Part 10: HMS Belfast & Tower Bridge


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The Trip

From St. Pauls, our plan was to eat, then do a hike to get to the HMS Belfast.  Our plan was to have the best seat in London from which to witness the operation of Tower Bridge.  Our planning paid off as we not only got to see it open once, but twice.  After watching the bridge in operation, we took a tour of the bridge facilities.  Great planning Kathleen!

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Across the street from St. Paul's were modern buildings.

Kathleen found a restaurant on the 6th floor of a mall across the street that had an outdoor deck and a sweeping view of the city.  This building is to the south and appears to have wind generators built into the building.

To the west is St. Paul's.

The rooftop terrace had a nice inlaid image.

Lunch was pricey, but good.  The restaurant was very trendy and filled with young business people and 3 old-timers.  Outside was a classical London pub with the smokers standing on the sidewalk.

This bronze statue was next to the pub.  It commemorates the Ward of Cordwainder which was the shoe-making district of London.

Across the street was another hotel with interesting statuary.

We walked south to the Thames then turned east.  On the river walk we passed this interesting anti-intrusion device.  Oddly, the device guarded the garbage staging facility.  It is not clear why someone would want to steal garbage.

From the river walk, we got a clear and unobstructed view of the Shard.

We crossed over to the south side of the river and could see the newer iconic buildings of London.

Our objective was the HMS Belfast and we noted that there was an additional ship moored along side.  It turns out that the National Geographic Society who runs the cruise had negotiated mooring rights.  The ship docked and the passengers could depart via the Belfast.  Note the Tower Bridge on the background.  The fantail of the Belfast provided the best viewing of the operation of the bridge.

The HMS Belfast was a warship that served during WWII.

The ship's bell was on display near the tourist area on the fantail of the ship.  There was self-guided audio tour, so we decided to hike about a bit.  But, Kathleen knew that the Tower Bridge would be opened this afternoon, not once but twice.  So, we stayed close to the fantail so we could get a good view of the action.

The Belfast had 6" guns as the main battle armament.  This is the breech of the gun.

Belfast also had 4" guns on the sides of the ship.

The 4" shells came in brass shells.  The 6" rounds were separate and powered by gun cotton plugs.

We went to the interior of the ship to the machine shop.

All ships at sea had machine shops which were required to maintain ship's systems.  This is a pretty good sized lathe, likely an 8" swing.

This lathe is a 12".  All equipment was bolted to the deck to prevent shifting when underway.

Next stop was the engine room where they had exposed the top half of the steam turbine.

The turbines drove the main screws via this transmission.

Another steam-powered device.

We headed back topside in anticipation of the bridge being opened.  Above is the anchor.

It turns out that the first bridge opening is to allow a tug to get to the Nassau.  The second opening is to allow the Nassau and tug to head downriver.

Plenty of planes were crossing overhead.  This whole area is on the approach path to Heathrow.

The tug is staged to go under the bridge.

Bridge is raised, tug is proceeding.

Bridge is closed and the tug is approaching the Nassau.

The tug tied on, they raised the bridge again and the ships headed downriver.  Note that the Nassau is going in reverse.  Since maneuverability is impaired when going backwards, the tug is there to prevent a steerage disaster.

The Nassau is a large vessel and it looked pretty dicey to back it under the bridge.

The ship passed without incident and the bridge was lowered and traffic resumed.

The sun actually came out for a bit.

Next stop was Tower Bridge.  There is a tour that takes you into the engine room and the upper tower.  The steam engines were used to pump water to provide hydraulic power to raise the bridge.

These are massive engines and the push-rod to the pump is vertically connected to the flywheel.

This is a two-stage engine.  Note the small (high pressure) and large (low pressure) cylinders.

This is the hydraulic accumulator that was used to store power to lift the bridge.  The entire green device is pig iron weights to create the pressure.   The steam engine pumps water and raises the weight.  When the bridge is opened, the weight causes pressure on the water which is used to run another engine that actuates the bridge.

The HMS Belfast was very interesting, but we did not get a chance to see the whole thing due to the bridge opening.  The Tower Bridge is a must-see if you are in London.

Next: Windsor Castle.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2015, all rights reserved.
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