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Forth Bridge Gets World Heritage Status

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND--It may not take forever to paint the Forth Bridge, but UNESCO hopes it will live on forever as a World Heritage Site.

The legendary bridge that crosses the Firth of Forth was named Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site on Sunday (July 5) at a UNESCO meeting in Bonn, Germany, the BBC reported.

The Forth thus joins the ranks of cultural sites such as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, and the Sydney Opera House.

And even the bridge's famous paint job got a nod in all the World Heritage hoopla.

Scottish, Worldwide Heritage

Built as a railroad bridge in the late 19th century, the Forth Bridge has always been a cultural phenomenon. The bridge's maintenance even inspired a popular saying: The phrase “like painting the Forth Bridge” joined the lexicon as a reference to a never-ending task.

Wikimedia Commons

The Forth Bridge has joined the Pyramids of Egypt, the great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House as one of more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Forth has the distinction of being Britain’s first steel bridge and boasted the longest single cantilever span in the world until 1917 (it is still No. 2, just behind the Quebec Bridge).

UNESCO took more than a year to give the Forth Bridge a World Heritage Site title, according to the BBC. The Forth Bridges Forum, established by the Scottish government to promote three bridges that cross the Firth of Forth, led the effort to gain the prestigious status.

World Heritage Site status is given to sites of “outstanding universal value” with the hope that it will protect them for future generations.

For the Forth Bridge, UNESCO said in its report: “This enormous structure, with its distinctive industrial aesthetic and striking red colour, was conceived and built using advanced civil engineering design principles and construction methods.

"Innovative in design, materials and scale, the Forth Bridge is an extraordinary and impressive milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel."

Give It a Coat, or Three

In fact, painting the Forth Bridge in the 21st century took three years longer than building it in the 19th.

Network Rail

The Forth Bridge took three years longer to paint in the 21st century than it did to build in the 19th century. The saying 'like painting the Forth Bridge' became a reference to a never-ending project.

The bridge underwent a $152 million, 10-year paint job that wrapped up in December 2011. To complete it, 1,500 painters used more than 64,000 gallons of paint; and 4,000 tons of scaffolding to cover its 43-acre surface.

When finished, the bridge sported a new triple coat of glass flake epoxy that is expected to last more than 20 years.

In the late 1800s, more than 4,500 men spent about eight years building the structure. The bridge has more than 53,000 tons of steel and has been a symbol of Victorian engineering excellence since it opened in 1890.

Industrial Wonder

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the bridge one of the "industrial wonders of the world."

The National Archives of Scotland

When completed in 1890, the Forth Bridge had the longest single cantilever span in the world. It's still No. 2, just behind the Quebec Bridge.

"The Forth Bridge is an outstanding example of Scotland's built heritage. Its endurance is testament not only to the ingenuity of those who designed and built it, but also to the generations of painters, engineers and maintenance crews who have looked after it through the years."

With the World Heritage Site status, the bridge—owned by Network Rail—becomes one of more than 1,000 such sites across the globe. Of those, 29 are in the UK, according to the BBC.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Color; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Historic Structures; Program/Project Management; Protective Coatings; Steel

Comment from Dick Frost, (7/7/2015, 4:33 AM)

Actually, the paint consumption was 36,670 litres of a special zinc phosphate epoxy blast primer, 151,270 litres of high build glass flake epoxy and 28,890 litres of acrylic urethane - total 216,836 litres. I also mention the glass flake product used was not new but a well proven, high performance product having a long and successful track record on offshore platforms as well as other bridges. We didn't want to take any chances with such a prestigious structure so put together very comprehensive specifications and the best possible formulations with the intent of achieving the longest possible service life. Even more important was the safety culture and attention to quality that was engendered by the client, main and sub-contractors. It was a great project to tackle and it was a privilege being part of the team. Dick Frost - formerly CEO of Leighs Paints, today part of Sherwin-Williams

Comment from Mark Lewis, (7/7/2015, 11:26 AM)

What a fabulous bridge and a terrific project.

Comment from Fred Wittenberg, (7/7/2015, 8:53 PM)

Last year, when Paint Square or Durability + Design covered the repainting, I stated that she should stand forever. Now that's been confirmed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. WOW!

Comment from Joanne Holt, (7/8/2015, 3:39 AM)

It actually totals 216,830 litres Frosty.....can't believe I'm still correcting your mistakes ;)

Comment from Dick Frost, (7/8/2015, 4:01 AM)

Thanks for spotting the deliberate mistake Jo. I didn't know you were STILL keeping an eye on me! Dick Frost.

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