View on the East pillar from the garden

Is the Eiffel Tower mounted on cylinders?

Friday 28 June 2019

Modified the 28/06/19

A tenacious legend says that the Eiffel Tower is mounted on cylinders. What is it really? - By Bertrand Lemoine

Having started in the early summer of 1887, the assembly of the Tower required the installation of large wooden scaffolding. Because the four oblique pillars, spaced 328 feet (100 meters) apart, were simultaneously launched skyward and had to rely on temporary structures. Similarly, the large first floor beams temporarily rested on 148-feet (45-meter) high scaffolding. The columns and the beams had to be connected with a very high degree of precision, so that the holes drilled previously for the installation of the rivets would meet precisely, and one had to find the means to regulate their exact position. 

Drawing showing the building of the Eiffel Tower

A simple hand pump!

To control the removal of the scaffolding, boxes of sand that could be emptied gradually were interposed between them with metal elements, mounted slightly above their normal position. In addition, two of the columns were equipped with hydraulic cylinders positioned at their base.

Driven by a simple hand pump, they could raise or lower the cylinders by a few centimeters. Once the first floor was fully assembled, these cylinders were removed and replaced by permanent wedges. You can still see the housing of these cylinders at the base of the columns. The tower was mounted on cylinders but this was only during the period of construction

Bertrand Lemoine is an architect, engineer and historian. He was a research director at the CNRS and general manager of the Atelier International du Grand Paris. He is an internationally recognized specialist in the history and current events of architecture, construction, the city and heritage in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in Paris, Greater Paris and the Eiffel Tower. He is the author of forty-three books and several hundred articles on these subjects. He is currently a consultant on architectural, urban, digital and energy issues.

Photo Bertrand Lemoine

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