back to article Is it a bridge? Is it a ferry? No, it's the Newport Transporter

Transporter bridges enjoyed only a rather brief period of popularity as the preferred way to get people and stuff across rivers. The first to be built was the Vizcaya Bridge over the River Nervion between Las Arenas and Portugalete in Spain, in 1893. The last one, crossing the River Mersey at Warrington, was built just 22 years …

  1. MJI Silver badge

    What about the Arizona bridge?

    A load of Geordies built it.

    1. Ochib

      Re: What about the Arizona bridge?

      Working on the site

      From morning 'till night

      That's livin' alright

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: What about the Arizona bridge?

        Featured heavily in series 2 or 3 of Auf Wiedersein Pet. Well worth a watch and easy to find online.

        1. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge

          Re: What about the Arizona bridge?

          Why aye man!

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrwSDX95wCs

  2. Aladdin Sane

    Pressurised caissons. Great for building bridges, not great for workers.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      I can recall back in the mid-80s they used one in Newcastle for some work near Central Station. There were large warning signs including ones relating to "the bends", the nearest decompression chamber was only a couple of miles away at the RVI* although fortunately I don't think it was needed.

      *The helicopters from the oil rigs and vessels used to land outside our accommodation occasionally to deliver divers to the unit.

      1. WanderingHaggis
        Alert

        A bit off topic

        I remember visiting the crash chamber in Newcastle back in the eighties and seeing bandages and blood still on the floor of the chamber. But the worse was the tubes they had for transporting divers at pressure in the chopper. Not for the faint hearted.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    A nice piece of relatively lightweight, elegant engineering for what it is,enough steel to do the job well without over engineering.

    The fact that it has lasted this long and has been mostly functional is a testament to the engineers and their work.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Although not strictly a transporter add the Falkirk Wheel to this list of impressive engineering, albeit modern.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_Wheel

      Reinvigorating the linked canals not joined since the previous 11 locks that bridges the 35 metre height difference fall into disuse pre-WW2.

  4. Ian Stewart

    A touch out of date and geographically inaccurate. The Warrington transporter was acutually sited in Runcorn (Halton) and demolished in the early 1960's.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Different bridge. The Runcorn one was indeed demolished, Warrington (aka Bank Quay or Crossfields) is a railway bridge and is still standing.

      There is a Friends society:

      http://www.warringtontransporterbridge.co.uk/index.html

      1. Fowtb

        Warrington transporter bridge

        Thanks for the mention. Please read about it on our website www.warringtontransporterbridge.Co.UK or follow us on Facebook, save Warrington transporter bridge/FOWTB

  5. SusiW
    Pint

    A Superb Article!

    As Friday lunchtime 'dawns' here at Chez Susi - I am grubbing around on TheRegister trying to cheer myself up (after my nightshift in The Computer Mines of Boria) before facing the Horrors of what now masquerades as the National News.

    Having looked at the weekly Dabbsy column (mandated-reading in this household!) and noting that at least I'm not the only one frustrated by the need to use 2FA to slow down the Twats™️ trying to Richard with my accounts. I was starting to feel a bit down with no prospect of entertainment or joy in sight.

    Enter stage-left, one Alun Taylor with a well-worded and nicely presented tome on Transporter Bridges.

    Thank you kind sir, from the top and bottom of my heart. I've always been interested in Olde Engineering solutions to problems of their age and how the innovative use of the (generally) inferior construction materials available at the time are combined to make incredible structures.

    This includes creations such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Beam Engines, Chain Booms (such as used at Portsmouth Harbour in the 1400's, etc), Steam Engines, Big Bertha, etc.

    You made a potentially crap day so much better. I truly wish I could buy you many beers.

    Thank you.

    Dear TheRegister - more of these, please!! Xx

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: A Superb Article!

      Wot 'im sed ^

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A Superb Article!

        Me too! Although I think you meant "Wot 'er sed" :-)

    2. The Boojum
      Pint

      Re: A Superb Article!

      Have a pint from me. Fascinating article.

      Hmmm. Thinks "Lego technic"?

  6. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

    NEWPORT STATE OF MIND (YOU'RE NOT FROM NEWPORT)

    some music from Newport from Goldie Lookin' Chain

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx8CZyFM4b4

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: NEWPORT STATE OF MIND (YOU'RE NOT FROM NEWPORT)

      Excellent. Though to my mind, their magnum opus is still Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do,

  7. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Flame

    "Decline and...

    Looking at it today it's difficult not to think that sometime soon it will end up in the Mersey rather than spanning it.

    I've oftimes pondered, looking at all the steel/concrete junk spanning British motorways [ and no doubt other nations ], rarely vital, that as civilisation crumbles, a lot of this stuff will simply crash and block the roadways for our remote descendants --- who may not have the facilities to clear the way.

    Just as the roads, produced by a nationalised central empire, failed to be maintained or remade in the ensuing period after Romexit, when populations and taxes were both fewer.

    1. breakfast

      Re: "Decline and...

      We'll know we've reached the next stage of collapse when the government is replaced by a bunch of goths.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: "Decline and...

        > We'll know we've reached the next stage of collapse when the government is replaced by a bunch of goths.

        As an occasional goth [*], I must admit that taking a bunch of chaotic, liberated and generally socially conscious folk with a dark sense of humour and putting them in charge would seem like a great improvement.

        Still, you'll always get someone muttering about how you're not a real Goth unless you've sacked Rome...

        [*] My dress sense can generally be described as somewhere between anti-goth and goth-adjacent. Still, the dancing can be fun!

      2. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: "Decline and...

        Which could be amusing given how the meaning of “goth” has changed since the 4th century AD.

        “They came sweeping down from the barbarian lands, gazing at their shoes and listening morosely to Alice in Chains…”

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "Decline and...

          So you're saying all those cathedrals were really attempts to build Hot Topic stores ?

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: "Decline and...

            The cathedrals post dated Romexit by some centuries. Most took quite a long time to build, required rebuilding after bits collapsed and were often sources of learning from mistakes. In England they required the establishment of Central unifying authority at Westminster.

            Here in Scotland they were generally part of the monasteries and suffered from mining activity leaving little remaining today. If you know what to look for you can find mined stones in the walls of houses in St Andrews.

            1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: "Decline and...

              As our History of Architecture said:

              Don't be too overawed. You only get to see the ones that didn't fall down.

      3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: "Decline and...

        We'll know we've reached the next stage of collapse when the government is replaced by a bunch of goths.

        Ostro or Visi?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "Decline and...

          Visio Goths - are these the ones with the flowchart tattoos?

  8. Santa from Exeter
    Headmaster

    Wind Strength

    One small point, force 6 isn't a Gale, that doesn't come in until force 8.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale#Modern_scale

    1. Ochib

      Re: Wind Strength

      As Gale comes from the Middle English gale, a general word for wind of any strength, even a breeze. A force 6 is technically a gale

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Wind Strength

        Force 6 is technically a strong breeze.

        1. Aladdin Sane

          Re: Wind Strength

          Force 10 is from Navarone

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Wind Strength

          >Force 6 is technically a strong breeze.

          Unless you are dangling on a large steel YoYo above a river

        3. Jan 0

          Re: Wind Strength

          and just right for enjoyable sailing (as long as you know how to sail and have experience with the relevant type of sailing boat). Some wind surfers prefer 7.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Wind Strength

      The old Scottish Fifies, sailing boats used mostly for pulling long drifter nets to catch herring, often wouldn't leave port until there was a good chance of force 6.

      Otherwise even with the huge amount of sail they had, there would not be enough power to pull the long nets.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Wind Strength

      Gales?

      Dimise of Gales Ales leaves a Bitter taste in Horndean...

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gales_Brewery

  9. Franco Silver badge

    I do enjoy this series, some of the engineering feats are incredible.

    As a side note, I recently walked the Clyde Walkway, from the Riverside Museum in Glasgow to Strathclyde Park inbetween Hamilton and Motherwell. Walking alongside a major river for such a long way gives a really interesting insight in to the changes of design philosophy and requirements over the years.

  10. RichardBarrell

    Gorgeous structure

    I've walked across the top of the Newport Transporter Bridge. The views are wonderful.

    My mother is an IET (then IEE) member and they offered a guided tour of this structure. So she asked for a spot and took us along. The party was about a half dozen or so elderly-but-fit male engineers, two or three august gentlemen who operated the transporter bridge, our mother and two small children. We got shown around the workings, climbed up and walked across the top of the bridge, and then took the transporter itself across back to where we started. I think it took an hour or so all told.

    When you're walking along the top you can look down and see the river below you through the floor - the walkway is some kind of old fashioned anti-slip open steel flooring that you can see right through. It must have been a great marvel to look at a sailing ship passing below back in the day.

    Funniest moment was my younger sibling looking down, pointing down at the seagulls and shouting "Mummy! Mummy! Look! You can see birds flying below us!"

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Gorgeous structure

      Surely the toilet is up there to give humans a chance to revenge themselves on the birds.

      I like this stuff too. However was staying with some friends recently and while two of us were up for it, everyone else drew the line at looking at steam-powered victorian sewage pumps in Leicester. I guess the first 3 words of that phrase are considerably more attractive than the final 4...

      1. HelpfulJohn

        Re: Gorgeous structure

        "Surely the toilet is up there to give humans a chance to revenge themselves on the birds."

        No.

        Possibly for the same reason that publicly-purchasable flying cars are mysteriously never a roaring commercial success: possibility of politicians below and disgruntled or simply playful chavs inside.

        Assuming the extreme unlikelihood of us having at least a few politicians able to think ahead a little, that could also have been one small contributing factor to the downfall of airships.

        Obligatory "What-If" : https://what-if.xkcd.com/11/

        It should be remembered that this issue deals with *UN*-intentional impacts. Humans can aim.

  11. arrrrr

    Well worth the visit

    I visited in autumn 2019 just before they closed the walkways for the season. The walkway was a little nerve-wracking being so high above everything, but well worth it. I walked over the top, viewed the control room then rode the gondola back. The visitor center at the time was tiny, but interesting. I look forward to seeing what the new one is like.

  12. BobbyDavro

    Small Welsh town of Newport?

    It's a city don't you know!

    1. David Woodhead

      Re: Small Welsh town of Newport?

      Monmouthshire or Pembrokeshire?

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: Small Welsh town of Newport?

        Or indeed the Isle of Wight.

  13. Martin an gof Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well worth a trip

    Obviously, before it re-opens all you can do is gawp at it, but if you are in the area anyway, definitely worth half an hour.

    Once it has reopened I can thoroughly recommend a visit. We did the trip a couple of years ago - living not too far away we'd driven past many times over the years, but never actually done the trip.

    We parked at the Western end outisde the existing very small museum-cum-gift shop (only room for half a dozen cars), paid our dues and walked over to the other side. The climb wasn't as tiring as we expected, and there are landings every time the stairs turn, so it's not a problem to take breathers. The children were fascinated with the mid-point toilet (and the shop mannequin sat inside), the mechanism - which ran a couple of times while we were up there - and the fact that there is one step more on one side of the river than the other.

    Views, as expected, are fantastic in the right weather.

    We came back as foot passengers in the gondola, then hopped in the car and went back over again, driving around to the RSPB wetlands centre which is only a few minutes away.

    If the wetlands centre isn't your thing then just back towards the M4 is Tredegar House which is a good example of how the other half lived, and might be recognised by fans of Doctor Who or the Antiques Roadshow. A couple of junctions further West you can turn off the M4 and find St. Fagans Museum of Welsh History which is a whole day trip in itself, or if you would rather carry on with the industrial theme, not much more distant, but on slower roads, if you travel north from Newport towards Pontypool - probably on the A4042 - you will eventually find signposts to Blaenavon.

    At Blaenavon you will find Big Pit National Coal Museum, the Cadw Stack Square site at the old ironworks furnaces, a small but perfectly-formed heritage railway and a rather good town museum (I think that's the link, but it isn't working for me today).

    On the industrial estate through which you travel to get to Big Pit is also the current home of the Rhymney Brewery (again, that site won't work for me today) which I believe has a visitors centre...

    I could go on, and on, and on...

    M.

  14. Mattjimf

    Been up the Middlesbrough Transporter, but only walked half way across before I threw myself off it, such is the joys of bungee jumping.

    1. Ol'Peculier

      I wasn't sure where that was going, but I'd consider it a good option than getting off at the northern side, which - at least when I did it - was a tad depressing, to say the least.

    2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      If I had to spend any significant amount of time in Middlesbrough, I'd throw myself off a bridge too.

      1. Ol'Peculier

        I've actually got a bit of a soft spot for the place, did two terms of a Computer Science degree up there and the night life, as long as you didn't stray "over the borders" was pretty decent.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We went to Middlesborough once.

          It was closed.

  15. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

    oh, right

    Elective drive motors, so it's a matter of choice about operating is it, invested with Genuine People Personalities are they. I can see that getting very annoying quite quickly i think...

  16. This Side Up

    THE Newport Bridge

    Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML Don't forget the other Newport Bridge which is upstream of the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge. It's a vertical lift bridge unlike Tower Bridge which is a bascule bridge (iirc). I don't know if it's still operational.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: THE Newport Bridge

      Yes, I came here to say much the same thing. A transporter bridge and a lift bridge just a few miles apart in Middlesborough and, as you say, also called The Newport Bridge.

      Anyone who has passed through the area on the A19 Tees flyover will have seen it. You can't really miss it as you drive past :-)

    2. Peter Ford

      Re: THE Newport Bridge

      Pretty sure the Newport Bridge on the Tees is no longer capable of lifting, which is a shame. I did always think it amusing that the two proper transporter bridges in Britain (that Warrington one is a bit pathetic) were both near Newport.

      As a Middlesbrough native, I was also amused when a young lady pinpointed my accent to the Welsh Newport. "Well, you're almost right..."

    3. Mattjimf

      Re: THE Newport Bridge

      Edinburgh has one that is still operational on the Union Canal -https://canmore.org.uk/site/178600/edinburgh-union-canal-fountainbridge-lifting-bridge

  17. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    The temptation to avoid pulling the chain while the gondola was passing below must have been very hard to resist.

    I could be wrong, but I think that means roughly the opposite of what was intended.

  18. SImon Hobson Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Pedant alert !

    In that photo, the bearings on show are standard sleeve bearings. The rollers are not bearings but drive rollers. It took me a couple of reads before I realised the mistake being made.

    And I very much doubt that there's a four speed gearbox, that'll be a four step electrical control for the motor. It would simply have put the motor into a low power mode for setting off (to avoid a big jolt) on the first step, gradually increasing the power with each step.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Maybe some sort of series-parallel system like the ones trams had.

  19. Neiljohnuk

    Brings back memories.

    Commuting between Uskmouth PS and my alma mater at Allt-yu-Yn in the late 70's the transporter was very convenient when time allowed, queues varied and sometimes waiting for several crossings worth of vehicles to cross took too long so the Green Street bridge was the only viable option. With the ever increasing M4 delays caused by the Brynglas tunnels the A48 City bridge takes more through traffic than local at times I'm told, so getting the transporter sorted makes a lot of sense, especially for cyclists.

  20. Aussie Doc
    Pint

    Absolutely charming

    This Aussie thoroughly enjoyed the article.

    Have a cider on the house.

  21. TheKnowAlotGuy

    Rendsburg High Bridge

    You will find one (in use) in Germany too, crossing the Kiel Channel.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendsburg_High_Bridge

  22. Peter2 Silver badge

    Note the utter lack of a safety guard

    And in 110 years of operations is the number of injuries zero by any chance?

    If something is obviously dangerous then people tend to give it quite a lot more respect than something obviously safe. Counter intuitively, obviously dangerous things can often have far better safety records than obviously safe things.

  23. drwoo

    The Rochefort transbordeur

    Nice article!

    There is one in Rochefort, built by Arnodin in 1900 - it was completely renovated last year.

    https://www.rochefort-ocean.com/en/plan-your-stay/things-to-do/sightseeing-and-tours-in-rochefort-ocean/pont-transbordeur-111299

  24. vapoureal

    Back in the day...Up in the sky...up in Heaven

    As a lad in Newport many years ago, major kudos if you had a lass up on the top of the Transporter Bridge. The biggest obstacle was her fear of how far up you'd go, in a manner of speaking.

  25. PRR Bronze badge

    > the Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough, which opened in 1911

    https://worldradiohistory.com/Popular_Electricity.htm>World Radio History

    Issue for Feb 1912:

    https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Popular-Electricity/Popular-Electricity-1912-02.pdf (22MB PDF file)

    Page 59 of PDF (pg 905 of printing).

    Contemporary account of Tees transporter

    "Transporter Bridge Over the River Tees

    "Recently the great transporter bridge over the river Tees, the most important waterway in northeastern England, was formally opened by Prince Arthur of Connaught. ....." "....a pair of lattice type girders of 570 foot span, with depths varying from 65 feet over the towers to 20 feet at the center. The under part of these girders is 160 feet above the high water mark...a travelling car, 44 by 39 feet, is suspended. ...About 600 passengers and six wagons can be carried at one time."

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