The Deadly Lessons That Built The Forth Bridge: Train Ferries & Tay Tragedy

The Deadly Lessons That Built The Forth Bridge: Train Ferries & Tay Tragedy

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opened in 1890 the mighty fourth bridge stands even today as a symbol of strength ingenuity and the long-term results of over-engineering in the time period of the bridge's construction it wasn't out of the question to build so quickly and so poorly that even rail bridges would be flimsy and rushed from the ingenuity of railway ferries that predated major rail bridges to the tragic tay rail bridge collapse the fourth bridge was born from some very dramatic and deadly lessons hello everyone this is sam with brick
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and mortar home of the collapse series tragic tales and more if episodes on engineering structural man-made feats and failures throughout history interest you consider checking out more of what the channel has to offer after this video so why was the fourth bridge almost a disaster well we have to go back to a time where both the firth of fourth and tay in these areas of scotland were seen as quite the obstacle hazards to be avoided and for passenger trains bypassed by the long westerly route or for getting goods across via treacherous
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unpredictable ferry services it was a time when rail travel was quickly becoming prominent though to cross either firth directly would mean a massive time savings and in this climate of fierce railway competition an obvious advantage for the rail line who would pioneer it the north british railway or nbr caledonian railway edinburgh and northern railway and all others were competing in this area essentially for control of major routes and the race to the north timed races between rail companies was initially
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london to edinburgh in the 1880s while these railway companies never officially publicized or acknowledged these races it became widely known they were taking place regardless the results of which to this day still debated at issue though was the edinburgh to aberdeen portion an effort to bridge the lothians and fife regions with dundee and aberdeen both the firth iv and tay sitting right in the way of this crucial northernmost leg and main population centers for scotland it was 1849 when the newly appointed
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engineer and manager for edinburgh and northern railway or enr the up and coming thomas bouch in his late 20s made railway history enr needed a way to get goods across both firths more efficiently but by this point bridge engineering was only in its infancy quickly evolving yes but not quite reasonable to expect crossings of such distance by anything more than ferries and at the time the ferry services were erratic inefficient and subject to weather conditions quite the opposite to the needs of companies
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moving large quantities of goods on a regular basis bauch eagerly presented his quite unorthodox idea at the time the train ferry a sidewheel steamboat fitted with railway tracks down the middle of its deck for freight cars only not passengers would be capable of loading and unloading from both bow and stern prior to this in the time period goods were hauled across by boat then loaded and offloaded by crane a slow and cumbersome process involving multiple steps before freight could get back
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underway on nearby rail lines with bauch's flying bridge system as he named it a platform could travel up and down on rails mounted along a dock ramp it could match the deck level with the steamboat regardless of water level and a bridge also fitted with railway track would then be lowered onto the deck allowing the rolling stock to be pulled or pushed across with minimal resistance and being hinged the bridge also able to flex under the varying conditions although radical as a concept at the time its implementation would prove
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quite useful and was quickly adopted and thus the world's first roll-on roll-off ferry was born the aptly named leviathan the very first vessel of its type which was used to cross at granton and burnt island several more were added across the fourth and even one on the tay the railroads being in control of these vessels meant they could be pushed hard night and day if necessary there were of course others with similar ideas in the time period but bauches was the first actually put into practice and
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therefore credited with its invention row row ferries as they would come to be known took the world by storm and to this day the roll-on roll-off vessels are commonly used for conveying land vehicles across bodies of water military passenger vehicles cargo combination roll packs vessels ferries that handle both vehicles and passengers and some railroads even still dedicated to trains in a few parts of the world today although modern versions primarily incorporate the bridge and ramp into the vessel's own design instead
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sir thomas bauch proving himself to be a competent if a bit eccentric and frugal civil instructional engineer was instrumental in multiple successful railway projects as well by the 1850s and early 1860s most importantly to the railway companies who commissioned him his contributions to design and engineering in the cheapest quickest way possible many feel were his most redeeming qualities at least for those clients whose bottom line came first but bauj wasn't content with floating railways and establishing cheap train
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lines he had always thought big really big and iron lattice bridges would become one of his specialties it's crucial that rail lines maintain as level of gradient as possible and in the uk's mountainous areas this can be especially difficult these larger than life projects carried out on a shoestring budget made bouche's love for the iron lattice and similar practices a perfect fit in the meantime bouch had always been inspired though to go even bigger he'd wanted to enact plans for bridges over
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both firths for years in 1871 with approval given to the north british railways tay bridge act and then in 1873 when the fourth bridge company was formed he'd finally have his chance at both while the tay bridge was almost exclusively in north british railways or nbr project the undertaking to cross the fourth took the joint funding of four railway companies great northern northeastern midland and nbr ironically both undertakings were just
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as massive each in their own unique ways and the tay bridge was even a bit longer the fourth bridge however would be towering imposing in height by comparison along with the difference in depth at this point of the fourth and bouche's plans weren't the only proposals in the running although the actual idea itself to cross the fourth is a matter of much speculation with dreams and visions to cross it dating back potentially as far as the roman imperial period in 1805 an idea to tunnel underneath the fourth was proposed and some believe
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taken somewhat seriously albeit only in consideration though as no evidence is reportedly known that it was ever acted upon this tunnel would have been a reported 15 feet in width and height and during the 4th bridge inquiry later on with such steep gradients tunnels would get ruled out entirely anyway as it would require many extra miles to account for steep approaches in 1911 came what is thought to be the first true bridge proposals on record three variants by civil engineer james anderson each differing in height
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however anderson's ideas called for only 2500 tons of iron distributed across his multiple 1500 foot spans that's compared to the 20 000 tons of bauch's future proposal and 54 000 plus tons of steel as it stands today anderson's proposal was described to be very light and slender in appearance so light indeed that on a dull foggy day it would hardly have been visible and after a heavy gale probably no longer to be seen on a clear day either
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these proposals made long before the bridge inquiry even turned serious though in 1873 the 4th bridge company a joint company of the four funding railways was founded and the inquiry chose a suspension bridge of bauch's design with two main spans at 1600 feet long each the company would set about preparing offices workshops and equipment near queensferry and brickwork foundations would begin near inver keithing by 1879 the first of eight brick piers would be
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started on inch garvey island these first few steps the stones laid with quote great ceremony the tay bridge the other high-profile low-budget project of vouches had been open and operating for just over a year when in december of 1879 disaster would strike as the tay bridge collapsed the tallest section known as the high girders atop their flimsy iron latticework columns had blown over and into the freezing river tay with an nbr passenger train trapped inside imprisoned underwater proving fatal for
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all souls on board i'll have a link in description and pinned comment for my in-depth video on the taybridge disaster after the investigations and inquiries into the causes and circumstances it was found that voucher's designs combined with rushed shoddy workmanship had led unequivocally to the bridge's demise bauch having been involved in so many projects across the uk by this point especially bridges atop iron latticework meant the fallout from the tay collapse would be extensive for his part balch would set about
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immediately trying to rectify some of the issues in his current bridges that showed similarities to the taybridge but by this point it could not be ignored and in this era of uk's quickly evolving railway system public safety had slowly started to emerge as something to be taken more seriously bouche's previous bridges would be demolished or replaced and as for the fourth bridge construction was halted immediately as confidence in his design was now well non-existent it was a sobering time though and while
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the tay incident was one of many railway catastrophes many steps that led toward the uk's eventual sweeping changes in regulation bauch had involvement in so many completed projects nationwide even earning knighthood upon the taybridge's grand opening bestowed by queen victoria soon after crossing it his health already on the decline bouche would pass just two months after the take collapse investigation had concluded along with subsequent decisions to start replacing his works it's been said bach's funeral at dean
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cemetery in november of 1880 saw the steadfast 100 foot tall dean bridge of thomas telford's keeping vigil nearby overlooking dean gardens and cemetery a bridge that had already stood for decades the silvery 4th to the north the now abandoned workshops near queensferry the allegory the poetic irony historical events can easily rival even today's great dramas it can seem otherworldly in our modern times a structure so imposing and overwhelming in size built in appearance so simply and to withstand just about
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anything yet can still be so aesthetically pleasing as many consider it today in some ways this was intentional to begin with the side of the crossing would remain the same but the suspension bridge was abandoned altogether and after the joint railways fourth bridge company consulted with the uk's board of trade the continuous girder cantilever design of sirs john fowler and benjamin baker was chosen in may of 1881. with much experience of their own the renowned mr fowler and baker had a
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history of this beauty through strength of design and the fourth bridge with construction underway by 1880 would exemplify this substandard iron also proved to be a fault in the taybridge collapse so the use of the highest quality steel would be paramount for the superstructure now more than ever a huge leap forward for engineering as a whole in the time period let no steel be employed which would not comply with the requirements of the admiralty lloyds and the underwriter's registry
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the old offices and workshops of bauch now expanded and repurposed the new much more girthy fourth bridge would require terraces for the approach on the queensferry side several more workshops throughout other areas nearby telegraph cables between them the build-up of inch garvey island the creation of a sea wall the list goes on at a cost of roughly 3.2 million pounds at the time approximately 420 million today compared to the paltry 217 000 pounds of the original tay bridge and
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with construction commencing by 1882 mr fowler and baker entrusted the project to renowned problem solver william errol their lead contractor being the first steel bridge of its kind errol would also invent many of the steel working methods that made this feat possible the bridge would be a mile and a half long or approximately 8 100 feet in total length three cantilever towers with two spans at 1700 feet between them the longest cantilever spans at the time a record that wouldn't be surpassed
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until 1919 when the second iteration of the quebec bridge was completed with a single span of 1800 feet of those 1700 foot spans each center section a 500 foot long sub-assembly on its own a deck height of 150 feet and cantilever tower heights of roughly 360 feet above the water line sunken case and piers of granite and concrete tubular girder members made up of thousands of tons of curved steel plates would comprise the majority of the 5300 foot just over one mile long superstructure
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the sub-assembly is raised fully assembled and temporarily bolted into position for preliminary testing of joint viability and testing areas on the south shore once verified disassembled only to be raised once more in the final position held temporarily by bolts again then followed up with teams of riveters to make their fastenings final 6.5 million rivets in total expansion joints between the cantilevers well ahead of their time allowing complete freedom for longitudinal expansion all this anchored to the supporting
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piers using an ingenious keyplate system that allowed the entire superstructure each cantilever tower rotational and translational movement atop the foundations to compensate for the massive amount of thermal expansion a structure like this will endure projects on this scale especially at the time weren't without their own hazards though either and it reported 73 men lost their lives in its construction when the bridge is loaded the upper members are brought into tension while the lower members are in compression sir
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benjamin baker himself taking doubters to school on the concept of cantilevers in 1889 at the royal institution in london bricks ropes broomsticks three men and two chairs was all baker needed to prove it opened in january of 1890 after much testing it was a ceremony for the history books in attendance were the prince of wales and then king edward vii drove home a final gold-plated rivet still performing its attended duties to this day unlike many other bridges of its age with minimal issue the bridge to
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me in a way stands as a rare physical testament to what can be possible when we don't allow those lives lost in engineering failures to have been in vain there is so much to be said about the fourth bridge i could never fit it all into one video the esteemed architect alfred waterhouse would lament its distinct lack of intentional ornaments and aesthetic shapes instead celebrating its unique beauty that happened more or less unintentionally through direct purpose of function stating in a commentary to sir john fowler
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fortunately no attempt was made to desecrate the bridge itself with flimsy adornments it was allowed to stand out in simple and impressive grandeur a memorial was unveiled in may of 2012 to honor those lives lost in the fourth bridge's construction you

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