Eiffel Tour : Part 2

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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Racecourse near the Bois de Boulogne from the Eiffel Tower (left)

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Ballooning over Paris (right)

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Gustav Eiffel Born in Dijon in 1832, he graduated from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1855, the same year that Paris hosted the first world's Fair. He spent several years in the South West of France, where he supervised work on the great railway bridge in Bordeaux, and afterwards he set up in his own right in 1864 as a "constructor", that is, as a business specializing in metal structural work.

His outstanding career as a constructor was marked by work on the Porto viaduct over the river Douro in 1876, the Garabit viaduct in 1884, Pest railway station in Hungary, the dome of the Nice observatory, and the ingenious structure of the Statue of Liberty. It culminated in 1889 with the Eiffel Tower.

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On Sunday March 31st 1889 at 1.30 pm, Gustave Eiffel showed some of the famous personalities of the day around what was then the tallest tower in the world.

On this inauguration day, Eiffel climbed the 1710 steps leading to the third level of the tower before unfurling the French flag which prompted the 21 canon salute marking the occasion. Eiffel later inscribed these words in a woman's fan : "the French flag is the only one with a 300 metre pole." The Eiffel Tower remained the highest structure in the world until the construction of New York's Chrysler Building in 1930.

After the end of his career in business that had been marred by the failure of the Panama Canal, Eiffel began an active life of scientific experimental research in the fields of meteorology, radiotelegraphy and aerodynamics. He died on December 27 1923.

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After the success of the first radio signals broadcast to the Pantheon by Eugène Ducretet in 1898, Eiffel approached the military authorities in 1901 with a view to making the Tower into a long-distance radio antenna.

In 1903 a radio connection was made with the military bases around Paris, and a year later with the East of France. A permanent radio station was installed in the Tower in 1906, thus ensuring the tower's continuing survival. Eiffel lived long enough to hear the first European public radio broadcast from an aerial on the Tower in 1921.

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The tower has three platforms. A restaurant named the 'Jules Verne' (extremely expensive and reservations absolutely necessary!) is on the second platform. The top platform has a bar, souvenir shop, and the (recently restored) office of Gustave Eiffel. (right)

The top platform has two levels - one outdoors and the other enclosed - separated by a staircase.

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Originally, there was a spiral staircase between the second floor and the top level. Gustave Eiffel used these stairs to get to his top floor office. Considered obsolete, the staircase was dismantled in 1983.

Installing public elevators on the Tower raised many technical questions, since there had been no previous experience in such heights and loads, and the slanting tracks with various angles further complicated the issue.

In 1889 elevators were provided by Roux, Combaluzier et Lepape between the ground and first stage platform (located in the east and west legs). Otis built the elevators in the north and south legs between the ground and second platform. Edoux also provided elevators between the second and top platforms.

Installation of the Otis elevators was not complete on opening day, however. The company president, Charles Otis, and Gustave Eiffel, the designer, were engaged in a long-distance war of words. Despite disagreements about specifications and the difficulty of doing business across the Atlantic at a time when sea borne mail was the fastest method of communication, the Otis elevators began service two months after the tower opened. Each used a cylinder in the ground that was raised by water pressure, activating a block and tackle that in turn raised a counterweighted car.

Meanwhile, the French company, Roux, Combaluzier et Lepape, also had installed its version in the two other legs. Those elevators used an endless chain-link arrangement to raise and lower the cars. The system proved to be more complex, noisier and slower than the Otis variant and their poor performances led to their withdrawal. Between 1897 to 1899 they were replaced by the Fives-Lille machines, involving hydraulic accumulators, sixteen-metre-long main pistons, cable loops and manual controls. They were successful and were used by tourists to the second floor until the late eighties. They were then upgraded to comply with regulations. The old machinery still provides the counterweight power for the dead weights, while the variable parts of the loads are driven by modern high pressure oil pumps and motors using computer control. The original American machines by Otis in the North and South piers reached the second floor with a double decker cabin, using hydraulically powered cables. They were no match for the Fives-Lille units, and were scrapped respectively in 1900 from the South pier and shortly after 1912 from the North pier.

The increasing number of visitors during the late fifties, led to the re-installation of a large capacity machine in the North pier in 1965. Manufactured by Schneider Creusot Loire using the best engineering and electrical machineries available, it was upgraded in 1995 with new cabins and computer controls.

In the early 1980s the tower was in need of major renovation, including all of its elevators. Otis was no longer viewed as a "foreign" company, having established significant operations in France and absorbing the French elevator company whose lifts had served the tower since the beginning.

The new elevators included an inclined one from the ground to the first and second stages, and two Duo-lifts going from the second floor to the top. (Duo-lifts elevators are two cabs connected by the hoist ropes and suspended over a 219 gearless machine. As one cab goes up, the other goes down.)

The run covered 160 meters (524.9 feet), the longest open-air run anywhere. The elevators consisted of two cabins counter weighting one another, one going up and the other down. Two Duo-lifts were put into service, so 40 people could both ascend and descend simultaneously. In 2001, Otis modernised the Duo-lifts, a process that had to be accomplished at night, during the few hours they were not in use. The job consumed 6,000 hours and involved the transport of eight tons of components to the top of the tower.

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The original hydraulic pump supplied water to the machinery of the old elevator which ran from the second floor to the top (right and above)

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The Chaillot Palace (left)

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