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The Bridge and The Little Ferry

The Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge over the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland, 9 miles (14 kilometres) west of Edinburgh City Centre. It is considered an iconic structure and a symbol of Scotland. Its construction began in 1882 and was opened on 4 March 1890 by the Prince of Wales. The bridge spans the Forth between the villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry and has a total length of 8,296 feet (2,528.7 m). It was the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world until 1917 when the Quebec Bridge in Canada was completed. It continues to be world's second-longest single cantilever span. The bridge and its associated railway infrastructure is owned by Network Rail Infrastructure Limited. It is sometimes referred to as the Forth Rail Bridge to distinguish it from the Forth Road Bridge, though this has never been its official name. Prior to the construction of the bridge, ferry boats were used to cross the Firth. In 1806, a pair of tunnels, one for each direction, was proposed, and in 1818 James Anderson produced a design for a three-span suspension bridge close to the site of the present one. Approximately 2,500 tonnes (2,500 long tons; 2,800 short tons) of iron.

The Bridge and                 

The Little Ferry


Scotland. United Kingdom


Wilhelm Westhofen said of it "and this quantity [of iron] distributed over the length would have given it a very light and slender appearance, so light indeed that on a dull day it would hardly have been visible, and after a heavy gale probably no longer to be seen on a clear day either." Thomas Bouch designed for the Edinburgh and Northern Railway a roll-on/roll-off railway ferry between Granton and Burntisland that opened in 1850, which proved so successful that another was ordered for the Tay. In autumn 1863, a joint project between the North British Railway and Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, which would merge in 1865, appointed Stephenson and Toner to design a bridge for the Forth, but the commission was given to Bouch around six months later.

The Bill for the construction of the bridge was passed on 19 May 1882 after an eight day enquiry, the only objections being from rival railway companies. On 21 December of that year, the contract was let to Sir Thomas Tancred, Mr. T. H. Falkiner and Mr. Joseph Philips, civil engineers and contractor, and Sir William Arrol & Co.  Arrol was a self-made man, who had been apprenticed to a blacksmith at the age of thirteen before going on to have a highly successful business. Tancred was a professional engineer who had worked with Arrol before, but he would leave the partnership during the course of construction. The bridge was completed in December 1889, and load testing of the completed bridge was carried out on 21 January 1890. Two trains, each consisting of three heavy locomotives and 50 wagons loaded with coal, totalling 1,880 tons in weight, were driven slowly from South Queensferry to the middle of the north cantilever, stopping frequently to measure the deflection of the bridge. This represented more than twice the design load of the bridge: the deflection under load was as expected. A few days previously there had been a violent storm, producing the highest wind pressure recorded to date at Inchgarvie, and the deflection of the cantilevers had been less than 25 mm (1 in). The first complete crossing took place on 24 February, when a train consisting of two carriages carrying the chairmen of the various railway companies involved made several crossings. The bridge was opened on 4 March 1890 by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, who drove home the last rivet, which was gold plated and suitably inscribed. The key for the official opening was made by Edinburgh silversmith John Finlayson Bain, commemorated in a plaque on the bridge.

At its peak, approximately 4,600 workers were employed in its construction. Wilhelm Westhofen recorded in 1890 that 57 lives were lost; but in 2005 the Forth Bridge Memorial Committee was set up to erect a monument to the briggers, and a team of local historians set out to name all those who died. As of 2009, 73 deaths have been connected with the construction of the bridge and its immediate aftermath. It is thought that the figure of 57 deaths excluded those who died working on the approaches to the bridge, as those parts were completed by a subcontractor, as well as those who died after the Sick and Accident Club stopped. Of the 73 recorded deaths, 38 were as a result of falling, 9 of being crushed, 9 drowned, 8 struck by a falling object, 3 died in a fire in a bothy, 1 of caisson disease, and the cause of five deaths is unknown.

Floodlighting was installed in 1991, and the track was renewed between 1992 and 1995. The bridge was costing British Rail £1 million a year to maintain, and they announced that the schedule of painting would be interrupted to save money, and the following year, upon privatisation, Railtrack took over. A £40 million package of works commenced in 1998, and in 2002 the responsibility of the bridge was passed to Network Rail. Work started in 2002 to repaint the bridge fully for the first time in its history, in a £130 million contract awarded to Balfour Beatty. Up to 4,000 tonnes (3,900 long tons; 4,400 short tons) of scaffolding was on the bridge at any time, and computer modelling was used to analyse the additional wind load on the structure. The bridge was encapsulated in a climate controlled membrane to give the proper conditions for the application of the paint. All previous layers of paint were removed using copper slag fired at up to 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), exposing the steel and allowing repairs to be made. The paint, developed specifically for the bridge by Leigh Paints, consisted of a system of three coats derived from that used in the North Sea oil industry. 240,000 litres (53,000 imp gal; 63,000 US gal) of paint was applied to 255,000 square metres (2,740,000 sq ft) of the structure, and it is not expected to need repainting for at least 20 years. The top coat can be reapplied indefinitely, minimising future maintenance work. The Bridge Experience Website

The Ferry, The Maid of the Forth was established in 1981, with the current vessel being purpose built in 1988 for the trip to Inchcolm.  It is a family run business and has been under the ownership of Colin Aston since 1993.   The three skippers who drive the Maid are Colin; his son Scott; and son–in-law Duncan. daily boat trips to Inchcolm Island are consistently voted as of the best things to do in Edinburgh every summer. There is an abundance of marine wildlife to be seen such as Grey Seals, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and the occasional sightings of porpoises, dolphins and even Minke whales. Daily sailings all stop off at Inchcolm Island where you have the option of getting off the boat and spending 90mins exploring the magnificent Inchcolm Abbey and Island before boarding the boat again and returning to South Queensferry. The Maid of the Forth Website.

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