Iconic Forth Bridge put forward for World Heritage Status
The iconic Forth Bridge is the world’s first large-scale steel cantilever bridge. Magnificently straddling the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland – joining the Lothians with the Kingdom of Fife – it represents a 19th century engineering masterpiece. Now, it is being put forward to UNESCO for consideration as a World Heritage Site.
An expensive construction
The 2.5 km long bridge, which was completed in 1880, still carries over 200 trains per day. Its construction cost £3,200,00 (equivalent to around 235 million today) and used 54,000 tonnes of steel and an estimated 6,500,000 rivets.
Construction of an earlier suspension bridge designed by Sir Thomas Bouch, got as far as the laying of the foundation stone, but was stopped after the collapse of another of his works, the Tay Bridge. The public inquiry into the Tay bridge disaster – where many lives were lost – declared it “poorly designed, poorly constructed and poorly maintained”.
Construction of an earlier suspension bridge designed by Sir Thomas Bouch, got as far as the laying of the foundation stone, but was stopped after the collapse of another of his works, the Tay Bridge
The project was subsequently taken over by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker who designed a structure that was built by Glasgow based company Sir William Arrol & Co. between 1883 and 1890. At the same time as building the Forth Bridge, Arrol’s company also successfully re-built the Tay Bridge and constructed the steel frame of Tower Bridge in London.
The bridge was built as three separate double cantilevers and when each had been constructed, they were linked together by 350ft long girder spans joined to the main structure by huge pins. The whole bridge is balanced by 1000 ton counterweights on the outside of the outer cantilever structures.
A tribute to the “briggers”
During the seven years of construction, at its peak 4,600 men known as “briggers” were employed, of whom upwards of 70 were killed (there was no official record kept) and 8 more men were saved by safety boats positioned in the river under the working areas.
David Simpson, route managing director for Network Rail Scotland, commented:
“This nomination should be regarded as a further tribute to the thousands of men who have contributed to building, maintaining and restoring the structure over the last 130 years.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “The Forth Bridge is a Scottish icon that is recognised the world over. We are extremely excited that we have the opportunity to make the case for the Bridge being inscribed as Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.
This nomination has the potential to be a celebration of our country’s incredible engineering ingenuity and pedigree
“To have the Bridge inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be a tremendous accolade for the Bridge itself, for the local communities and for Scotland. This nomination has the potential to be a celebration of our country’s incredible engineering ingenuity and pedigree and I wish the team working on it all the best.”
Source: Historic Scotland
Forth Bridge Memorial: http://www.forthbridgememorial.org/index.htm
The Briggers – A book about the men who built the Forth Bridge