Forth Bridge emerges triumphant in ‘battle of the bridges’

The Forth Bridge opened in 1890. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Forth Bridge opened in 1890. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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When it comes to Forth bridges, it seems that oldest really is best.

A public vote this week confirmed the distinctive red cantilever structure opened in 1890 is the most impressive engineering feat of the three crossings at Queensferry.

Experts from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) held a debate at the University of Strathclyde on Tuesday evening to discuss the respective merits of the two road bridges and one rail bridge that link Edinburgh with Fife and beyond.

The Queensferry Crossing may be the tallest bridge in Europe, as well as the most recent addition to the trio, but that seemed to count for little - winning just 19 per cent of votes from those attending the debate.

The Forth Bridge claimed 46 per cent, while the Forth Road Bridge, opened in 1964, won 39 per cent.

“The three bridges spanning the Forth at South Queensferry represent a concentration of engineering excellence with three centuries of bridge design,” an ICE spokesperson said.

“These bridges not only provide the valuable transport infrastructure on which our economy depends, but they also enhance Scotland’s skyline and contribute to a sense of place.

“The iconic bridges over the River Forth attract tourists from around the world and are the finest examples of civil engineering of their age. Each bridge has a different design and represented a leap in engineering at the time it was built, breaking new records.”

The Forth Bridge was designed by English engineers John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, both ICE members, who would later receive knighthoods for their efforts. The principal contractor was William Arroll, a self-made man who built up his Glasgow-based engineering firm from scratch.

The crossing’s distinctive approaches were designed, under a separate contract, by James Carswell. He was also responsible for the huge glazed roof at Glasgow Queen Street station.

The bridge was officially opened on March 4, 1890, by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, who drove home the final rivet, which was gold plated and suitably inscribed.

It continues to boast the world’s second-longest single cantilever span, with a span of 1,709 feet (521 m).