Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Forth Bridge

There has been much written recently about The Forth Bridge and the unique point in it's history that it has now reached. This massive steel structure, since it was built, has always required vast quantities of paint to keep the elements at bay and protect this impressive bridge from disappearing into a pile of rust. The photo above shows the bridge (or some of it) on a quiet day.  The sun can shine brilliantly  on it's brick red magnificence but nature can, on a regular basis, re-assert it's command over us mere mortals, with some of the worst and most demanding weather anywhere.

It could be said that the bridge that we know, started on the 28th. day of December 1879. It was in the evening of that day, forty or so miles to the north of the River Forth, that the bridge, which crossed the wide expanse of the River Tay on it's way to the city of Dundee, collapsed. There had been a fierce winter storm and the bridge failed when a north bound train was in the process of crossing it. All of the passengers and crew died on that freezing cold night and the North British Railway, which had spent many years trying to build a direct route from Edinburgh to the north, found that the first of it's great bridges crossing the formidable estuaries of the Tay and the Forth had gone. The engineer of the Tay bridge was  a Sir Thomas Bouch and he had also set the designs for a suspension bridge over the Forth. As the Tay Bridge had seemed a somewhat fragile and delicate structure and possibly not too well put together, his plans for the Forth Bridge, the building of which was about to start, were thrown out. The new design was to be as  strong as possible and the Victorian age threw up the very man to do the job. William Arrol became the contractor for not only the Forth Bridge but the second Tay Bridge and also the Tower Bridge in London, all being worked on at the same time. It is due to this man, that the Forth Bridge still stands and is still doing the job it was built to do.

You might be tempted to think that this writer has completely forgotten the purpose of this blog but never fear, we have finally arrived and the answer is that they have stopped painting the bridge. Not out of awkwardness or lack of money. They simply do not have to lift a paint brush again for perhaps twenty to twenty five years. The structure was taken back to the bare metal and then treated to the multi-layer paint technology of oil rigs. It has taken ten years of hard, difficult and frequently dangerous work but it has been worth it.

This means that the saying 'its like painting the Forth Bridge' can no longer be applied to any job or work that seems never ending. Since its construction, the job of painting was constant. Trying to cover the vast area of metal took so long, that when they had finished painting the bridge, the painters had to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

One of Scotland's great monuments has never looked better and it is something we should all be very proud of. There has been suggestions that a permanent viewing platform should be placed on the north most tower and while there have been the usual moaners, I for one, would love to enjoy the views such a tower would afford. If the Victorians can build such a marvellous structure as THE Forth Bridge, why should we not be able to construct what would be an excellent visitor attraction and I would be at the front of the queue.

Incidentally, the steam locomotive of the ill fated train that went to the cold depths of the River Tay was raised and put back into service, being the only survivor of the accident. Railwaymen then always referred to it as 'The Diver'.

Until the next time.          

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