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Tay bridge

Tay bridge. The wide estuary of the river Tay on the east coast of Scotland presented a formidable obstacle to transport. The first bridge over the estuary was designed by Thomas Bouch for the North British Railway Company. It was almost 2 miles long, consisting of 85 wrought-iron lattice-girder spans supported on cast-iron columns with masonry foundations, and was completed in 1877. Queen Victoria crossed it in the summer of 1879, and knighted its designer on the spot. But at the end of that year, on 28 December 1879, several spans collapsed in a severe storm while a train was crossing, sending 74 people to their deaths. The subsequent inquiry concluded that the bridge was ‘badly designed, badly constructed and badly maintained’, and found Bouch mainly responsible for these defects. The disaster alarmed the engineering profession and ensured that the replacement bridge was built within ample safety margins. A new road bridge was opened over the estuary in 1966.

R. Angus Buchanan

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