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( click the On/Off button). 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

5 comments for “A Bridge too Far: or Forth?

  1. okjoe
    December 5, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    hanging on in quiet desperation. as feelings go, its a good one. a saturday afternoon, hooked on romance, wine and the days of future passed. another day off tomorrow so to steart and the avocet. the severn sea encroaching as ever but held back just for me. what will happen won’t happen yet. breathe in deep.

  2. TDK
    December 6, 2015 at 7:44 am

    “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!”

    It’s possibly important that the Tay Bridge disaster happened 10 years before. Perhaps the North British railway made doubly sure they didn’t get a second disaster by over engineering the Forth.

  3. AndrewM
    December 6, 2015 at 10:47 am

    The engineering is an irrelevance. There is no working upon a structure like that given the current weather.

  4. Lord T
    December 6, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    In the olden days the engineering was performed by an individual working out tolerances and he had a reputation to keep. He over engineered when he thought it was worthwhile and for safety’s sake. You can’t count on extremes though and many were caught out by overuse or extremes of weather.

    Nowadays it is all done by computer and a team. They calculate the minimum they can spend to do what they have to and no more. No little extra on certain parts as they don’t actually have any responsibility if it fails.

    Such is life in the last 40 years.

  5. December 6, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    This sounds like a real w***, this flawed bridge thing.

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