The Forth Railway Bridge
© Roel Wieringa (http://www.cs.utwente.nl/~roelw)
The GRAAL project (http://is.cs.utwente.nl/GRAAL)
University of Twente, the Netherlands
13 November 2004
This text in pdf
The Forth railway bridge,
which we use as the icon of the GRAAL project, is a masterpiece of 19th
century engineering. It is located 14 km. west of Edingburgh,
Scotland, and connects the
villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry.
It was built in the 1880s to carry two tracks of the North British Railway.
In 1879, the Tay railway
bridge collapsed, killing 75 passengers and crew. It was the worst train crash
in history so far, and when North British Railways proposed a bridge over the
even wider Firth of Forth, the public demanded a safe structure.. An earlier project to cross the Firth of Forth, for which
foundations were laid in 1873, was cancelled and a safer structure was designed by Sir John Fowler (1817-98) and Sir Benjamin Baker (1840
- 1907). The bridge contains three cantilever towers, each 104 m high.. A cantilever is a beam projecting from a support, such as
a wall or a tower, and ``hanging in the air'' at the other end. The beams
sticking out from the towers of the Forth
railway bridge are supported at the other end by diagonal steel tubes
projecting from the top and bottom of each of the towers. The total length of
the bridge is 2.5 km and it has a height of 46 m over high tide, so that ships of the time could
pass under it at high tide.
It was the first bridge made
primarily of steel. 57 people lost their lives building the bridge. The bridge
contains 55.000 tons of steel, 18.122 tons of granite, 21.000 tons of cement,
and 7000.000 rivets. The last rivet, gold-plated ansd inscribe to record the
event, was driven in by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VI). It was the
most expensive bridge ever, costing £2.500.000. The bridge as definitely
not even the strongest winds will shake it. It was designed to
stand up to wind forces as high as 56 pounds per square foot.
The poet and artist William Morris
declared it ``the supremest specimen of all ugliness.'' How tastes can change.
Today, the Forth railway bridge is a tourist
destination and every weekend families are strolling along the Firth, eating fish
and chips and admiring the massive, elegant structure of the
bridge. The bridge is sometimes called the Eiffel tower of Scotland,
and a postcard
made during its construction explains why.
In the GRAAL project, the bridge is a symbol of
the engineering to be done to connect the two domains of business and
information technology. The bridge is also a symbol of the major task in IT,
bigger even than designing new IT systems: Maintenance. The Forth railway bridge is subject to the
deteriorating forces of wind, rain, and salt water, and since construction
finished more than 110 years ago, it has been under maintenance.
challenging, because the bridge must remain under operation continuously. The
bridge is continuously repainted,
keeping its architecture intact. This gives us a noble goal to strive for in
A quick search with Google yields numerous photographs and
stories about the bridge. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/wonder/structure/firth_of_forth.html
lists the bridge as one of the wonders of the world, comparing it with Brooklyn
bridge and the Golden Gate
gives touristic information. http://www.glasssteelandstone.com/UK/Scotland/EdinburghFirthofForth.html
gives basic facts about the bridge's architecture. The article ``Forth Bridge''
(Retrieved October 13, 2004, from Encyclopędia
Britannica Premium Service (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9034977)
explains what cantilevers are.