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Stories about the lives we've made

Icon:Silver-plated model of the Forth Bridge, 1882

related ingenious images © Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library

Construction of the Forth Bridge was started in 1882 to replace the ferry which carried the east coast rail link north over the Firth of Forth. The proposal had been vigorously opposed by the rival rail companies, which could operate faster via the west coast routes to Perth and the Highlands. This 1:480 scale model was built to illustrate the proposal to a parliamentary committee.

In 1879, the Tay Bridge had fallen in a storm. This disaster ensured that the Forth Bridge was designed using the most thorough structural analysis then possible. It was also the first bridge to use the new steel produced by the Siemens open-hearth process. The novel design came from the engineering partnership of John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, with Sir William Arrol as chief contractor.

The Forth Bridge, when completed in 1890, was the largest span bridge in the world. During construction 57 men lost their lives. The bridge took seven years to build, cost £3 million in the money of the time and used over 50,000 tons of steel. It was the largest civil engineering structure achieved during the nineteenth century, and though William Morris described it as 'the supremest specimen of all ugliness', it remains one of the industrial wonders of the world.

Inv. 1934-497
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