Bridging the Mersey - a pictorial history

Bridging the Mersey - a pictorial history

:   Dave Thompson
:   Cheshire
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2640-3
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Bridging the Mersey - a pictorial history'

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49 The famous Mersey bridges have served as a backdrop for many family occasions and are undoubtedly the most photographed features on the river together with the Liverpool waterfront. Children in particular saw the transporter as something of an adventure. The slow speed, movement of the spring-loaded car and the clanking of the machinery were something akin to a cross between being on the deck of a ship, footplate of a railway engine and in the gondola of an airship. Children would use the carriage as a pulley, and hang beneath the car as it crossed the river. On the

Widnes foreshore many children would shout to passengers in the car to throw pennies for them to collect.

50 The transporter resembled a giant Meccano model and the Liverpoolbased company even produced a pre-assembly kit of the bridge for consumers. This particular working model, pictured here, was displayed at the world's largest Meccano exhibition in Henley-on- Thames. The 16-ft strueture was made by Nick Rodgers from Surrey and incorporated

4,000 nuts and balts, considerably less than its fullsize namesake. It is also believed that during one of Lord Haw's wartime broadcasts he is reputed to have commented: 'And we have not forgotten Widnes and its Meccano Bridge.'

Regardless of his taunts it had naturally been expected that the Mersey bridges would be a target for the Luftwaffe but na attack ever eame, despite the proximity of the chemical

works and their strategie importance for Uverpool.

5 1 The transporter made its last journey for farepaying passengers at 6 p.m. on the opening day of the new road bridge. The following morning, on 22nd [uly 1961, crowds gathered around the Widnes approach of the transporter bridge to witness the last ever journey to Runcorn, led by the Mayor of Widnes, Councillor Iohn Collins, and Chairman ofthe Corporarion's Transport Committee, Alderman Pat Hanley. Amongst the specially invited guests provided with the souvenir tickets to attend were former drivers and others employed or associated with the bridge over the years.

52 The Mayor of Widnes, Councillor Iohn Collins, is seen joined with other dignitaries as the transporter car slips away from Widnes on its last joumey to Runcorn. Flags were hoisted, the band sounded a fanfare and maroons flared as the transporter made its way amidst much wa ving and cheering.

53 A huge crowd awaited the car's arrival in Runcorn and gave it a great welcome as it rattled in for the last time. Here another fifty guests embarked, led by Couneillor Murial Preeee, Chairman of the Runeorn Urban Distriet Couneil. At seven minutes past eleven the transporter's own hooter signalled the very last departure and there arose a chorus of sirens from the tugboats on the ship eanal. The bells of Runeorn Parish Chureh rang out and then, aeeompanied by the crowd, all joined in singing 'Now is the hour for us to say goodbye'. The ear moved off to Widnes on its last

journey to aceompanirnent from ships' sirens. The Runcorn Weekly News records: "This was the most nostalgie moment of all for

the passengers as they watehed the Widnes share drawing near. People waiting on the Widnes side now joined in the singing.'

The ear is seen in this view soon after it eame to rest at the Widnes approach.

54 A unique meeting oecurred at the closing ceremony of the transporter bridge. On the left is 84year-old Mr. Shaw, the first driver of the transporter during its opening in 1905, and right Mr. Done, the last driver of the car during the closing ceremony.

55 A small ceremonial presentation was made at the Widnes approach after the last joumey had been made across the river. Mr. Crossley, the General Manager of the bridge, is seen here presenting to the Mayor the driver's handle as a souvenir for the people of Widnes. The chromeplated handle is still preserved and is displayed in the Mavor's Parlour at Runcom Town Hall. It has become a talking point at many mayoral functions down the years, and is

of ten shown to visiting dignitaries.

56 In this picture Pat Hanley, Chairman of the Widnes Corporaticn's Transport Committee, unveils a bronze plaque to commemorate the passing of the transporter bridge. It records "The transporter bridge owned by the Corporation since 1911, carried over a million foot passengers and over a quarter of a million vehides between this spot and Runcorn each year' . The plaque and two other commemorative plaques from the bridge were mounted on the Widnes approach after the bridge had been demolished at a cast of f:139,604. Other than the small sandstone powerhouse on the Widnes approach, little more reminds us of the great transporter that once spanned the Mersey at this site.

57 The impact of the transporter's closure on the commerciallife of West Bank in Widnes was immediate and quite severe. Down the years many shops had emerged along Mersey Road to service the needs of passengers, many of whom shopped whilst waiting to cross the river. The Road Bridge's high level approaches bypassed West Bank altogether, resulting in the closure of many shops. This picture shows the quiet scene at Widnes approach, days after it had thronged with traveIlers.

58 Demand for a new vehicular road bridge to replace the transporter bridge between Runcorn and Widnes reached a peak in the 1940's. It resulted in the Runcorn- Widnes Bridge Act 1946, which empowered a new crossing ofRuncorn Gap. From 1946 to 1957 four different schemes were considered and rejected, either on the grounds of cost or from problems associated with the results of aerodynamic tests. Early propos als for a suspension bridge had been abandoned when it became evident that the proposed bridge would oscillate severely, owing to the bluff shape of the near-

by railway bridge. Finally the steel arch structure, picture right, was agreed and work commenced in 1956.

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