Friday, February 8, 2013
The 1.5 mile Forth Railway Bridge, the world’s first major steel bridge, with its gigantic girder spans of 1710 ft. ranks as one of the great feats of civilization. It was begun in 1883 and formally completed on 4 March 1890 when HRH Edward Prince of Wales tapped into place a ‘golden’ rivet.
Tancred–Arrol, constructed the bridge, robustly designed in the aftermath of the Tay Bridge disaster by civil engineers Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker. The balanced cantilever principle was adopted. The main crossing comprises tubular struts and lattice-girder ties in three double-cantilevers each connected by 345 ft. ‘suspended’ girder spans resting on the cantilever ends and secured by man-sized pins. The outside double-cantilever shoreward ends carry weights of about 1000 tons to counter-balance half the weight of the suspended span and live load.
At its peak, approximately 4,600 workers were employed in its construction. Initially, it was recorded that 57 lives were lost; however, after extensive research by local historians, the figure was increased to 63. Eight men were saved from drowning by boats positioned in the river under the working areas. Hundreds of workers were left crippled by serious accidents, and one log book of accidents and sickness had 26,000 entries. In 2005, a project was set up by the Queensferry History Group to establish a memorial to those workers who died during the bridge's construction. In North Queensferry, a decision was also made to set up memorial benches to commemorate those who died during the construction of both the rail and the road bridges, and to seek support for this project from Fife Council.
Today, the bridge, Scotland’s biggest ‘listed’ building, continues to form a vital artery in Network Rail's East Coast railway system; it carries 180 - 200 train movements per day.