Forth Rail Bridge 1890

Forth Rail Bridge 1890

© Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

© Michael Drummond

Forth Rail Bridge

The first major structure in the UK to be constructed of steel

Key Facts

Rail bridge

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Category ‘A’ Listed Building


Edinburgh, Scotland

Across the Firth of Forth

Linking Edinburgh with Fife and North-east Scotland

Designers / Engineers

Sir John Fowler

Sir Benjamin Baker


Cantilever truss bridge

2 x 521m main spans

2,467m total length

Main contractors

Sir Thomas Tancred

T. H. Falkiner

Joseph Philips

Sir William Arrol & Co.


Began 1883

Opened 4 March 1890

The Bridge

Before the construction of the bridge, the only alternative route between Edinburgh and Fife involved the ferry at Queensferry. The construction of a rail bridge began in 1882 and when it opened it had the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world, as well as the first major structure in Britain to be constructed of steel. At the height of its construction, more than 4,000 men were employed, using 55,000 tonnes of steel, 140,000 cubic metres of masonry and 6.5million rivets. Load testing of the completed bridge was carried out using two trains each consisting of three heavy locomotives and 50 wagons loaded with coal, totalling 1,880 tonnes, this represented more than twice the design load of the bridge. The deflection under load was as expected. The construction of the bridge resulted in an unbroken East Coast railway route from London to Aberdeen reducing journey time from 13hours to 10½ hours.

On 5 July 2015, UNESCO inscribed the bridge as a World Heritage Site, recognising it as “an extraordinary and impressive milestone in bridge design and construction.

In 2016 it was voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder.

Official Website

Firth of Forth Bridges Main Spans

Forth Rail Bridge, 1890, Scotland, 521m
Forth Road Bridge, 1964, Scotland, 1,006m
Queensferry Crossing, 2017, Scotland, 650m

Other long-span bridges