Sir William McAlpine officially unveiled the Transport Trust Red Wheel plaque as dozens turned out to celebrate the Tees Transporter Bridge’s transport heritage significance.
The Red Wheel award was one of two presented along the Tees Valley on Friday (April 7), with the Cleveland Bridge-designed Transporter Bridge becoming the 89th site recognised by the Trust, followed by an unveiling at the 90th site – the Stockton & Darlington Railway’s Hopetown Carriage Works.
The Tees Transporter Bridge joins an elite list of transport heritage landmarks recognised by the Transport Trust, the only charity devoted to the conservation, restoration and promotion of Britain’s transport heritage nationally and across all modes of transport – by land, air and water. Other sites in the region include nearby Saltburn Cliff Lift and Shildon’s Soho House.
President of the Trust Sir William McAlpine, who praised the north east and the region’s spirit, said: “The idea of the Transport Trust Red Wheel plaques is to draw attention and provide information for visitors about interesting, wonderful constructions – buildings, bridges, canals – all over the country.”
Sir William went on to say, “Oh I think it is wonderful, wonderful that the Transporter Bridge has been recognised, or more recognised than it already is because it should be as an almost unique piece of engineering. There is one in Wales that works and one other that doesn’t work. And it is good to know that they are being kept and used and doing a useful thing.”
Tosh Warwick, Middlesbrough Council’s Heritage Development Officer, said: “The event displayed the enthusiasm and passion for one of the region’s most iconic landmarks and we expect this latest award will generate further interest in our bridge amongst transport enthusiasts across the nation.”
- More on the Tees Transporter Bridge, including booking information and upcoming events, can be found at teestransporterbridge.com
Information on the Transport Trust, who are currently inviting nominations for other sites of transport heritage significance, can be found at http://www.transporttrust.com/
Heritage Officer Tosh Warwick later gave me a short interview about the significance of the plaque unveiling.
Q: Tosh, can you tell us a little about the new plaque unveiled today at the Transporter Bridge.
TW: The red wheel is awarded by the Transport Trust. It is one of 89 unveiled across the UK. It celebrates the fact the Transporter Bridge is a really important part of not just Teesside’s heritage but that of the nation. It puts it in a national spotlight.
TW: Yes, that is one of the beauties of today’s event; it is about how the bridge has been used rather than just being an icon, which obviously it clearly is. It is about it’s functional role as well. Those ironworkers who would have used the bridge to get over to Bell Brothers at Port Clarence, or getting over to Dorman Long from Port Clarence. And those people that had to carry their bikes over the top when the bridge wasn’t working or to save money. That ordeal of carrying your bike up 200+ steps.
Q: A heavy bike too in those days.
TW: An incredibly heavy bike in those days. It is a good event. The red wheel is alongside the Engineering Heritage Award we have from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers which is also on the side of the newly renovated Visitor Centre.
It is all about what we are trying to do, champion Teesside’s heritage. Today’s one of those events and I am sure we will have an awful lot more in the coming year with the renovation works on going at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
TW: Yes that is right, it is testament to the investment in the Transporter Bridge that it is still here today and it is working today. It is still something that is on people’s radar. It has not been forgotten about. It is not a relic. It is something that people readily embrace, they are very proud of it. You have these stories that when you come back to Middlesbrough you know you are home when you see the Transporter. So, yes it has an iconic and a functional role. That has really come across today with Sir William McAlpine’s visit. To be able to attract the calibre of the President of the Transport Trust, Sir William McAlpine along to celebrate our bridge is testament to how fantastic it is.
Q: And obviously the bridge will have a pivotal role in the future of the area.
TW: Absolutely, yes. It is a key part of our vision for heritage but also visitor and tourism attraction in the area. We have had the new lift installed and the visitor centre renovated. And today we saw evidence that having that lift installed can be part of key events and celebrations and really provide an alternative view of the River Tees and Teesside, a bit more broadly as well. Sir William McAlpine was able to go up in the lift and look out across the Tees and all those different views and those different landmarks and all those key parts of Teesside’s community.
Councillor Lewis Young, Executive Member of Culture, Leisure and Sport had these words about the plaque and the bridge and Middlesbrough.
In his short speech Lewis talked about how the red wheel.. “speaks about this area, where it is from and where it is going.”
Q: It is a fantastic looking red wheel plaque. It must be a great recognition of the history and heritage of this area.
LY: Yes very much so, I think, we all know and love this bridge and we know that it has national recognition. This is an official sign that it has that national recognition and national significance as well. People talk about the Transporter Bridge across the country and across the world and it shows what kind of iconic significance it really does have.
Q: Something to be proud of?
LY: Very, very much so. We are all very proud of the bridge. We know what it means but it is about selling that story to the wider world isn’t it really. It means, yes, it is our bridge, we are proud of it, proud that we are still investing in it as well. We are proud that it still works. For most of the time. Yes, we are exceptionally proud of it. And it is about using it and using that pride to drive forward other projects and other investment. We are proud of the whole town.
Q: It is an icon for the past but does it have a role for the future?
LY: Very much so. It is a significant part of our cultural strategy, of our regeneration strategy in the Middlehaven area in particular but also in the town we have these kind of attractions and we need to use these kind of attractions to bring in people and to bring in that investment that they will potentially bring. It is about saying yes we are very proud of that cultural heritage that the Transporter Bridge symbolises but it is also about utilising it for the future of Middlesbrough and the future of the Tees Valley really.