Monday, 5 April 2010

A Transporter of Delight

Britain's transport heritage is very varied and the opportunity arose to travel from the deep south of GB to ride on the celebrated Middlesbrough Transporter bridge, one of only two such creatures still extant in GB (the other being at Newport, South Wales).  A third bridge, operating between Widnes and Runcorn, was closed in 1961 and then demolished.   In simple terms passengers and cars cross the river in a "cage" suspended from a trolley which which is hauled across the high girders by cables.

Upon arrival imagine our disappointment as the bridge was "closed for essential maintenance". Once the bridge linked industrial and residential areas on both sides of the busy River Tees - but no longer. It now links wasteland (development areas?) with wasteland and is more of a tourist attraction than an essential transport link.

Back in the "good old days" you paid to travel on the bridge itself, but a walk via steps and the high girders was free. Impoverished Teessiders would even carry their bicycles up the steps and down the other side to save a penny. This facility has long since been withdrawn. This picture clearly shows a car loaded on the "cage", the steps up on the far right and the spidery high girders above!

We expressed our disappointment to "the man" - all the more regrettable as we had travelled so far. "But", he replied apologetically, "I've got a small party booked to visit the high girders. Would you like to join them?"

Is the Pope a Catholic?

We joined, we climbed and we marvelled at the view. Somewhat "hairy" as the decking "up top" is just a metal grating with views of the turgid Tees far below the soles of your shoes. But what a fantastic experience - back in time and looking down river to the bucolic richness of Seal Sands (!). Sadly we didn't have bicycles to carry up the steps and there is no longer a "way out" on the North bank but the experience rates as one of the most memorable visits to a closed attraction ever.

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