Film ID: NEFA 12416 Video of 12416 Bygones - Transporter Bridge (1978) BYGONES: TRANSPORTER BRIDGE 1978 Visitor TabsDescription A short film showcasing the history of the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge over the River Tees. The film includes archival photographs and footage of the opening ceremony on the 17 October 1911. John Holmes climbs up metal steps on his way to work, operating the Transporter Bridge. An old, worn life belt hangs outside the control cabin just above a bell which alerts John to start the crossing. Inside the cabin, John rotates a lever. The transporter gondola, or travelling 'car,' gently moves across the river carrying vehicles and foot passengers. A selection of archive photos show the Transporter Bridge in its earlier years: these include an aerial view of the bridge perhaps taken a short time after it opened. Other photographs show the ferries that used to operate before the bridge was built, the riverside in and around the Transporter Bridge, and the bridge being opened by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. A clip from newsreel of the opening ceremony follows. The Prince is accompanied by local dignitaries on the first trip across the river. This footage also shows one the dignitaries, in possibly the first Transporter Bridge accident, as he falls down the gap between the gondola's safety gate and the bank. A shot follows of the structure of the bridge spanning the river with the gondola hanging below from steel cables. A man and his wife hold up their young children for a better view as they look over the safety gate. The gondola slowly approaches the Middelsbrough side of the Tees. There is a high angle view of the transporter gondola moving in to dock at the bank. A worker opens up the gates and vehicles drive off the transporter. In turn, a new set of vehicles wait as vehicles and passengers come off the gondola. A travelling shot driving onto the gondola follows. A conductor guides the new cars and foot passengers onto the gondola. The bell tolls, the gondola moves off and the conductor collects fares from passengers. There follows a shot of the winch machinery operating the cables for the movement of the gondola. Voice-over by Mr Hall Assistant County Engineer for Cleveland gives details of the bridges day to day operation. There are various shots of the gondola as it moves across the river, with passengers on foot taking in the views, and others seated in their vehicles. Mr Hall, on camera, continues his explanation of the operations of the bridge. Overhead shot of the gondola in progress across the river. More shots of the gondola and the workings of the bridge. The gondola passes in front of the camera with a clear view of the heavy industry along the riverside in the background. The gondola slowly approaches the riverside docking area. Men in a works van patiently wait looking at the approaching bank side. The operator adjusts the speed of the gondola as it prepares to dock. A man and young girl look over the safety gate as their short journey ends. The gondola docks and the passengers and vehicles leave. Voice-over by Mr J A Tatchell, Chairman of the Highways Committee, indicating his concern about the future preservation of the service. Mr Tatchell, continues speech to camera in front of the stone that commemorates the opening of the bridge. A long shot of the river with bridge in the distance follows then a low angle shot looking towards the top of the Transporter Bridge. There is a general view as a ship slowly passes under the bridge. Context Architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner was impressed with Middlesbrough's Transporter bridge’s wonderful ‘lacy structure’ and enthused ‘…A European monument, one is tempted to say, is the Transporter Bridge of 1911, 850 feet long and 225 feet high, and in its daring and finesse, a thrill to see from anywhere.’ It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006. The Transporter was opened on October 17th 1911 by Queen Victoria’s grandson Prince Arthur of Connaught, after a night at Rounton Grange, the home of Sir Hugh Bell (three-time Mayor of Middlesbrough) and Lady Florence Bell. It was quite a memorable ceremony. As the royal party and guests made the first official crossing in the gondola of this magnificent cantilevered bridge, they witnessed the first accident, captured on film by a local news cameraman. In its long history, the Transporter has been a star of both television and cinema screens. In the award-winning British film Billy Elliot (2000) Julie Walters (Mrs Wilkinson) and Billingham-born Jamie Bell (Billy) cross the bridge to the tune of Swan Lake. The Transporter also survived its role in the third series of TV comedy Auf Wiedersehen Pet in which Geordie builders Oz, Dennis and the rest of the lads are contracted to dismantle the bridge and take it to Arizona in the States, where a tribe of Native Americans want it re-erected to convey customers across a desert gorge to their casino.