Was Bouch simply a casualty of the Tay Bridge disaster?

Back in the late 1870s the Directors of the North British Railway Company were nearing the end of a major project to connect Arbroath and Montrose with a direct rail link.

By
Newsroom
Monday, 11th April 2022, 11:10am
Was Bouch simply a casualty of the Tay Bridge disaster?

There were two major problems, the rocky nature of the ground near Usan and crossing the South Esk at Montrose.

They had commissioned the foremost engineer of day, Sir Thomas Bouch, the engineer of the ill fated Tay Bridge, which was destroyed in a storm on December 28,1879.

The collapse of the bridge led to an inquiry which finally reported in June 1880. Its damning conclusions about the construction of the Tay Bridge meant that the construction of the metal viaduct over the South Esk was more closely monitored than it might otherwise have been, while in Montrose itself rumours abounded that the bridge was unsafe.

In order to reach the bridge from the Arbroath side, a cutting had had to be blasted through the rocks at the Craig Braes. Heavily laden trains, carrying the quarried rock from the cutting, had been running over the unfinished bridge from the time the blasting work had begun and, as a result, there had been settlement of some of the supporting piers.

Following a final inspection, the existing viaduct opened for goods traffic only on March 1, 1881. Presumably, while The Board of Trade and the Railway Company were unwilling to risk the lives of passengers on the bridge, the lives of employees such as drivers and firemen were not as important!

On May 12, 1881 the Directors agreed contracts for the erection of a replacement viaduct. The contractor was Sir William Arrol who was also responsible for the building of the railway bridge over the River Forth and the new Tay Bridge.

During November the demolition of the original structure got underway and track laid on the replacement structure for goods trains to use at very slow speeds. The Directors’ hopes of running passenger trains by the end of 1882 appeared to be within reach.

The Arbroath and Montrose line was finally opened for passenger traffic, with the usual pomp and ceremony on May 1, 1883.

Did the bridge really deserve to be condemned or was it another victim, like Bouch himself, of the Tay Bridge disaster?

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