Scrambling up the prickly embankment, we paused for a moment next to the track and peered along it. All was quiet, or at least, it would have been if it wasn't for the gale force winds. I looked up at the murky sky and it had rain written all over it. To my annoyance the weather was doing its very best to live up to the Scottish stereotype tonight. The massive structure loomed ahead. It was time.
The problem with living next to something is that sometimes you just take it for granted that it's there, and that it'll always be there and therefore any visit can be put off until another time. Sometimes a kick up the arse is required to just do the damn thing already. Snappel
dropped me an email to say that Moses Gates
was Edinburgh bound and had a target firmly in his sights. Here was that kick up the arse.
What was the target? Built in the late 1800s and spanning a mile and a half, it's an unmistakable Scottish landmark that features on everything from postcards to bank notes - the Forth Bridge. In previous times, the bridge was covered in scaffolding. This made it easy to get up, but also introduced its own problems due to the workers that swarmed the bridge after the last train. Now that the scaffolding and workers are gone and the new supposedly 25 year paint has been applied, a different approach was needed. I sent Moses various photographs and details about the structure and the ways of the railways here, for a couple of us had been eyeing up the bridge for a long time. "It looks like a giant ladder", he said confidently. And he was right.
None other than Steve Duncan
announced that he was going to join us and so it wasn't very long until four figures were hurrying out over the viaduct towards the large stone towers that mark the beginning of the cantilever section. We dived inside the tower, glad to be out of the wind, and upset the pigeons that roosted there. Leaving the tower behind and venturing further out along the track, the seemingly random jumble of steel latticed far above my head. Upon a piece of this latticework was Moses, making his way up the structure. An impressive sight to see but one that I didn't feel confident in emulating quite yet, and certainly not in that wind. However, it's with Moses and Steve's climbing efforts that an alternative route was worked out and soon the same four figures were battling against the deafening wind, clinging on, far above the track below. Walkways are isolated and ladders often non existant on this bridge, whatever way you go about it, you're going to get intimate with the bridge structure.
At last, we reached the summit of the cantilever and for a while I forgot about the wind, and the rain that had decided to join in on the party at that point too. It had been a long time coming but finally, I was on top of the Forth Bridge. And what a feeling that was.
With the rain coming down even harder and the bridge starting to get slippery as a result, it was time to take some snaps and then bail. A train rumbled across as we began our descent, the bridge clattering and vibrating around us. Steve opted to stay up on the bridge until it got light for this was his only opportunity to get some decent photographs. I decided I would return at the earliest opportunity to take some proper photos, and that's most of the ones that you're seeing on this page. The return night couldn't have been more different. There was a slight mist but crucially not a bit of wind or rain. Up on top of the bridge was a peaceful place to be.
It was a privelidge to host Steve and Moses during their visit to Edinburgh, and I set off down to London with them a couple of days later aiming for Antwerp and the 2012 International Drain Meet. Of course, that's a whole different story...