A Bridge too Far: or Forth?


When I state that our forebears, in terms of the last 250-odd years, produced THE finest engineers the world has ever known; I believe that to be a fact. The simple genius of a Humphrey Davy, a man who single-handedly saved thousands of underground workers, miners, tunnellers, from a fiery death through methane explosion by his invention of a ‘safety lamp’; the matter-of-fact convictions of Abraham Darby who gave us the Ironbridge, The mind of Robert Stephenson knew that the simple steam boiler which powered a locomotive could be changed, and made ten times more efficient: his tubed boiler, which gave thirty times more surface area to heat the water from the same fire, gave us the Rocket, which changed the world forever. We have the inspiration and examples of many Victorian Engineers to guide us, and we should always remember that their way of working, which was not necessarily backed up with pages of calculations; but instead of a gut feeling that ‘so much’ was right, and ‘not enough’ was wrong with a design, or a building, or a railway; was the only way to proceed.

So I am more than slightly puzzled by the news that the Forth Road Bridge has been closed for at least two months so that inch-wide cracks in the bridge support steelwork could be investigated and repaired. Now this bridge, completed in 1964, was and had to be designed with all the latest construction safety techniques. The finest Civil Engineering minds in Britain worked on that bridge, and now it is closed for repairs.

I have just two comments on so-called British Workmanship.

  • I just hope that the Forth Road Bridge was not built by colleagues of the bunch which I unfortunately had to supervise while a small but complex building was being constructed,(see my comments towards the end of my post).
  • The Forth Road Bridge has been closed before for safety and repair concerns, as well as over fears that the bridge is being stressed by too much heavy traffic. The Forth Rail Bridge, completed in 1890; designed under Victorian engineering principles and strict supervisory standards: has never closed, has never been subject to extra safety regulations, and has performed magnificently for 125 years!

aforthrailbridge

H/t Colin Ruffel

One thought on “A Bridge too Far: or Forth?

  1. It boils down to Factor of Safety (fos). The Victorians probably used 10, modern designers use 2 or less.

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