Two Great Scottish Icons – Forth Rail Bridge and Irn Bru

For many non-Scots, two famous icons representing Scotland would be thought of as Edinburgh Castle and whiskey, or tartan kilts and the thistle. But to a TRUE Scot, Barr’s Irn Bru is the most iconic of Scottish symbols!

Two great Scottish Icons - Forth Rail Bridge and Irn Bru

Two great Scottish Icons – Forth Rail Bridge and Irn Bru

Irn Bru should be drunk chilled, straight from a glass bottle. A can is the next best way of drinking this Scottish National drink, and at a push it can be drunk from a plastic bottle. This amazing drink is almost as old as the other Scottish icon shown here, because Irn Bru was first introduced by Robert Barr in 1901, and the recipe containing 32 different flavours still remains a family secret to this day.

Another great Scottish icon is the Forth Rail Bridge, which this year celebrated its 125th birthday. Construction started on this magnificent bridge in 1882 and it was opened on the 4th March 1890 by the then Prince of Wales (Edward VII).

Before the bridge was built, rail travellers used a roll-on roll-off ferry service, between Granton in Edinburgh and Burntisland in Fife, to travel to and from Perth. Originally, Thomas Bouch designed a suspension style rail bridge to span the Forth, but following the failure and subsequent disaster of his previous bridge crossing the Tay in 1879, in which 74 people died, the work was abandoned.
The second rail bridge was designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, using a cantilever construction, and this is still the second largest such structure in the world today, with a length of almost 2.5km.

Photo showing the principle of a cantilever bridge.

“Cantilever bridge human model” by Unknown photographer for Benjamin Baker. – http://www.sbe.hw.ac.uk/staff/arthur/frbpc/ForthBridgePostCards.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cantilever_bridge_human_model.jpg#/media/File:Cantilever_bridge_human_model.jpg

 

Forth Rail Bridge from North Queensferry

Forth Rail Bridge from North Queensferry

 

Just prior to the official opening of the Forth Rail Bridge, the structure was tested using two 1,000 feet long trains, each consisting of a steam engine and 50 wagons. This test was a resounding success, and even now at least 200 trains cross the bridge each day. It’s interesting to note, that in 1907, 30,000 trains crossed, weighing a total of 14.5 million tons, and in the year 2000 some 60,000 trains crossed, but they only weighed a total of 10 million tons. This just shows how much we now rely on road transport to move goods and raw materials from one place to another. (And hence why a second road bridge is now being built to help carry this extra load.)

Forth Rail Bridge from east side of North Queensferry

Forth Rail Bridge from east side of North Queensferry

 

The Forth Rail Bridge originally cost just under £3 million, and over 4,000 people were involved in its construction. Unfortunately, at least 57 people were killed in accidents whilst working on the bridge, but 8 people were rescued from the water by boats which were stationed underneath all the working areas. There is a small memorial stone, to those that died, in the car park next to the bridge at North Queensferry. The bridge itself consists of 54,000 tons of steel (the first major British construction made of steel), held together by more than 6.5 million rivets, and it has three separate double cantilevers, each with 1,000 tons of concrete to act as counterweights. The middle cantilever has been built on Inchgarvie Island in the middle of the Firth of Forth.

Forth Rail Bridge from North Queensferry - close up photo

Forth Rail Bridge from North Queensferry – close up

 

Forth Rail Bridge from Carlingnose Nature Reserve with Inchgarvie Island

Forth Rail Bridge from Carlingnose Nature Reserve with Inchgarvie Island

 

In 2002, work started on the bridge to repaint the whole structure, replacing the old lead based paint, using a new 3 layer epoxy based paint that should last for a minimum of 20 years. The top layer will be able to be reapplied indefinitely. This has resulted in the ending of the story of the never ending task of painting the Forth Rail Bridge.

Forth Rail Bridge from Carlingnose Nature Reserve

Forth Rail Bridge from Carlingnose Nature Reserve

 

Forth Rail Bridge from Carlingnose Nature Reserve with Deep Sea World in foreground

Forth Rail Bridge from Carlingnose Nature Reserve with Deep Sea World in foreground

 

Proposals to open this UNESCO World Heritage Site to the public have been made in the last couple of years. The first proposal is for a public walkway out to the middle of the first cantilever structure, on the north side of the Forth Rail Bridge, to a cafe and visitor centre. From their, visitors would travel to the top via a lift to a viewing platform. The second proposal involves visitors walking, from the southern end of the Forth Rail Bridge, up one side of the cantilever structure to a viewing platform at the top, then walking back down the other side, and back to South Queensferry next to the railway line. At the time of writing this, the proposals appear to have stalled, but it could be that the consultations are taking longer than expected.

Below is a small gallery of a few more photos of the Forth Rail Bridge.

If you think you would enjoy walking to the top of one of the Forth Rail Bridge cantilevers, please let me know in the comments section below.

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Two Great Scottish Icons – Forth Rail Bridge and Irn Bru

  1. Wonderful images! I’m biased, of course, but I think it’s an incredible bridge and would absolutely agree that it’s deserving of UNESCO status. I wouldn’t go quite so far with Irn Bru but it features near the top of things I miss about Scotland even though I didn’t drink fizzy drinks that often. I miss Irn Bru adverts too.

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