In tidal days one of the general endurance training trips in the Eight was from the Boathouse at Stockton to the “Tranny” and back – a total of just over 16 K (10 miles). Ideally we set out on a rising tide so the return journey was with the stream.
Opened in 1911 to replace ferry services between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence the bridge is built on the cantilever principle with a span between the towers of 175 metres (570 feet) and a height above high water mark of 49 metres (160 feet). From the main span is suspended a travelling car (or gondola) the floor of which is level with the road way on either side of the river. The crossing takes two minutes and the car can carry a maximum of 12 vehicles or 600 passengers.
You used also to be able to walk over the bridge via steps on each tower and a catwalk across the top – I recall that it was quite scary as the bridge swayed in the wind and the catwalk rattled and jumped when the trolley, from which the gondola was hung, passed beneath. Truly a rite of passage Recently “The Tranny” was featured in the film Billy Elliot and was the central feature of one of television’s “Auf Wiedersen Pet” series. The electronic erasure of the bridge from the skyline caused concern among some ex pats who feared that Oz and the boys really had demolished it…
My research indicates that worldwide there have been 18 other similar bridges. Those at Newport in Wales and Bilbao in Spain together with our “Tranny” appear to be the only ones still in daily use. The old lady is getting a bit tired and needs ever more regular maintenance but any suggestion that this Teesside treasure be done away with is, quite rightly, greeted with howls of protest. The transporter bridges at Osten (Germany), Warrington (England) and Rochefort – Martou (France) although no longer in service have been refurbished and preserved as technical monuments. All the others have, as far as I can ascertain, been demolished.