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22 · Members in Action

D & D Autumn 08

TINSLEY TOWERS TUMBLE

While many members of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors were dancing the night away at the 2008 Annual Convention gala dinner, the specialist explosives team from Robinson & Birdsell were running final checks to ensure the safe implosion of the twin Tinsley cooling towers in Sheffield.

To anyone driving North on the M1, they were a landmark that clearly signposted Sheffield. To the residents of the “steel city”, they signified home. But at 3 am on 24 August 2008, the twin cooling towers at Tinsley finally fell following a carefully planned and executed implosion by explosives experts Robinson & Birdsell. Built in 1938, the75 metre high twin towers were the UK’s oldest hyperbolic cooling towers and had previously served the Blackburn Meadows power station that was itself demolished during the 1970s. The towers were not demolished at that time due to their close proximity to the Tinsley Viaduct carrying the M1 motorway. However, with the passage of time, the towers fell into disrepair and while there was considerable local support for retaining the towers as a heritage site, the decision was finally reached to bring the towers down. Meadowhall Shopping Centre, formerly Europe’s largest shopping mall, was set aside as an observation area for the 8,000+ onlookers that gathered to witness the end to a piece of the UK’s industrial heritage. Right on schedule, Clare Morgan and her partner Glynn Morgan - winners of a raffle to raise money for the Rotherham Hospice and for Neurocare

at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital – sounded the claxon to signal the implosion. To cheers from the crowd, two huge cracks split the cool and drizzly night air and the towers fell amidst plumes of dust. When the dust settled it became clear that a relatively small section of the North tower had wedged itself into the debris pile furthest away from the viaduct. Following evaluation between Robinson & Birdsell Ltd and E-ON this section was simply collapsed within its original footprint using the standard excavators brought to site prior to any such event. Within just two hours this extraordinarily complex and difficult demolition was brought to a successful conclusion. As predicted the viaduct had remained completely uneffected and the motorway was re-opened three hours ahead of schedule.

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