Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge (22)

At the end of the 19th century, the situation of the traffic crossing the bridges over the Thames had become unsustainable. The biggest traffic jams were concentrated on London Bridge. The difficulties that both pedestrians and carriages had to put up with forced the city governors to think about drastic solutions. 

It was in 1876 when the Corporation of London, the responsible authority, decided to organise a public tender in order to solve the problem. The main inconvenience that complicated the new thoroughfare to cross the river was finding a solution that would not harm the busy river traffic on this section of the Thames. To give you some idea, the name of the commission formed to analyse the situation was called the Special Bridge or Subway Committee.

Finally, from among 50 projects presented, they chose the proposal of Horace Jones, the architect of the City area, who worked in unison with John Wolfe Barry, son of Sir Charles Barry.

The work, which took 8 years to complete and which was officially opened in 1894, resulted in the largest ever bascule bridge to be built. Its sophisticated double-bascule machinery, hydraulically operated with gigantic steam-driven machines, lifted, despite the complexity of the machinery, the arms of the bridge in approximately one minute. The angle they reach is approximately 90 degrees.

To cover the machinery two neo-gothic style towers were decided upon, very popular at the time, for which they used Cornish granite and Portland stone. For the structure of this extremely ambitious engineering work, more than 11,000 tons of steel were used. 

Given that the top of the bridge is 9 metres above the water level, any boat that is over this height must send a signal to the bridge staff a few minutes before passing. Traffic lights on the bridge stop the traffic so that the boats do not have to wait for longer than one minute. However, in 1952 a bus went through a red light and crossed Tower Bridge when the arms were being raised.

The administrators of the bridge boast that the mechanism that enables the arms to be raised has never broken down, and in fact it was still steam-operated until 1976. Today it is a hydroelectric system that operates the mechanism.

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