The Forth Bridge at the Present Day.
Building the Bridge. Train crossing the Bridge.
The mouth of the Forth has very nearly bitten Scotland in two, and anybody who wishes to travel from Edinburgh to Dunfermline would have to go a long way round if they objected to crossing the river. Formerly a great many people did object to this, because they knew that, although the voyage was only about a short mile, the great billows from the North Sea would meet them before it was over, and give them a very unpleasant time. So everybody who had anything to do with the Forth was willing that it should be spanned by a reliable bridge, and plans for carrying this into effect were frequently proposed. Indeed, arrangements were almost completed in 1879 for building a huge suspension bridge from shore to shore. The drawings were made, the estimates prepared, and the spades and trowels even beginning to work on the foundations, when, one sad December night, a terrible gale arose. All through the hours of darkness it roared and shrieked across the British Isles, working havoc upon sea and land, but, when morning came at last, few were prepared for the appalling catastrophe it had caused. Sweeping up the Firth of Tay, it had torn away a portion of the great railway bridge that crossed the inlet, and hurled it into the water. A train was passing over at the time, and plunged into the abyss with all its passengers. The terrible event shook public confidence, and we might almost say that the gale of that December night caught all the drawings and papers connected with the proposed suspension bridge over the Forth, and swept them from public favour.
Immediately afterwards, Sir John Fowler and Mr. Benjamin Baker (both celebrated engineers) came forward with an alternative plan of which no one could doubt the strength. It may perhaps be described as an arch-suspension bridge, because the design includes the strength of both styles; but engineers themselves call it a cantilever bridge.