The first Tay Bridge collapsed into the sea in 1879 only 18 months after it had opened, drowning 72 people travelling by train to Dundee. Shock reverberated through Britain, and the public demanded answers. The bridge had been hailed as a triumph of construction, and its fall shook society’s confidence in the excellence of Victorian engineering.
This epic tale of engineering follows the rise and fall of the career of engineer Thomas Bouch, ostracised from the engineering community when his bridge crashed into the Tay estuary. Over four decades, a fierce and dirty railway war drove forward the construction of the two largest railway bridges in the world, symbols of a modernising Scotland.
Charles McKean offers new conclusions about why the first Tay Bridge collapsed and tells how the Forth and Tay bridges eventually became reality. He follows the railway battle for Scotland from 1845 – 95 and the people it involved: from the Victorian entrepreneurs, poets, journalists, lawyers, town councils; to the engineers, briggers, excavators and rivet boys; to the pioneering and inventive contractor William Arrol – who constructed the bridges that stand today. Meticulously researched and vividly told, Battle for the North explores the complicated reality underlying the Victorian pursuit of progress.