All three Forth Bridges stretching over the Firth of Forth

The Forth Bridges

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Forth Bridges, Queensferry, Edinburgh.

The three Forth Bridges connect Edinburgh to Fife in the east of Scotland. They stand side by side over the Firth Of Forth, representing three centuries of engineering. The Forth Rail Bridge is for trains only, the Forth Road Bridge is open to public transport, cyclists and pedestrians. Cars and other road traffic use the new Queensferry Crossing.

The Forth Rail Bridge, 1890

The Forth Rail Bridge opened in 1890 to carry trains across the Firth Of Forth. It remains a great feat of engineering. The bridge is 2.5 km in length, making it the world’s second longest single span.

Civil Engineers John Fowler and Benjamin Baker developed the design for the Forth Rail Bridge and the contract was awarded to Messers Arrol & Co of Glasgow. Construction began in 1883 and it took 7 years to complete. It was the first major steel construction in the UK. It is reported that 98 men lost their lives in the process. The Prince of Wales formally opened the bridge on 4th March 1890, by hammering in a final gold rivet. Baker was knighted at the opening ceremony (Fowler had already been knighted 5 years earlier).

Today the Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. Prior to 2001, it seemed like workmen were constantly painting the Forth Bridge. It took so long to cover the whole construction, that by the time they finished it was time to start again at the other end! Coining the phrase “It’s like painting the Forth Bridge”. Fortunately there is now a new painting technique which makes the paint more hard-wearing, meaning they only need to paint the bridge every 20 years or so.

To cross the Forth Rail Bridge yourself, you may take a train from Edinburgh to North Queensferry. You can get great views of the bridge from either side of the crossing (South Queensferry or North Queensferry) or from the Forth Road Bridge which runs adjacent to it.

Forth Road Bridge, 1964

The Forth Road Bridge is a road suspension bridge, which opened in 1964 to allow road traffic, cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Firth Of Forth. Before it’s construction, a ferry service transported vehicles across the water.

The structure is over 2.5 km long. When it opened it was the largest in the world outside the United States.

Queensferry Crossing, 2017

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Queensferry Crossing on 4th September 2017, exactly 53 years after she opened the Forth Road Bridge.

It is a triple tower cable-stayed structure, 2.7 km long, the longest of its kind in the world.

Forth Bridge Experience

Network Rail are currently looking into building a new Forth Bridge Experience with a Visitor Centre, Viewing Platform and other attractions. Visit the Forth Bridge Experience website for more information.