Eiffel Tour : Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NORMANDY (Honfleur and Deauville)
NORMANDY (D Day Beaches and Bayeux)
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The Eiffel Tower was built for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889 commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII of England, opened the tower. From the 700 entries submitted in a design competition, Gustave Eiffel's was the unanimous choice. However a petition of 300 names - including those of Guy de Maupassant, Emile Zola, Charles Garnier (architect of the Opιra Garnier), and Dumas the Younger - opposed its construction.

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At 300 metres (320.75m including antenna), and 7000 tons, it was the world's tallest building until 1930. Other statistics include:

• 2.5 million rivets.
• 300 steel workers, and 2 years (1887-1889) to construct it.
• Maximum sway at the top: 12 cm in high winds.
• Height varies up to 15 cm depending on temperature.
• 15,000 iron pieces (excluding rivets).
• 40 tons of paint.
• 1652 steps to the top.

The Tour Eiffel is visible from distant parts of Paris and beyond. The evening view (right) is taken from an hotel near Porte de Clichy.

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It was almost torn down in 1909, but was saved because of its antenna which was being used for wireless telegraphy at that time. Beginning in 1910 it became used by part of the International Time Service, by French radio (since 1918), and by French television (since 1957). During its lifetime, the Eiffel Tower has also witnessed a few strange scenes, including being scaled by a mountaineer in 1954, and used by two Englishmen for a parachute jump in 1984 . In 1923 a journalist rode a bicycle down from the first level. Some accounts say he rode down the stairs, other accounts suggest he used the exterior of one of the tower's four legs.

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'The assembly of the supports began on July 1 1887, and was completed twenty-two months later. All the elements were prepared in the factory at Levallois-Perret on the outskirts of Paris, where Eiffel's company was located.

'Each of the 18,000 pieces used in the Tower was designed and calculated, traced out to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre, and then put together in pieces of around five metres each.

'Between 150 and 300 workers on the building site, led by a team of veterans of the great metal viaduct projects, were responsible for assembling this gigantic Meccano set.

'As a preliminary stage the pieces were assembled in the factory using bolts, later to be replaced one by one by rivets, inserted hot. They contracted during cooling, thus ensuring that the pieces were held together tightly. A team of four men was needed to fix a rivet: one to heat it up, another to hold it in place, a third to shape the head and a fourth to beat it with a sledgehammer. Only a third of the 2,500,000 rivets used in the Tower were inserted directly on the building site.

'The pillars rest on concrete foundations installed a few metres below ground-level on top of a layer of compacted gravel.

'Each corner rests on its own supporting block, applying to it a pressure of 3 to 4 kilograms per square centimetre, and each block is joined to the others by walls. On the Seine side of the construction, the builders used watertight metal caissons and injected compressed air, so that they were able to work below the level of the water.

'The tower was assembled using wooden scaffolding and small steam cranes mounted onto the tower itself. The assembly of the first level was achieved by the use of twelve temporary wooden scaffolds, 30 metres high, and four larger scaffolds of 40 metres each. "Sand boxes" and hydraulic jacks - replaced after use by permanent wedges - allowed the metal girders to be positioned to an accuracy of one millimetre. On December 7 1887 the joining of the major girders up to the first level was completed. The pieces were hauled up by steam cranes, which themselves climbed the tower as they went, using the runners destined for the tower's lifts.' (Official Tower Website)

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'Elevators take one up on this spectacular ascent (and provide) glimpses of the extraordinary bold architecture of the monument'. (Official Website)

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The top of the Tower originally consisted of two lattice work arches, supporting the lamp of a beacon visible from beyond the horizon.

The narrow open-air platform constructed at this level was at a height of exactly three hundred metres above the ground. This was itself topped by a lightning conductor with three branches, connected to two large metal tubes buried in the ground.

The top has since been completely transformed, and today it accommodates many antennae of all kinds, including a television mast whose peak is at a height of 324 metres. The first television trials to use the Tower date back to 1921, and the first regular broadcasts started in 1935. .

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