Artist Gillian Kyle's Forth Railway Bridge illustration
Artist Gillian Kyle's Forth Railway Bridge illustration

15 fantastic facts about the Forth’s three bridges

The three bridges over the River Forth have inspired a Scots artist to create some new fun items – and collect 15 fascinating facts.

It’s just under a year since the Queensferry Crossing, the third of the Forth bridges, was officially opened by the Queen.

Artist Gillian Kyle was interested in viewing the three bridges as a collective and their combined social and economic impact.

Gillian said: ‘As a Scottish artist, I draw inspiration from what’s around me. These three magnificent Forth bridges all built within one short mile of each other formed the basis of a wee series of illustrations I created for a mailer.

‘I set out to find the fun and illuminating facts that tell the one story of the three Forth Bridges. I also illustrated them together, bound together by the river – or more accurately the Firth – they all span.

‘At the time I had no real intention of developing these simple drawings any further, but quite a few people told me how much they liked them and after listening to their feedback, I too set forth and am delighted to now bring a range of Go Forth t-shirts, tea towels, mugs and coasters celebrating the three Forth Bridges.’

As part of her work, she collected 15 interesting facts about the bridges.

Artist Gillian Kyle’s Forth Railway Bridge illustration

The Forth Bridge, opened 1890.

1. It was the first major steel construction in the UK.

2. At 1.5 miles in overall length, it had the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world when opened in 1890; today it still has the second longest span.

3. This oxide-red Scottish icon served to connect 534 miles of uninterrupted train track from Aberdeen all the way down to London. And all these years later, it still does.

4. Such has been the cultural impact and significance of this bridge that in 2015 – on its 125th anniversary – it was granted UNESCO world heritage status placing it alongside such greats as the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis and the Taj Mahal.

5. While the world of transportation has witnessed unimaginable advancements since 1890, the Forth Bridge remains largely unchanged and still carries 190–200 trains every day.

The Forth Road Bridge, drawn by Gillian Kyle

The Forth Road Bridge, opened 1964.

6. It is amazing to reflect that prior to the opening of the Forth Road Bridge there had been a ferry service in operation between the two Queensferry towns straddling the Forth from the 11th century all the way through to 1964.

7. In its final year of operation, this ferry service still only consisted of four small ferries plying the 1.5 miles across the Queensferry Passage. Departing every 15 minutes between 6am and 10pm, each ferry was only capable of carrying up to 30 cars each. And if you were to miss the last ferry of the day, the nearest bridge was 15 miles upstream in Kincardine.

8. The Forth Road Bridge upon its opening was the longest suspension bridge in the world outside of the United States and bears a close and elegant resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge on which it was modelled.

9. Soon after opening, the number of vehicles crossing the Forth leapt from 900,000 to 5 million annually. At the time of the Forth Road Bridge’s construction it was forecast the vehicle traffic across the Forth would peak at about 8 million.

10. By 2008, the actual traffic exceeded 21 million annual vehicle crossings.

The Queensferry Crossing, illustrated by Scots artist Gillian Kyle

The Queensferry Crossing, opened 2017.

11. 53 years to the day after the opening of the Forth Road Bridge, on 4 September 2017 the Queen returned to open the third (and final?) bridge in this story.

12. On the northern bank of the River Forth, the three Forth bridges are all built within one mile of each other.

13. The Queensferry Crossing is the longest three tower cable-stayed bridge in the world. Incorporating new construction technologies and wind shielding features to safeguard both the bridge and the vehicles it carries.

14. This new bridge has been designed to last 120 years whilst facilitating a faster and smoother crossing of the Forth.

15. Mike Glover, the bridge’s chief engineer, said the wind screens meant the chances of this bridge being closed by high winds were very remote: ‘If you can get to the bridge, you will cross it.’

Click HERE to find out more about Gillian’s art and her Forth-inspired creations.