London is one of the most famous cities in the world and it owes its popularity to some incredible monuments. The Tower Bridge is without doubt one of the most photographed landmarks and people associate it immediately with the capital of the United Kingdom.
Built between 1886 and 1894, the Tower Bridge is not as old as you might think. The construction was needed because Thames River divides London with a sinuous line going from west to east. There are other bridges as well, but none of them as famous as the Tower Bridge.
Seen from most angles, it seems that the two bridge towers are standing on stationary ships. This is not an illusion and the shape of the piers relies on a fundamental engineering principles. Structures positioned in flowing water need to have a pointy end facing the current in order to deflect the wave on the sides and minimize the force of impact. Some other facts about the construction are truly astonishing. Each tower is 213 feet (65 meters) high, allowing a unique and special point of view to observe the rest of London. The central span of the bridge is made out of two equal bascules, which can be lifted to an incredible angle - 86 degrees. Thames River is one with intense circulation and such a bridge structure was one of the few options available for the engineers of the time. Besides the central span, suspension bridges connect each of the two towers with its corresponding side.
It takes about five minutes for the bridge to be lifted and to allow passage for ships. Although this was more common in the past, it now happens roughly 1000 times per year, so somewhere 3 times a day. The way in which ships signal their intention to pass is a very elaborate one, which leaves no room for mistakes. Even when fog installs itself on the Thames River (a very common phenomenon), acoustic signals allow careful synchronization.
Due to conservation reasons, the speed on the bridge is limited to 32 km/h (20 miles/hour). In addition, the weight of vehicles is carefully measured with special sensors and limitations apply. Some estimates give around 50,000 vehicles using the bridge to go from one part of London to the other during a single day. Like any other historical constructions, the Tower Bridge requires regular maintenance and a detail instrumentation of its evolution in time.
Every one of us is familiar with the cliché seen in action movies, where a stunt involves flying from one side of a drawbridge to another. This actually happened with the Tower Bridge, but the gap was not as they make it in Hollywood. A bus driver made a daring jump in 1952, when he was caught by an unexpected operation of the bridge. The Tower Bridge was also the scene of an unauthorized flying stunt, performed by a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF). The pilot was arrested and dismissed from the organization. It is obvious that such incidents, and similar ones which occurred along the years, provided the British newspapers with ample topics for debate.
On June 23, the British are invited to vote whether they want or not to remain in the European Union. You might want to know the connection between the Tower Bridge, and such a crucial decision. Bridges can symbolize two things. They are used to connect people, when they go over obstacles, or they can separate people when their use is made impossible. The United Kingdom has an insular nature that makes somehow natural for the nation to seek isolation and to thrive on it. However, we should not expect that all bridges would be burned in the case of “yes”. A probable Brexit can be seen as a signal that the European Union needs to refine its methods and define better purposes for the future. The same way the Tower Bridge connects one side of London with the other, there will be plenty of connections left with Europe for the UK.
The Tower Bridge remains even today one of the most talked-about landmarks of London. Visiting the capital is by no means complete if you do not get near or climb the Tower Bridge.