What makes the Forth Bridge special?

The Forth Bridge has long been known as an icon of Scottish engineering – a unique and magnificent structure easily recognisable worldwide by its distinctive design and red oxide-coloured paint.


But what makes the Forth Bridge truly special?

The construction of the bridge itself represents a unique stage in the history of civil engineering. At the end of the 19th century, new steel production processes made large-scale construction more viable and allowed engineers of the day to design (and now build) major feats of human engineering. The Forth Bridge is widely regarded as the world’s first, and greatest, steel bridge thanks to its revolutionary advancements and problem-solving on a scale never before seen.

Spanning 1710ft (521m), to this day the Forth Bridge remains the world’s longest cantilever bridge, with 54,000 tons of steel forming the vital transport link between Fife and Edinburgh. In fact, for nearly 30 years following construction, the Forth Bridge also boasted the world’s longest single cantilever span.

The pioneering approach to the Forth Bridge’s design and construction is still visible today – through the structure’s uniquely unchanged form. There has been no structural alteration from the original construction opened in 1890 and, during an extensive restoration project completed in late 2011, the vast majority of the original steel required very little, if any, repair work.

Originally intended to carry steam locomotives, the bridge is still in high demand over a century later, carrying over 200 trains a day and serving as a vital link for east of Scotland rail traffic.

Spanning the Forth and bridging three centuries, the iconic Forth Bridge remains an inspiration to many artists and photographers, who have helped the structure to become one of Scotland’s most recreated subjects.

As a treasured landmark, the bridge has held the highest statutory level of protection in Scotland for a historic structure since 1971. In 2012 it was announced that a submission would be prepared to nominate the bridge for World Heritage Site status with UNESCO – an accolade shared by only five other Scottish sites.

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