Transporter of delight in Teesside

PUBLISHED: 01:16 17 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:08 20 February 2013

Transporter of delight in Teesside

Transporter of delight in Teesside

The Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough celebrates its centenary this month. Officially opened on October 17, 1911, the iconic landmark has become part of the fabric of Teesside and is one of the North East's best-loved structures

The Transporter Bridge has always been more than just a bridge to people in the North East.

One of only a few working examples in the world, it is a Grade II listed building which links Middlesbrough to Port Clarence.

But apart from transporting around 125,000 people annually across the River Tees - mainly to and from work - the bridge is also a major tourist attraction, a site of historical interest and a centre for extreme sports.

Since featuring in the popular TV series Auf Wiedersehen Pet, the profile of the bridge was raised further and it attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The structure has also featured in a number of other television programmes, including The Fast Show, Spender and River City Blues, and it also made an appearance in the hit film Billy Elliot.

The Transporter is an iconic landmark which is recognised around the world and of which we are truly proud, says Paul Thompson, Middlesbrough Councils executive councillor for transport.

Such enthusiasm for the structure is shared by bridge master Alan Murray and Middlesbrough Councils principal engineer Rodger Wakerley, who have both worked on the Transporter for 13 years.

Its a great icon for the whole of the Tees Valley, not just Middlesbrough and Stockton, says Rodger. Im really proud to have worked on it and, if we look after it, it will be here for another 100 years.

Alan says: To the older generation it is a symbol of the great industrial past that helped make Middlesbrough grow into the town it is today. To the younger generation its a bit of a television star and is now a place for extreme sports.

The bridge is used for bungee jumping, abseiling and zip slides and enthusiasts have travelled from as far as Japan, Australia and the USA to take on the challenge. Between April and November 2010, a total of 1,155 people bungee jumped off the bridge, raising 66,649 for charity.

This years centenary celebrations are also expected to attract huge crowds to the region. On the eve of the centenary, around 800 local children will join professional artists to take part in a carnival procession from the centre of Middlesbrough to the riverside. This will be followed by performances, based on the history and stories surrounding the bridge, and a fireworks display.

On October 17, there will be a civic event with a range of activities held at the visitors centre.

The centenary events have been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which recently awarded the Transporter a 2.6 million grant. This award will also fund a major revamp of the bridge which is expected to open up the attraction to thousands more people. Improvements will include the installation of glass viewing lifts and the restoration of the gondola and existing walkways.

From the earliest times there have been crossings of the River Tees near what would have been Middlesbrough.

In the 1830s, the advent of the coal trade led to a growth in the local population and a row-ferry service was introduced. In 1862 a steam ferryboat, built of wood and licensed to carry 139 passengers, took over. The concept of a Transporter Bridge for Middlesbrough was first proposed in 1872 but, rather than adopt the bridge scheme, the council decided to introduce a series of boats and ferries to carry horses, carts and passengers over the Tees.

In 1906, meetings were held between the council and Ferdinand Arnodin - the French pioneer of transporter bridges - to discuss the erection of a bridge across the River Tees. Following that meeting, the council promoted a Bill in Parliament authorising them to construct a Transporter Bridge and to discontinue the ferry.

Sir William Arrol and Company of Glasgow won the contract to build the bridge, which took 27 months to construct. The Transporter bridge was opened on October 17, 1911 by Queen Victorias grandson Prince Arthur
of Connaught.

The Transporter Bridge still provides an important link across the River Tees and it remains one of the most striking landmarks on the North East skyline.

Further details about the centenary
celebrations can be found on the website

Words by Gill Langham

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