January 24th 1890 saw the first train cross the Forth Bridge.

The structure was built by Sir William Arrol and cost £2.5 million. An earlier design by Sir Thomas Bouch had been abandoned just after work had begun, after his Tay Bridge collapsed in a storm in 1879.It ended centuries of having to cross the Forth by ferry, with regular delays and the guarantee of 20 minutes of misery in anything more than a stiff breeze.

More than 50,000 tons of steel plate was rolled to shape and then held together with eight million rivets. At the busiest time, 4,600 men and boys worked on the bridge, a boy throwing the glowing rivets to each three-man team. The bridge cost £3,227,000 to build it is painted in “Forth Bridge Red” and was last completely repainted during a major restoration of the bridge between 2002 and 2012 when 240,000 litres of paint were used. with a new formula that should allow the topcoat of the paint to last for 20 years.

On each side of the bridge is a memorial erected in 2012 to those who died in the construction of the bridge. This lists 73 names along with their job such as rivet catcher, rigger and engineer’s labourer. It was a highly dangerous job given the late 19th century approach to working conditions, lack of safety equipment, height of the bridge and the materials involved. There were rowing boats in the water underneath the main work areas to try and help those who fell from the bridge, these boats saved at least 8 men from drowning.

The first picture, from a postcard is from around the completion date, the second shows both sides of the memorial on the South Queensferry side of the bridge. Please take note as well, the bridge is called The Forth Bridge, it’s the official name, it only began to be called the Forth Rail Bridge after the road bridge was completed in 1964.