Forth Bridge

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Alternative Names Forth Rail Bridge; Forth Railway Bridge; River Forth; Inner Forth Estuary; Queensferry Narrows; South Queensferry; Dalmeny
Site Type RAILWAY BRIDGE
Canmore ID 50614
Site Number NT17NW 70
NGR NT 13554 79252
Council EDINBURGH, CITY OF
Parish DALMENY
Former Region LOTHIAN
Former District CITY OF EDINBURGH
Former County WEST LOTHIAN
Datum OSGB36 - NGR
NGR Desc NT 13885 77955 to NT 13286 80332

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Treasured Places - HLF funded

Built between 1882 and 1890, the Forth Railway Bridge is regarded as a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. It was designed by the engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, and the contractor for the construction was Tancred, Arrol & Co.

The form of the bridge comprises three double cantilevers, supported by massive granite foundations, and connected by latticed girders. The bridge spans some 2.5km between North and South Queensferry.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 27 June 2007
Hume, J 1976
Smith, M 1994

An image of this site has been nominated as one of Scotland's favourite archive images. For more information about the project visit http://www.treasuredplaces.org.uk

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Archaeological Notes

Forth Bridge [NAT]
OS 1:10,000 map, 1984.

Not to be confused with Alloa, Forth Rail Bridge (NS 8627 9156 to 8616 9110), for which see NS89SE 79.

For (nearby) Forth Road Bridge (NT 124 782 to 125 807), see NT17NW 171.

For (associated) railway cottages at Dalmeny (NT 1394 7792 and 1402 7784), see NT17NW 146 and NT17NW 167 respectively.

For Forth Bridge Workshops and related crane at Dalmeny Station (NT 1400 7775), see NT17NW 174.00.

For associated and adjacent Battery Quarry (North Queensferry), see NT18SW 346.

For (apparently-associated) lifeboat station at NT 12552 80541, see NT18SW 348.

For (supplying) stone quarries at Kemnay, Aberdeenshire, see NJ71NE 79.

Architect: Sir John Fowler 1881 (with Sir Benjamin Baker)
Built 1883-1890
Sir William Arrol - contractor.

The following is taken from photograph D/81710/PO:
The Forth Bridge. The labour of 5000 men (day and night) for 7 years.
Engineers - Sir John Fowler & Sir Benjamin Baker.
Contractor - Sir William Arrol. Opened March 1890.
Cost over £3,000,000
Length, including approach viaducts, over 1 1/2 miles. Two spans of 1710 Ft each and two of 690 Ft each. Highest part above sea level at high tide, 361 Ft. Height of rails above sea level at high tide, 157 Ft 8 Ins. Depth below water level 91 Ft.
Materials used:
Steel : 54,160 Tons.
Concrete : 64,300 Cubic Yards
Granite : 740,000 Cubic Feet
Cement : over 21,000 Tons.
Ordinary Stone : 47,400 Cubic Yards.
Rivets : 6,500,000 = 4,200 Tons.
Reference: MacKay, S 1990 "The Forth Bridge. A Picture History", Edinburgh.
National Library - "Scots Magazine" April 1807: engraving of section of Forth from Hopetoun to Rosyth.
(Undated) information in NMRS.

(Location cited as NT 13 79). Forth Railway Bridge: built 1882-90 by engineers Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker. Probably the best-known bridge in Scotland with its three double cantilevers and dramatically high approach spans. Its total length is 8295 ft 9.5 ins (2,528.6m) and the two main spans are each 1700 ft (518.3m) long.
J R Hume 1976.

The designers were John Fowler (best known for the Metropolitan and District Railways in London) and Benjamin Baker (his partner and former assistant). The contract was let to Tancred, Arrol & Co. in December 1882 and work began in the following year. On 24 January 1890 the Marchioness of Tweeddale drove the first train across the bridge, and on 4 March the Prince of Wales declared the bridge open. The bridge is seen at its simplest, in pure, distant elevation, from Hopetoun House (NT07NE 13) to the W; at its most complex and powerful from the old ferry pier (NT17NW 172) by the Hawes Inn, or best of all from the water.
C McWilliam 1978.

Over the summer and autumn of 1879, William Arrol, whose modest company had successfully tendered for the ironwork of the bridge, prepared to begin construction, acquiring ground near South Queensferry for workshops and building a brickworks at Inverkeithing. However, in July 1880 and after the Report of the Commissioners enquiring into the collapse of the Tay Bridge, contracts for the Forth Bridge were cancelled and the project abandoned. However, a meeting of the four major railway companies involved reconsidered this move on 30 September 1881, and the Abandonment Bill was withdrawn.
The Act for the present bridge received Royal assent on 12 July 1882, and work started in December of that year. So as to take full advantage of the structure, the North British Rly. had been engaged for some time on permanent way schemes to improve access both to the bridge and Edinburgh.
W S Bruce 1980.

The Forth Bridge was built by contractors Tancred, Arrol & Co to the design of engineers John Fowler and Benjamin Baker on behalf of the Forth Bridge Co (a joint composite of the North British, North Eastern, Midland and Great Northern Rlys) at a cost of 3 million pounds.
It comprises 23 spans (including the approaches) and was built of granite and mild steel to a cantilever and lattice girder design. Lack of approach track capacity initially limited the use of the bridge and it lost its status as the world's largest cantilever bridge with the opening of the Quebec Bridge (over the St Lawrence River, Canada) in December 1917.
M Smith 1994.

This bridge carries the Edinburgh-Aberdeen main line of the (former) North British Rly. (which was grouped into the London and North-Eastern Rly.) across the inner estuary of the River Forth at the Queensferry Narrows, between the parishes of Dalmeny (in the former county of West Lothain and City of Edinburgh District of Lothian Region) and Inverkeithing (in the former county of Fife and Dunfermline District of Fife Region).
Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 13 January 1996.

Twin track steel railway bridge 2.5km long and 47m above MHWM. Built in 1882-90. Spans the Firth of Forth between South and North Queensferry. It was constructed just after the Tay Bridge disaster and so safety was a great consideration.
Site recorded by GUARD during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, 'The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Coast of Fife' 18 February 1996.

The Forth Bridge may be seen as the symbol of the 'Golden Age' of British railways, being the apogee of a prolonged period of development and having an effect far beyond the railway industry, representing the excellence of British products in general. It also redeemed the reputation of the British engineering industry after the collapse of the first Tay bridge (NO32NE 17), and is paralleled in many respects by the Severn Tunnel.
A Vaughan 1997.

This bridge forms a notable panorama with the corresponding road bridge (NT17NW 171) which stands a short distance to the W. The N ends of the two bridges lie close together, but they diverge towards the S, the village of South Queensferry (NT17NW 175) lying between them. Like the road bridge, this structure over-arches the village of North Queensferry (NT18SW 121).
The location assigned to this record defines the midpoint of the structure. The available map evidence indicates that it extends from NT c. 13885 77955 to NT c. 13286 80332.
Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 3 March 2006.

(Appendix: list of names of men killed during construction works).
E Wills 2009.

Forth Bridge [NAT]
OS (GIS) MasterMap, December 2010.

1883 to 1890
 CONSTRUCTION

Notes Built by engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker. Contractor Sir William Arrol.
J R Hume 1976; W S Bruce 1980; C McWilliam 1978.


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1900 to 1909
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

Notes Photographs of the bridge, including during its construction, taken by Scottish Colorfoto.

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1900
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

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1939 to 1945
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Notes Reconnaissance photographs of the Forth Bridge taken by the Luftwaffe during WWII.

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19 October 1941
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1941 RAF Aerial Photography

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June 1957
 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

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1960 to 1969
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

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1970 to 1979
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

Notes Photographs of The Forth Bridge taken by William McKelvie in the 1970s.

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1974
 STANDING BUILDING RECORDING

Project JR Hume Industrial Archaeology Survey

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1 January 1975 to 31 December 1976
 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

Project List C Survey

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1982
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1982 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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1986
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1986 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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28 February 1986
 STANDING BUILDING RECORDING

Project Scottish Industrial Archaeology Survey

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1987
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1987 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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1988
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1988 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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1 January 1988 to 31 December 1988
 DESIGN

Project John L Paterson

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29 August 1988 to 9 September 1988
 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

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1990
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1990 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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1991
 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

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1992
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1992 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Notes


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11 June 1998
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1998 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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8 May 2000
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2000 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Notes


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3 September 2000
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

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9 February 2001
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2001 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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13 June 2004
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2004 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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13 July 2004
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2004 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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10 May 2005
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2005 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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13 June 2006
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2006 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Notes Beginning with architectural subjects in Glasgow and recently fire-damaged dockside buildings in Greenock, this sortie extended across parts of Stirlingshire recording Grade A listed buildings. Strathearn was examined for cropmarks, largely in vain, before landing at Perth.
Flying out of Perth this sortie was aimed at exploring the development of cropmarks in the Angus area. A small clutch of sites was recorded, but this area has some way to go, as does the Howe of Fife area. Many of the sites were visible in oil seed rape which a week or two from flowering.

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13 July 2006
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2006 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Notes This flight was designed to explore the potential of the cropmarks along the Moray Plain noted the previous week and produced a good clutch of previously unrecorded and known sites in the Nairn - Elgin - Forres area, extensive areas of rig among them. ATC in the Lossiemouth MATZ very cooperative.

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2007
 PROJECT

Notes This project was undertaken to input site information listed in 'Civil engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' by R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

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2007
 PUBLICATION ACCOUNT

Project Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders

Notes The Forth Bridge, often dubbed ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, carrying the east coast main line railway across the Forth at Queensferry was designed between 1880–82 in the aftermath of the Tay Bridge disaster. This event engendered a major loss of confidence in Victorian engineering, but resulted in a gigantic leap forward in bridge design and construction with the achievement of the Forth Bridge built from 1883–90. The bridge was to provide a shorter rail route to the north in place of the time-consuming ferry crossings. In order to cross two deep channels, two main spans of 1710 ft utilising the isle of Inchgarvie were required, a daunting and unprecedented project.
Initially Thomas Bouch proposed a stiffened suspension bridge design with two spans of 1600 ft and construction began in 1878, but, following the fall of the Tay Bridge, confidence in his judgement and design waned, although it had been checked and was being implemented by William Arrol. The base of one of the brick piers of his structure still remains at Inchgarvie, now carrying a beacon.
An innovative design involving the balanced cantilever principle and the use of steel was devised by consulting engineers Sir John Fowler & Benjamin Baker of Westminster. The Board of Trade laid down the stringent requirement of 56 lb sq ft to be allowed for in the design for wind pressure. Extensive use was made of tubular members in compression, many of unprecedented size. The design was subjected to intense scrutiny as it developed. Wind pressures were recorded and endless tests made on the quality of the steel. Nothing was left to chance.
The contract for constructing the bridge was awarded to Tancred, Arrol & Co. William Arrol took personal charge of the operations, both at his works in Glasgow and on site, Andrew Biggart playing a key role. He showed great ingenuity in the design of plant, including hydraulic riveting machines, cranes and drilling methods, and provided many safety devices for his workers. The carefully devised design enabled the bridge to be constructed with the minimum of temporary works and staging.Much of the labour employed on the bridge was recruited from shipyards of the Clyde and Forth, and steelworkers from Lanarkshire. The superstructure is basically three towers with cantilever arms on each side. The towers are 330 ft high above the granite pier foundations, and the cantilever arms are each 680 ft long, projecting outwards from the towers.The ends of the cantilevers over the river are linked by suspended spans of 350 ft. Other dimensions are:
Main spans 1710 ft
South approach ten spans of 168 ft
North approach five spans of 168 ft
Overall length 8296 ft
About 54 160 tons of steel were used in the bridge’s construction, secured by 6 500 000 rivets. At the peak of construction 4600 men were employed. For more than a century there were believed to have been 57 fatalities during construction but this number has increased into the 60s following recent research. Electric light was in its infancy, but primitive lighting was employed here for the first time on a major construction site. The final, so called, ‘Golden Rivet’ was ceremoniously driven by the Prince of Wales at the opening of the bridge on 4 March 1890. The bridge is now (2007) undergoing a major long-term refurbishment. Its traditional Craig & Rose paint is being replaced by a paint regime developed in the offshore oil industry consisting, after blast cleaning to bare metal, of an application of a zinc based primer (35 microns), a glass flake epoxy paint barrier (400 microns) and a polyurethane gloss top coat (35 microns).

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission of Thomas Telford Publishers.


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21 March 2007
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2007 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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2 April 2007
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2007 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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Books and References

Anon ([199-?]) 'Shipwreck halts Forth Bridge buffer project [Edinburgh, Forth Road Bridge, newscutting]',
Held at RCAHMS Lo Ed.N

Baldwin, J (1997) Edinburgh, Lothians and the Borders, Exploring Scotland's Heritage series Edinburgh
Page(s): 63-4 No. 6 Held at RCAHMS A.1.4.HER

Baldwin, J R (1985) Exploring Scotland's heritage: Lothian and the Borders, Exploring Scotland's heritage series Edinburgh
Page(s): 29, No.4 Held at RCAHMS A.1.4.HER

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