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Tay Bridge and associated lines

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Leuchars North Junction
St Fort South Junction
Linkswood Depot
St Fort North Junction
St Fort
Tay Bridge South Junction
Tay Bridge
Dundee Esplanade
Tay Bridge Yard
Link from Buckingham Junction (CR)
Dundee
Dock Street Tunnel
Camperdown Junction

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Tay Bridge and associated lines
(North British Railway)

This line is open. The line runs from Leuchars in Fife to Dundee. The works include a railway from Leuchars to Wormit, the 2 miles long Tay Bridge across the Firth of Tay, a station in Dundee, a tunnel under the docks in Dundee and short sections of line connecting to the neighbouring lines.

A portion of original Tay Bridge famously fell, with a train, into the river. A new bridge was constructed slightly further west.

Survey To be entered
Engineers To be entered
Act To be entered
Contractors To be entered
Opened 1 June 1878
Disaster 28 December 1879
Re-opened 13 July 1887
Closed

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Clickable map of the Tay Bridge and Associated Lines


Tay Bridge Disaster 

The Tay Bridge was hailed at a great Success at its opening. Not only did it cross an Estuary but it now provided the North British Railway with direct access to Dundee from Fife; at last they could compete with the Caledonian Railway for traffic. Queen Victoria travelled over the bridge not long after its opening and Thomas Bouch, the Engineer, was knighted. 

The first Tay Bridge fell on the 28th of December 1879. The High Girders fell into the Tay along with a train. All 75 of the occupants were killed. The High Girders section were mounted with the box between the piers containing the track within to provide clearance for vessels on the Tay. A combination of the high pressure of wind on that section containing the train and the poor quality of the design and materials used were blamed in a later public enquiry. Sir Thomas Bouch, the engineer and contractor, was blamed for the disaster. He died, a broken man, during the period of the inquiry. The bridge had been built within tight financial constraints; it had not been possible to buy pre-fabricated sections from established suppliers and Bouch had decided to operate his own foundry for iron parts. Some of the Iron from this foundry was very poor quality. Also during its construction one high girder on a barge was lost to storms for a night and another was dropped onto the sea-bed whilst being lifted into place. These sections were still used. The dropped section was slightly twisted; the engine drivers commented on the slight change of direction of their engines on entering that girder.  

The weather was exceptionally bad that night;  the high tower at Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe also fell and many houses in Scotland lost their roofs. Telegraph wires were felled throughout the country. 

In the subsequent re-construction, designed by Benjamin Baker and Sir John Fowler, many of the low girder section of the first bridge were re-used. A novel feature of the first bridge had been the use of caissons; Bouch had needed to use these since a footing for bridge piers could not be found in the estuary. This is because a survey of the sea-bed had erroneously found that a rock bed was not far under the silt of the sea-bed. During the construction of the first bridge the original set of brick-built piers at the north end of the viaduct kept "going over" until caissons were used. This project was one of the first large scale uses of caissons. Although the caissons were considered to be designed correctly it was decided to lay a second line of them across the estuary for the new bridge. As a result at low tide one may see the old piers supported by the old caissons from a train. 

Staff for Dundee to Wormit section.

The train was raised from the sea-bed and delivered to Tayport for examination. The Staff (a piece of wood) for the section over the Tay Bridge is now held in the Glasgow Transport Museum and the locomotive was re-fitted and used for a number of years, being known (un-officially) as "The Diver".

Amongst the 75 killed were Mr Watson and his two young sons, David Neish (a teacher) and his daughter Bella, and a young couple, the boyfriend travelling with his girlfriend to see her safely to Dundee.


The new bridge was designed to take two tracks, but due its present condition and the increase in the weight requirements of freight trains it is to be reduced to carrying one only. For a number of years now the signalling on the bridge has been interlocked to only allow one train into the new High Girder section at a time. The very poor blurred photograph below is taken from a train looking at the other track and parapet - something which may not be possible in the future.

William McGonagle's Poem;

- Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

-

'Twas about seven O'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the black clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say-
"I'll blow down the Bridge of the Tay."

-

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow, 
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of the Tay."

-

But when the train came to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay 
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time. 

-

So the train sped on with all it's might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers' hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year, 
With their friends at home they lov'd most dear, 
And wish them all a happy New Year. 

-

So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay, 
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay! 
The storm fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been take away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time. 

-

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all oe'r the town,
Good Heavens ! The Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the people's hearts with sorrow, 
And made then for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time. 

-

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray, 
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay.
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay, 
That your central Girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses, 
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build, 
The less chance we have of being Killed.  


Local area 

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This line runs across farmland to the south of the Tay in Fife to the Tay which is crossed by a north south two mile bridge with a tight turn to the east at the north end to run into a station built in a cutting on re-claimed land to the south of the city by a dock, now infilled. The line continues east in a tunnel to emerge amongst docks.

Chronology

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Description of route

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From Leuchars (New) to Camperdown Junction.

Leuchars North Junction 

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This was a south facing junction with the Edinburgh and Northern Railway. The line from Leuchars to Tayport is closed and the site is no longer a junction.

St Fort South Junction 

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This was a south facing junction with the Newburgh and North Fife Railway.

Linkswood Depot

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This is a (RAF?) depot for fuel tanks.

St Fort North Junction 

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This was a north facing junction with the Newburgh and North Fife Railway.

St Fort 

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The station is closed but a station building remains.

Wormit Signal Box 

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There was a signalbox here from 1897 to 28/05/1967 on the west side of line at the south end of the Wormit sidings. It probably predated 1897. It was very close to Wormit Farm, which is to the south of the present day town.

Tay Bridge South Junction / Wormit

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The original version of this junction was on the first bridge. The original bridge ran from Dundee to Wormit facing Leuchars, but  when the Newport Railway was opened through to Tayport a new connection on a bridge was made onto the existing bridge at a point above the River Tay.  Following re-construction of the bridge the junction was re-made, this time on dry land. The line to Newport is now closed.

This is where the foundry used in building the first bridge was based. There was a connection from a south facing junction with the line to Leuchars which ran by tunnel to meet the Newport Railway at an east facing junction whic would allow trains to run from Leuchars to Taport via Wormit.

Tay Bridge 

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The present bridge is a double track bridge with a high girder section to allow shipping to pass. The former bridge was single track and it was the high girder section of that birdge which fell into the Tay.

Dundee Esplanade 

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This station is closed. It is located at the north end of the bridge on an area of land which the North British Railway and town council reclaimed from the sea. The station building has been re-built and is in use for maintenance of the bridge. There were sidings at a lower level by the station and to its south, but these have been lifted.

Tay Bridge Yard 

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This yard is lifted. There was a goods yard and locomotive shed by the line. The site of the sidings is now a supermarket.

Link from Buckingham Junction (CR) 

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A spur from the Dundee and Perth Railway joins the line at an east facing junction.

Dundee 

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This station was formerly known as Dundee Tay Bridge. The left photograph shows the west end of the station. Dundee West used to occupy the land to the left of the station, in front of where the steeple is. This site is now for handling goods only and the terminus has been demolished, the site being occupied by roads. To the right (where the photograph is being taken from) was the North British Railway's goods yard. This was removed in the 1980s, some traces remaining in 1988. The site is now a supermarket. The middle photograph shows the bay platforms at the west end of the station and the right photograph shows an eastbound tank freight train awaiting departure of the passenger train seen to its left.

Dock Street Tunnel 

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This tunnel passes under the former Earl Grey dock and a number of streets. The tunnels required permanent pumping to keep it dry.

Camperdown Junction 

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Here the line emerged from the tunnel and run to join the Dundee and Arbroath Railway at an east facing junction (leaving the Dundee East terminus on a short branch). There was a tall signalbox here, now demolished. The box also controlled access to the docks railway system.


Page created on 19/01/1998
Page last edited on: 02/04/2012
Contact: Ewan Crawford