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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Tees Transporter Bridge

The Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough is a marvellous working example of Edwardian era engineering still carrying out its transiting task six days a week. Its twin gantry towers carry an overhead span along which a series of suspension wires hold a single 'gondola' carrying vehicles and pedestrians over the River Tees. Much like Blackpool's Tower the Transporter Bridge is now an iconic symbol for Teeside. Built in 1911 it stands today as the longest working transporter bridge in the world.

With an HLF Grant and support from both Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough Councils the Tees Transporter Bridge has received improvements to its public infrastructure at the beginning of the last decade. The investment has provided a visitor friendly facility allowing closer look at the workings of this impressive structure and hosted tours by arrangement.

Both Stockton and Middlesbrough had seperate tram systems operating traditional first generation cars up the 1930s serving the industries on both sides of the Tees. Sadly nothing survives from these early tramways but the Transporter Bridge makes up for their loss through its longevity as a classic example of engineering design and construction. The journeytime from shore to shore is short but a unique experience in Britain and much like the Great Orme cable hauled tramway in North Wales, Snaefell Rack line in the Isle of Man (together with the Island's other marvellous working tramways and railway), allows a glimpse into a long gone era when Dreadnoughts were the epitome of naval power and electric trams overtook horsedrawn vehicles in a fast changing world. Blackpool was part of that transformation both through its mass appeal as well as the colourful operation of not one but three electric tram systems connecting in the town to provide extended coastal journeys between Morecambe Bay and the Ribble Estuary.

The collaboration of these two Authorities on the Tees to ensure their Transport Bridge remains an industrial icon whilst still doing the job it was designed for since 1911 sets an example for Blackpool Council's long held wish to showcase the equally historic role of its own electric trams still running on the Fylde coastline. As a visitor destination Blackpool with Fleetwood needs to build on shared initiatives in hosting electric powered transport from the Victorian era - the first in the 'Kingdom' well before London adopted electric power for its expanding network.

A visit to Ferry Road, Middlesbrough is recommended for those engaging in putting our own pioneering involvement in urban transport into historical context - to see what can be achieved even with a modest few minutes over water; compared to the hour long journey by electric tram from Fleetwood's waterfront facing Morecambe Bay to the sandhills of Starr Gate.

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