A model of refined simplicity on the outside, the iron lady that symbolises Paris is a complicated piece of work inside her elegant A-line figure. Click for more photos

Behind the scenes at the Eiffel Tower

A model of refined simplicity on the outside, the iron lady that symbolises Paris is a complicated piece of work inside her elegant A-line figure. Photo: Louie Douvis

  • A model of refined simplicity on the outside, the iron lady that symbolises Paris is a complicated piece of work inside her elegant A-line figure.
  • Industrial-sized cogs, gears and cables spin, bump, grind and purr deep inside the structure's innards, in places no tourists see.
  • Descending the spiral staircase into the "fosse," or pit, is like stealing onto the set of Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin's 1936 vision of industrial society.
  • The elevator supervisor Eric Trahand greases one of the jacks of the underground hydraulic motors. More than 500 people - from welders and plumbers to security guards and cooks - work within the structure.
  • Aside from visitors, everything else goes up and down on a modern electric elevator. From knickknacks on sale in the gift shop to baguettes and bubbly served in the restaurants.
  • Custom-fitted pumps, heaters and long-life bulbs keep the 119-year-old Eiffel Tower working and sparkling.
  • To replace one the 360 spotlights, specially trained technicians don mountain-climbing gear to scale the iron crossbeams.
  • The company that manages the tower had a net profit of $US1.82 million ($A2.77 million) in 2007. The money goes back to its shareholders which include the City of Paris.
  • Designed by the tower's architect and namesake, Gustave Eiffel, the visitors' elevators were installed in 1899 - ten years after the tower opened.

Paris authorities are mulling a plan to extend the Eiffel Tower downwards as above ground building would spoil the French capital's geometry, the head of the landmark's operating company says.

"Paris Council will deliberate on Tuesday or Wednesday this project for an underground building, we need further studies and we're moving forward with the project," deputy mayor in charge of tourism Jean-Bernard Bros said.

Bros, who also heads the steel icon's operating company SETE, said that the project had been looked at for several months and that a committee had been set up to group together all the extension studies already done.

It is not possible to build at the ground level as "you have to respect the line of sight between the Ecole Militaire and the Trocadero," Bros said, referring to two landmarks with which the tower is aligned across the Seine.

The two-storey underground extension would house the ticket booths currently found inside the edifice's feet, an Eiffel Tower museum, a children's area and other visitor amenities.

Visitors currently often have to wait hours in lengthy and chaotic queues zigzagging around the Eiffel Tower to get tickets.

AFP