There's Tower Bridge and there's London Bridge. Many people get confused between the two, like Robert P. McCulloch, who, as the story goes, purchased the original London Bridge (it was replaced by a stronger structure) in the 1960s thinking he'd bought Tower Bridge. The structure was transported to the US where it was reconstructed in Lake Havasu, a city in Arizona. There's no knowing what Robert thought when the builders finished putting it in place... "This isn't the bridge I bought....this is just a bridge."
London Bridge is just a bridge but Tower Bridge, well, lucky for us, it's still firmly in its original place, because this is one special piece of engineering.
Tower Bridge opened in 1894, has a total length of 244 metres, and is crossed by more than 40,000 people a day. The walkways at the very top are just over 40 metres above the water.
The glorious structure houses the Tower Bridge Exhibition, giving visitors access to the elevated walkways, affording wonderful views up and down the Thames. The exhibition also includes a visit to the Victorian engine rooms which once powered the opening and closing of the bascules (yes, those are the parts which you wouldn't want to be standing on when a large ship is coming through) which rise to an angle of 83 degrees. An electro-hydraulic drive system replaced the steam engines in the 1970s.
The bridge, as you would expect with something of this age and uniqueness, has a fair number of amazing stories linked to it. In 1952, for example, in the days when gatemen operated access to the bridge, human error caused a double-decker passenger bus to be on it as it was beginning to open. The driver, realising he wouldn't be able to brake in time to stop the bus going front first into the Thames, whacked his foot down on the accelerator and hurtled over the growing gap in an act that wouldn't have looked out of place in a Bond movie. The bus landed safely on the other side and the passengers suffered no more than a racing heart beat.
If you'd like to see the bridge lifting, click here for the schedule, though don't expect to see any buses leaping from one side to the other.
A trip to Tower Bridge can be easily combined with a visit to the nearby Tower of London, the Design Museum and the London Dungeon.