The Forth Bridge is one of the greatest engineering
achievements of the Victorian
age in Britain
. It is a steel cantilever
ed bridge carrying the railway across the Firth of Forth
north of Edinburgh
, running from South Queensferry
to North Queensferry
Work had begun on a bridge in 1873, but this was cancelled following the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879, when the railway bridge across the River Tay collapsed during a heavy storm and force 10 gale, with the loss of 75 lives. A tunnel underneath the Forth had been considered, but was rejected for engineering reasons. In order to restore confidence in the railway system, it was thought necessary to build the strongest possible structure, and the result was an astonishing monument of steel.
The structure of the bridge, which is 2.5 km (1.5 miles) across, has two parts. At either end, the railway is supported on high arched viaducts leading up to the main bridge. In the centre, there are 2 cantilevered towers, which give the bridge its unique shape and strength. The track sticks out from each tower, halfway up at either side; the section carrying the train is braced above and below from the towers, giving it the shape of two rhombuses side by side.
The bridge was designed by Sir Benjamin Baker (1840-1907) and Sir John Fowler(1817-98) and built by Sir William Arrol (1839-1913). Work began in 1983 and it took seven years to complete, finally being opened on 4th March 1890 by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII.
The bridge incorporates 55 000 tonnes of steel, 18 122 cubic metres (640 000 cubic feet) of granite, 21 000 tonnes of cement, and 8 million rivets. 57 people died during the construction. However, the cost of building the bridge proved so great compared to other methods that the style was not widely copied.
Yet despite its dramatic appearance and engineering excellence, not everyone liked it. The English Pre-Raphaelite writer and artist William Morris declared it "the supremest specimen of all ugliness." But there is no doubt it is seen and admired by more people than all of Morris's work.
At either side of the bridge, at South Queensferry and North Queensferry, tourists can go down to the beach or seafront and look at the bridge, which is flood-lit at night. The bridge is still in regular use by the railway system, and anyone travelling up the East Coast main line through Edinburgh to Dundee or Aberdeen, or from Edinburgh to stations in East Fife such as Kirkcaldy and Leuchars, will pass over it.