|Tower Bridge Experience|
|The thumbnails below are linked to larger pictures
I would not classify the Tower Bridge Experience as one of London's major attractions. But the bridge being one of the great symbols of London is worth a visit if you have an hour to spare in your sight-seeing schedule, to learn more about its history.
The exhibitions main features are a pictorial and video presentation of the construction and history of the bridge. A walk across the high level walkways (now glassed in) that offer panoramic views over the river and adjacent London and a tour of the original steam powered engine rooms where some of the machinery is still powered up. The tour also includes some animatronics and interactive displays.
The bridge construction commenced in 1886, in response to the increased volume of cross river traffic. It took 8 years to build using 432 construction workers and was designed by Sir Horace Jones the City Architect, selected from over 50 designs submitted for consideration. The big problem was to build a bridge without undue disruption to river traffic activities, that would also allow the passage of tall ships. The Bascule bridge design (meaning see-saw in French) best answered these problems.
Two massive piers had to be sunk in the river bed to support the construction and over 11,000 tons of steel were used. This was then clad in Cornish granite and portland stone, to both protect the steelwork from corrosion and give the bridge a pleasing Gothic appearance. The bridge is raised by hydraulic power using accumulators, the hydraulics were originally charged using steam power, but in 1976 this was replaced by electricity.
When raised the bridge is 135 feet high and 200 feet wide. It is raised about 900 times a year requiring at least 24 hours notice prior to a lift. It is possible to plan a visit to coincide with a bridge lift by calling the bridge information line in advance on 020 7940 3985.