A behind-the-scenes look at the Victorian marvel, Tower Bridge, on a special Engineering Tour.
There are few London sights more evocative than the opening of Tower Bridge. It takes just one minute for the two huge halves of the bridge (or ‘bascules’, as they’re technically known) to be raised to their maximum angle of 86 degrees, a feat of engineering that’s just as impressive today as it was when the bridge was completed in 1886.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition is worth a visit at any time of year, but visitors to London this January and March can take advantage of an extra-special treat as Tower Bridge Engineering Tours allow access to areas normally closed to the public.
The first half of the tour takes in the Tower Bridge Exhibition, with allows you on to the high-level walkways (check out the new glass flooring) and Victorian engine rooms, where you’ll gain an insight into the history of the bridge. There is also the permanent exhibition BridgesOfTheWorld, which looks at 40 famous bridges.
One of the bridge’s senior technical officers then takes over and whisks visitors into the bridge’s hidden zones. First, the Bridge Control Room, where the buttons are pushed that cause it to open and close around 1,000 times each year. Then to the engine room to see the heavy-duty hydraulic equipment that moves the bascules. And finally − and most impressive of all − the Bascule Chambers, the huge brick-lined spaces below the level of the riverbed into which the counterweights swing when the bridge opens.
Whether you’re into engineering, passionate about Victorian architecture or just interested in the secret life of one of London’s most famous attractions, it’s an exciting way to spend a couple of hours. For full listing, turn to p. 25
Go underneath one of London’s greatest icons, Tower Bridge, during a rare tour of the Engineering Rooms, says Jo Caird.
TOURIST INFORMATION London & Partners is the official source of information on the city. Call T: 020-7234 5800 for details and to order an information pack, or go to www.visitlondon.com, with details on all Tourist Information Centres. Original London Visitor Centre One-stop shop for days out, entry into attractions and more. 17-19 Cockspur St, SW1Y 5BL. T: 020-8877 2120. Mon-Sat 8.30am-6pm; Sun 9am-5.30pm. London Ambassadors Look out for 200 information wardens on the streets, travel centres and at Heathrow Airport, wearing a badge with the London logo and an ‘i’ for information. GoToMidtown Information point for the Midtown area, inc its free guided walking tours. 56 New Oxford St, WC1A 1ES. Mon-Wed 10am-6pm; Thurs-Fri 10am-7pm; Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 10am-5pm. www.gotomidtown.co.uk. TKTS booth You can get discounted tickets for West End shows from the TKTS booth. Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 11am-4pm. The Lodge, Leicester Sq Gdns, WC2H 0AP.