1700’s. In the mid 1700s the need for a road crossing of the Queensferry Passage was discussed seriously for the first time. Numerous plans to bridge the Firth of Forth were dreamed up, developed and discarded throughout the 18th century.
1810. Responsibility for the ferry passage had been transferred from the various individuals into the hands of a Board of Trustees in 1810. They ordered improvements to the service and to the various landing places on each side of the Firth to cater for the ever increasing number of passengers and vehicles. As early as 1929 a report on the possibility of a road crossing was produced.
1811. A report dated 15 May, 1811 indicated the volume of traffic using the ferry over the course of the preceding year. In the space of 12 months, more than 83,000 people, almost 6,000 carts and carriages and over 44,000 animals risked a drenching (even death) by taking to the treacherous waters on the boats.
1817. The Harbour Light Tower was built in 1817 by Robert Stevenson as a key part of the Queensferry Passage across the Forth. Up until then, the Signal House was used by boats as an aid to navigation. Ferries berthed both at the Town Pier and at the Battery Pier (now beneath the Forth Bridge).
1817. Plans for a chain bridge across the Firth of Forth were drawn up in 1817 by Edinburgh civil engineer and land surveyor James Anderson. The unrealistic design was promptly discarded.
1821. Steam power came to the Firth of Forth in 1821 with the launch of the paddleboat Queen Margaret. Although her paddles prevented the boat from taking wheeled traffic on board from the pier, she became a popular choice for foot passengers seeking a more reliable means of crossing the estuary than sail power.
1828. To accommodate the deeper draughts of the new, larger steam-powered ferries, Thomas Telford extended Town Pier in 1828 to its present length. The Railway Pier, on the far side of West Bay, was the terminus of the new Dunfermline-North Queensferry Railway which opened in 1877. The Railway Pier was used as one of the northern ferry terminals from 1877 to 1890, and in 1920 it replaced the old Town Pier.
1866. The first rail link, a branch line from Ratho, reached South Queensferry. However the industrial expansion of the Victorian period had little impact. Until, that is, the year 1883, when the Forth Rail Bridge and the demands of it’s 3000 workforce brought renewed prosperity.
1879. The tragic collapse of Thomas Bouch’s Tay Bridge, a major disaster that caused more than 70 railway passengers to lose their lives, put a dramatic halt to construction of the Bouch-designed Forth railway crossing, which had only recently begun.
1883. Work on a bridge for rail traffic eventually began, under the supervision of Benjamin Baker and John Fowler. The construction of the bridge would alter life in North Queensferry drastically. At its peak, the construction of the bridge employed over 4,000 men. In the same year that the building of the redesigned Forth Bridge began, construction of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge (now known simply as Brooklyn Bridge) was completed, with a main span of 486 metres. On opening, the American bridge became the world’s longest suspension bridge and today continues to occupy a prominent place in New York City’s skyline.
1890. Designed by Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker to look indestructible, the Forth Bridge was officially completed on 4 March 1890, when HRH Edward Prince of Wales added the final rivet to the awe-inspiring cantilever structure. With the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890, for the first time, the Firth of Forth is bridged, providing an alternative means of travel to the ferries that had traversed the waters for centuries.