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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