Two bridges span the Firth of Forth side by side over the river’s narrowest point, the Queensferry Narrows— so called because from 1129 they were crossed by a ferry that David I of Scots named in honor of his mother, Queen Margaret; pilgrims on their way to St. Andrews were carried free. In 1883 work began on building the magnificent Forth railway bridge, more than 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long and one of the great triumphs of Victorian engineering. The bridge carries up to 200 trains a day between Edinburgh and the northeast. Approach spans supported on towers carry the railway tracks from each end to the three enormous double cantilevers in the middle, each 340 feet (104 m) high and themselves connected by suspension spans 345 feet (105 m) long.
The bridge was designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker and cost the equivalent of $478 million in today’s money. Some 4,600 men worked on it at its peak and nearly 100 were killed in the process. The bridge consumed 55,000 tons of steel and eight million rivets. The last rivet was gold-plated and driven in by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, when he formally opened the bridge in 1890. One of the bridge’s claims to fame, the idea that the repainting process begins again at one end as soon as it reaches the other, seems to be a myth.
There are fine views of the rail bridge from the adjacent suspension road bridge, to the west, which is open to people on foot as well as cars and cycles. The ferries were finally put out of operation when the bridge was completed in 1964. Work began in 1958 and it carried its 250 millionth vehicle in 2002.