For over 100 years the Clifton Suspension Bridge, spanning the beautiful Avon Gorge, has been as much the symbol of Bristol as the Eiffel Tower of Paris or the Opera House of Sydney.
Since its opening in 1864 meticulous maintenance has ensured that the bridge has never closed. It is easy to forget that this structure which was designed in the 1830s, built in the 1860s and intended entirely for horse-drawn traffic, now carries a staggering total of 4 million cars a year.
In the late 1800s, a railway bridge across Scotland's Firth of Tay swayed and collapsed in the wind. Seventy-five passengers and crew on a passing night train died in the crash. It was the worst bridge disaster in history. So when engineers proposed bridging the even wider Firth of Forth, the Scottish public demanded a structure that looked like it could never fall down. They got it.
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Chief engineers Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker came up with the perfect structural solution: a cantilever bridge. The Firth of Forth Bridge is made of a pair of cantilever arms, or beams "sticking out" from two main towers. The beams are supported by diagonal steel tubes projecting from the top and bottom of the towers. These well-secured spans actually support the central span. This design makes the Firth of Forth Bridge one of the strongest -- and most expensive -- ever built.
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