Forth Bridge

Edinburgh, Scotland | C.1882

Photo Credit: Jack Lowe

Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge that runs across the Firth of Forth in Scotland, 9mi west of Edinburgh. Designed by English engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker in 1882, it was the first major structure in Britain constructed of steel.

Prior to the bridge’s construction, ferries were used to cross the Firth. As the era of Industrialism emerged and large amounts of steel became readily available, engineers set their eyes on constructing a railway bridge. After years of proposals and a failed design that ended up in collapse, Fowler and Baker were invited to submit their cantilever bridge design.

Spanning a total length of 8,094ft (2,467m) between the villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry, it was the longest single cantilever bridge upon opening in 1890. Elevated at 150ft above the water level at high tide, the bridge consists of two main spans, each with two cantilever arms supporting a central truss.

The bridge operated successfully through the 20th century. During World War I, the Germans waged an air attack on the nearby Rosyth naval base in hopes of destroying the HMS Hood, the largest capital ship of the Royal Navy. Though the bridge was not the target, nor damaged, it became known as the “Forth Bridge Raid.”

Today, the Forth Bridge continues to serve high-speed, passenger, and freight trains, and holds a place in both British and international culture, appearing in films, books, and television, and even on banknotes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bridge is also considered a symbol of Scotland.

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