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THE TAY BRIDGE DISASTER

V. Ryan 2002 - 2009

 

 

At 7:15 p.m. on the stormy night of 28 December 1879, the central spans of the Tay bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay at Dundee. A train including six carriages and 75 people fell into the cold water below. At the time, a gale estimated at force 10 to 11 was blowing down the Tay estuary at right angles to the bridge. The collapse of the bridge, only opened 19 months and passed safe by the Board of Trade, sent shock waves through the Victorian engineering profession and was reported widely in the newspapers of the time. The disaster is still the most famous bridge disasters in the British Isles

 

 

The Tay Rail Bridge was completed in February 1878, designed by Thomas Bouch (see photograph). His bridge was supported on cast iron columns strengthened with wrought iron struts and ties. It carried a single rail track.  It was the collapse of these columns that led to the disaster. The Tay bridge was two miles long, had 85 spans and was the longest bridge in the world. 

As a result of the successful completion of the bridge Thomas Bouch was knighted.

At the time of the collapse Bouch was working on the design of the proposed Forth Bridge. In consequence, the design of the bridge was transferred to Benjamin Baker and Sir John Fowler.

To this day, there is still speculation as to the cause and as to whether or not the designer, Thomas Bouch, was to blame. The Court of Inquiry which followed the disaster found, "The fall of the bridge was occasioned by the insufficiency of the cross bracing and its fastenings to sustain the force of the gale." In other words the bridge was not designed to withstand the strong winds and weight of the train.

 
     

ONE OF THE COLLAPSED CAST IRON COLUMNS

 

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1. Draw a simple map showing the location of the Tay Bridge

2. Explain why the bridge collapsed.

     
 

Illustrations as seen in the newspapers of the time showing the scene of the disaster.

 
         

 

         

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