Scotlands History

The Forth Rail Bridge

It was a long dreamt-of route - over the east coast’s deep-sea inlets, to connect Edinburgh with Dundee and Aberdeen by rail. For centuries, the Forth estuary’s narrowest crossing point at Queensferry had been a ferry crossing.

In 1883 work began on one of the great engineering achievements of the Victorian era, with engineers Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, and William Arrol as principal contractor.

The three iconic double cantilever towers - named ‘Queensferry’, ‘Inchgarvie’ and ‘Fife’ - have at each shore end 1000-ton counterpoise weights. The steel bridge is over one and a half miles long, rises to 361 feet, and was built by a multi-national squad of 5000 men in seven years.

On 4 March 1890 the last rivet was banged into place by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). Travellers used to throw pennies out of the train windows for luck and people still say that never-ending tasks will take as long as ‘painting the Forth Rail Bridge’.

In 1990, the centenary of the Forth Rail Bridge, billed as ‘the biggest birthday party in Scotland’, was celebrated with floodlights and fireworks.

  • 'Looking through the Great Forth Bridge (8,300 feet long), Scotland', unknown artist.

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