Our appetizer was the Teas-Newport Bridge, the first major lift bridge built in England, and - rumor has it - the host of a recent addition to the (obviously NSFW) sex on bridges club. I hadn't climbed a bridge superstructure in a while and was pretty excited to do so, but started having second thoughts about 2/3 of the way up when I realized that what was flaking off in my hands wasn't just paint, but rusted metal. When I felt a couple crunches beneath my feet, I decided I'd best monkey my way over to the ladder to finish the climb.
I took the stairs - most of the way. Once we got to the catwalk the stairs ended, but there was still about 50 feet of structure above us. And, as always, you don't stop until you get to the top. Even if your camera sucks.
On the ride back, we asked the ticket-taker if we could see a bit more of the mechanics of the contraption. We were rewarded with a visit inside the machine room where Alan Murray, the Bridgemaster, spent a good half-hour with us explaining how the bridge works. That big spool on the left is used to wind up and let out the cable that moves the transporter mechanism back and forth across the river.
There is no way this would be done in New York or London. We would have asked, they would have said no, and that would have been that. I don't really blame the cities - in large, popular, heavily travelled places many interesting things have a general "lockdown by default" policy. The excuse given (if any) will be usually security or liability, but that's not the real reason - it's to avoid the hassle of eventually being overwhelmed with curiosity seekers. I appreciated the fact that we were in a different paradigm, a different culture, one where the pride that people have in the machines they build, maintain, and operate is manifested by gladly showing them off, not by keeping them smugly hidden away. In fact, for a scant 4 pounds they'll even let you up to the catwalk, weather permitting. You have to follow all four rules though. And I doubt they'll be thrilled if you try to get pictures like the ones above.
Grammatically, and also in the historical context of coming up with the motto, "Erimus" means "we will be" as opposed to "we are" or "we have been." But I started thinking about it in a different way after my 36 hours- "we will be" as opposed to "we will say" or "we will do" or we will (insert verb here)." Thinking about the motto as the motto of a town that goes about it business the way it always has - the kind of town that neither lets this crazy contraption fall into disrepair and abandonment, nor tears it down for a fancy new replacement, but just lets it be.
The bridge turns 100 on October 17th. If you happen to be in England, head on up for some celebrations -they're going on all month. I wish I could be there for the event itself though - I do love helping bridges celebrate their centenials. There's also a great book out by Dave Allen about the history of the transporter bridge. You can pick it up in person or online through the Middlesbrough soccer team's store. Go Teesiders!