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4.9 Survey results

We have inspected some of the remains of the collapsed bridge using the set of photographs taken shortly after the disaster for the official inquiry. It is important to emphasise that the pictures form only a small part of the total of fifty, but those chosen were selected to give the clearest evidence of the failure modes in the cast-iron piers that supported the high girders. They are by the far the best real evidence to rely on to understand how and why the structure failed.

It would
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4.8 Photographs showing the detail: standing pier 28

The final part of the survey deals with the two standing piers connected to the lower girders left after the high girders section fell during the disaster. The whole of pier 28 is shown in Figure 34, and two close-ups of the columns are shown in Figures 35 and 36.

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4.7 Photographs showing the detail: damage to pier 1

The final example of a partly collapsed pier is pier 1, photographed from the base of pier 28 and shown in Figure 32. Fracture damage to the flange at the top of the second tier is visible on the east-most column (top right); a large chunk of metal has broken off. The southern column (right of centre) exhibits a matching fracture where the parts are still held in position by the wrought iron strut. Propagation of the same cr
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4.6 Photographs showing the detail: debris field

The relatively clear platform of pier 3 is also visible in Figure 28. There are several pieces of shaped metal on the floor, at least one appears to be a bolt. A close-up of the floor, taken looking east, is shown in Figure 31. So, what are the fragments? At least three bolts are visible, but more significantly, there are nine broken lug ends. These are the
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4.5 Photographs showing the detail: broken lugs

The bases of the columns to which they were attached originally on pier 3 deserve closer inspection. Even at this scale, the two fractured lugs where the tie bars were formerly fixed are clearly visible at the right-hand and left-hand sides of Figure 28 (arrowed). The southern (left-hand) column base in Figure 28 is shown at about ×8 magnification in F
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4.4 Photographs showing the detail: partly collapsed piers

There were only two piers that showed tiers still standing, piers 1 and 3, next to the south pier still standing (pier 28). They are important because the debris lying on the platforms is much reduced, giving clear views of the platform surface and the state of damage of the upstanding tiers.

Two views are shown of pier 3, a view from pier 2 (Figure 27), and a close-up of the lowest tier looking west (Author(s): No creator set

4.3 Photographs showing the detail: collapsed piers

Figures 23 and 24 present the east- and west-facing views of a collapsed pier, pier 5, which lay just ahead of the train before it was lost in the disaster. Figure 23 shows parts of two tiers of what was presumably the lowest part of the cast-iron pier on this platform. The columns point towards the east, indicating the lowest tiers fell in this direction d
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4.2 An introduction to the Board of Trade photographs

It is important to bear in mind that these shots show the bridge remains in the state they were in just after the accident, and are almost exactly what the investigators would have seen when they inspected the bridge (see Input 8, linked below).

Click 'View document' below to open Input 8

The weather cleared after the storm, and the piers were examined in bright sunshine. The photographer to
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4.1 Condition of the bridge: an overview

An investigation was put into motion by the Board of Trade (BoT) as soon as news of the catastrophe reached London. Three commissioners were appointed to consider the evidence. They proceeded at their task with haste, knowing the country looked to them for an explanation of the accident.

Fifty photographs were taken of the remains of the bridge about a week after the collapse at the request of the BoT enquiry team.

The photographs are vital evidence of the way the bridge piers fai
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Disaster!

The train receded into the darkness and the light of the three red tail lamps grew dimmer. Sparks flew from the wheels and merged into a continuous sheet that was dragged to the lee of the bridge parapet. Eyewitnesses would later recall at the inquiry that they saw a bright glow of light from the direction of the train just after it must have passed into the high girders section, and then all went dark.

The train was timed to pass the Dundee signal box at 7.19 pm. When it failed to arri
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3.5 Sunday 28 December 1879

The morning of Sunday 28 December 1879 was quiet. When Captain Wright took his ferry boat, the Dundee, across the firth at 1.15 pm, he noted that the weather was good and the water was calm. The 4.15 pm crossing was just as uneventful, but the captain noted that the wind had freshened.

By 5.15 pm a gale was moving in from the west and the river, in the words of the captain ‘was getting up very fast’. The local shuttle train left Newport at 5.50 pm and arrived at Dundee s
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3.4 Building the bridge

The contract for the bridge was won by the firm of Charles de Bergue, and a contract signed on 8 May 1871, whereby the contractor undertook to have the bridge ready for traffic in three years at a price of £217 000. In the event the bridge was opened on 31 May 1878, by which time it had cost £300 000.

Work started on the south bank of the Tay, with piers laid on to solid rock foundations. As the piers advanced into the estuary, foundations needed to be sunk onto the river bed,
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Construction of piers

The dimensions and detailed construction of the cast-iron piers are shown in Figure 15. A single pier consisted of six columns of cast iron tied together by struts, bars and rods made from wrought iron. Each pier in the high girders section was built up by bolting together seven flanged cast-iron columns, giving seven tiers. The ends of the flanges were fastened together with eight 1.125 inch (1⅛) wrought iron bolts
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Bridge girders

Figures 11 and 12, below, are photographs of the bridge taken from the south and north banks of the firth.

The girders of the bridge were supported on a total of 85 piers. The first 14 piers were made from brick and masonry, built up as a solid structure. The rest were fabricated from iron on masonry platforms, and by comparison, appeared rather insubstantial (Figure 11). Over most of the bridge, the track ran on top
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3.3 Description of the bridge

An outline plan of the bridge shows the main piers on which the bridge was laid (Figure 10). To allow shipping to pass up the Tay to Perth, a height of about 88 feet was required between the bridge girders and the high water mark in the middle of the firth. On the south bank, at Wormit, the land rose steeply to a height of about 200 feet, and this proved ideal as a jumping-off point for the bridge.

After leaving the ba
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3.2 Background

North of Edinburgh, in east Scotland, lie two great estuaries, the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. The Firth of Forth begins at the ancient town of Stirling and runs 50 miles to the east, where it emerges into the North Sea. Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is situated on the southern bank at the mouth of the estuary 30 miles east of Stirling (Figure 9). Eleven miles west of Edinburgh, at Queensferry, the firth
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3.1 Overview

The Tay Bridge disaster came towards the end of a period of intense development of the railway system in the UK. The bridge had materials that were well known. Cast iron was used for the columns and wrought iron for the trussed girders.

The construction of the bridge was, at the time, the largest single engineering project in Britain, the Tay estuary being about two miles wide near Dundee, and the bridge was the longest in the world.

In the shallower approaches in the estuary, con
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2.4 Early disasters

Many of the earliest bridges were simply a wooden trestle type of construction, an efficient and easy-to-build structure, yet providing a secure and safe passage for heavy metal trains. Although we tend to associate such structures with the United States, they were in fact widely used in Britain in the early days of steam locomotion. However, they had a limited lifetime owing to rot, so were gradually replaced by wrought iron girder bridges, often laid on brick or masonry piers.

Designe
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5.3 Do we have a duty to God not to commit suicide?
This unit examines Hume's reasons for being complacent in the face of death, as these are laid out in his suppressed essay of 1755, ‘Of the immortality of the soul’. More generally, they examine some of the shifts in attitude concerning death and religious belief that were taking place in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, through examination of this and other short essays.
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4.3 Physical grounds for thinking we are immortal
This unit examines Hume's reasons for being complacent in the face of death, as these are laid out in his suppressed essay of 1755, ‘Of the immortality of the soul’. More generally, they examine some of the shifts in attitude concerning death and religious belief that were taking place in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, through examination of this and other short essays.
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