In the 1920s, the people of Montrose were concerned about whether or not the old suspension bridge over the Esk needed to be replaced.
The members of the Montrose Joint Bridge Committee, a body comprising representatives of the Montrose Town Council and Angus County Council, were invited to consider a very 21st century solution for replacing the old bridge. The idea put forward by McLaren & Welsh, Consulting Marine Engineers and Naval Architects, Glasgow and the Coaster Construction Co. Ltd., Montrose was certainly ahead of its time. The designers said: “The scheme constitutes a bold and original project, not only for providing the town and county with a bridge on a main artery but for harnessing a large amount of energy daily going to waste.”
The big selling point was that it would provide a facility capable of generating electricity by harnessing the flow of water in the river. Following the First World War there was a surplus of naval and merchant ships, so it was possible to buy such vessels relatively cheaply.
The proposal looked at the possibility of sinking a battleship or armed cruiser in the river to form a support for a new bridge structure. To prevent corrosion, it would be encased in concrete before being sunk on a prepared site. Once it was in place piles would be driven into the seabed around the structure to keep it stable. The really exciting part of the project, however, was the suggestion that it could be used to generate electricity by utilising the power of the tidal movement of the water in the river.
With the sunken hull in the middle of the river there would be an opportunity to site low-pressure turbines on either side of it, with the possibility of having others placed under the bridge itself, harnessing the full generating power of the tide. According to calculations, some 20 million tons of water passed through estuary with each tide so that, the power generated would exceed that of the Montrose Power Station. Sadly, the proposal was perhaps too advanced and it never happened, otherwise Angus might have been producing green energy a century ago.