Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower Bridge is perhaps London’s most famous bridge across the River Thames. Located within sight of the Tower of London this famous landmark hides a secret.
Inside the structure there is a fascinating attraction known as the Tower Bridge Exhibition where visitors can learn more about the history of Tower Bridge and how it works.
The Tower Bridge Exhibition includes a glass-enclosed walkway giving visitors some wonderful views of the River Thames and the surrounding areas of London.
In part of the walkway, the floor itself is made of glass, so, if you are there at the right time, you can stand directly above the bridge as it is raised!
You can also take a guided tour of the original steam-powered engine rooms which were used to raise and lower Tower Bridge.
Building Tower Bridge
Prior to 1886, people had to walk eastwards to cross the river using the busy London Bridge.
The City of London decided an additional bridge was needed and they ran a competition to see who could design the best bridge.
The City Architect, Horace Jones, won with his design and work began in 1884. It took eight years to complete using 11,000 tons of Scottish steel which was covered in Cornish granite and Portland Stone.
The first stage of construction was to drive two huge piers into the riverbed to support the bridge. The structure had to be built without disrupting the commercial boat traffic sailing up and down the Thames.
Altogether 432 people worked on the construction over an eight-year period.
When completed in 1894, the bridge measured 200 feet wide and 135 feet high.
Raising Tower Bridge
What gives Tower Bridge its distinctive shape is the fact that the central span is a bascule or opening drawbridge while on either side there are suspension cables supporting the outer sides of the bridge.
The bascules take about 90 seconds to fully open and let tall ships pass through, and this happens about 20 times a week.
The bascules are operated by hydraulic power using oil and electricity in place of the original steam to drive the powerful engines which lift the bridge.
Danger on the Bridge!
One interesting story tells of an occasion in December 1952 when the bridge was manned by a temporary officer. He allowed the bridge to start to rise but there was a double-decker bus already traversing it.
Realising the danger, the sharp-witted bus driver, Albert Gunter, accelerated and jumped the three foot gap, averting certain disaster.
For his bravery Mr Gunter was given a reward of £10!
Tower Bridge Exhibition
The best way to really appreciate the history and workings of Tower Bridge is through the Tower Bridge Exhibition which has displays, exhibits and a film explaining the construction and history of the bridge.
Interactive displays and animatronics make this a great attraction for all ages.
The Exhibition includes a tour of the original steam powered engine rooms and some of the machinery can be powered up for demonstrations.
Walk across the bridge to get great views from the gantry of Canary Wharf, the Tower of London and St Pauls’ Cathedral among other famous landmarks.
Although the walkway is behind glass it can be chilly, so do dress appropriately for this unique experience.
Guided tours for groups are available to make the most of this historic attraction.
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Rail Stations: London Bridge, Fenchurch Street
Tower Bridge Exhibition Postcode for SatNav: SE1 2UP