worth go­ing to see.

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