I WAS lucky enough to get out on one of the exterior balconies of Tower Bridge today – and even luckier with the weather. I’ve been up on the walkways – which are open to the public – several times but this was a chance to get outside and see a different perspective. The view of the Tower of London on one side and the Mayor of London’s Ark on the other was superb.
In the control room, because there were no ships scheduled, I unfortunately wasn’t able to raise the bridge, something I enjoyed on my last visit (below). However, I did pick up some new trivia this time around. There are two controls rooms: North and South. They used to work together but independently to raise their own halves of the bridge. Now, the South control room is inactive and is part of the visitor’s experience, with a dummy bridgemaster, while the North side controls all the raising. However, in times gone by, the South control room operated first as it controlled the locks on the roadway. That’s why in old photographs you will notice the two parts of the roads are raised at different angles. Now they rise more or less together.
It is planned to put glass panels in the high level walkways so you can see the action from above. That will be quite an experience.
The whole thing, from closing the road to traffic to re-opening it, takes a mere eight minutes, although the actual raising takes 90seconds. The bearings, which support a load of 400tons, are the original Victorian ones of 1894.