The Forth Bridge carries the mainline railway across the Firth of Forth. This Victorian masterpiece of engineering features a strong cantilever design and is painted in distinctive ‘Forth Bridge Red’. As a landmark, it’s visible from afar, an icon of Scottish engineering.
It spans the Forth at a strategic point between two headlands, and extends for 1.6 miles (2.5 km). This busy stretch of railway carries about 200 trains daily between Edinburgh and north Scotland. The bridge’s pillars stand 360 ft (110 m) tall above the water.
It was the world’s first giant steel bridge and pioneered a large-scale cantilever design. At the time it was considered expensive, but its long working life is a tribute to its superb engineering. It contains an immense weight of steel girders joined by over 6,500,000 rivets. It took seven years to construct, cost 98 lives and was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1890.
A £130-million restoration project ran for a decade from 2002-12. In everyday speech, the saying “it’s like painting the Forth Bridge” had become common to refer to a never-ending task. However, the bridge’s new high-tech coating system is expected to last for at least 20 years. The world’s first giant steel bridge was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.
South Queensferry is home to the southern end of the rail bridge, and also to the two road bridges to its west. The suspension bridge was built in 1964, but there were concerns about its condition and now it carries only public transport, bikes and mopeds. In 2017 it was joined by a new road bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, which carries most of the traffic on the M90 motorway.
Both road bridges run to the west of the rail bridge, and all three converge on the same headland in Fife.