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Tower Bridge Exhibition

The steamy history of Tower Bridge

8th March 2017 • Tower Bridge Blog

The steamy history of Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is full of interesting science, not least in the Victorian Engine Rooms which house the giant machines which originally powered the bridge.

When visitors first enter the Engine Rooms from the towers, they’re usually surprised by the resemblance of the engines to a steam train, which actually worked in a very similar way. Just as a fire boiled water to make steam and turn the wheels of the train, the steam from the boilers of Tower Bridge was used to pump pistons to create the hydraulic power needed to lift the 1000 tonne bascules (moving roadways) and allow ships through.

Of course, Tower Bridge is now powered by electricity, but this conversion didn’t happen until relatively recently, in 1976. One of our current bridge drivers has been working here since before the switchover and so can remember the steam engines being used. One particularly happy memory for Pete is when the engineers were able to use the heat from the boilers to make tea – what a typically British way to use such a British icon!

Tower Bridge’s Victorian Engine Rooms will be transformed from 1st April this year, why not come and hear more stories about the people of Tower Bridge? 

Sophie, Education and Marketing Assistant

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