28 December-Tay Bridge Disaster

When the railway bridge over the river Tay in Scotland collapsed in 1879 Sir Benjamin Baker, whose father was from Carlow, Ireland, was called as an expert witness for the investigation. The bridge had collapsed during a storm as a train was crossing. Seventy five people lost their lives in what is among the worst bridge disasters ever to have occurred in either Great Britain or Ireland.

Baker’s father, whose name was also Benjamin moved from Carlow to Glamorgan in Wales where he worked at the ironworks at Tondu. His son Benjamin, who was born on March 31st 1840, was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School. He was apprenticed to an ironworks at Neath Abbey near Swansea at the age of 16. Baker moved to London in 1860 at the age of 20 where he began working with an engineering firm on building projects such as the Metropolitan Line, Baker Street and Waterloo railway of the London Underground. Baker went on to design the first Aswan Dam on the river Nile in Egypt, the Barrow Bridge in Ireland and many other well-known engineering projects.

The bridge across the River Tay was completed in September 1877 and at the time was the longest railway bridge in the world. The 3.5km bridge carried the main-line railway linking the city of Dundee on the north side of the river Tay with the town of Wormit on the south side. It was inspected and declared safe for use in February 1878. The collapse of the bridge and the consequent loss of life, just nineteen months later led to the establishment of a court of inquiry.

The court of inquiry heard evidence from several witnesses. Though the bridge collapsed during a storm Baker concluded that design faults rather than wind-speed caused the disaster. The court found that ‘The fall of the bridge was occasioned by the insufficiency of the cross bracing and its fastenings to sustain the force of the gale’. The building of a new bridge across the Tay parallel to the one that had collapsed began in 1883. It was opened in 1887 remains in use today.

Seventy five people lost their lives when the central portion of the Railway Bridge across the River Tay collapsed in the year 1879 On This Day.

Tay Bridge from south after accident by National Library of Scotland on 1880-01-01 00:00:00

Tay Railway Bridge Fife and Dundee Scotland by conner395 on 2012-10-09 11:24:15



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