Forth Bridge

Railway Bridge

Site Name Forth Bridge

Classification Railway Bridge

Alternative Name(s) Forth Rail Bridge; Forth Railway Bridge; River Forth; Inner Forth Estuary; Queensferry Narrows; South Queensferry; Dalmeny

Canmore ID 50614

Site Number NT17NW 70

NGR NT 13554 79252

NGR Description NT 13885 77955 to NT 13286 80332

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Dalmeny
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County West Lothian

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

Archaeology 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.

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