The Day We Opened Tower Bridge
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.