In this series of short articles, buildingspecifier will delve into the history of construction, considering how technologies and old schools of thought have helped shape the built environment we all live and work in today.

The picture above, found on, shows project engineers from 1887 demonstrating the cantilever principles of the world famous Forth Bridge in Scotland. The weight of the central section of a cantilever bridge is transmitted to the banks through diamond shaped supports. Representing the weight in the middle is engineer Kaichi Watanabe, one of the first Japanese engineers who came to study in the UK. The other two men, Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, provide the supports. Fowler and Baker represent the cantilevers, with their arms in tension and the sticks under compression, and the bricks the cantilever end piers which are weighted with cast iron. The action of the outer foundations as anchors for the cantilever is visible in the placement of the counterweights. These are the men that designed the Forth Bridge, which still stands proud to this date.

The bridge itself was built in 1890 and boasts the impressive full length of 2,528.7m, with its longest span being 520m.

Cantilever bridges originated in the 19th century when people began to start thinking laterally about how they could ultimately build longer bridges. Engineers learned that by including many supports throughout the design, any load would be distributed evenly throughout the entire structure, allowing them to build longer and more structurally sound bridges.

Engineers such as Fowler, Baker and Watanabe (pictured above) helped to push the construction and engineering sectors forward, allowing them to flourish and become the amazing industries they are today.

Which methods of construction do you think should be in our next instalment of historical highlights? Let us know in the comments section below!

Scottish transport minister has announced that one of the most important bridges in Scotland in terms of trade traffic will reopen to all vehicles except HGVs from 6am on Wednesday.

The bridge was closed earlier this month after a 20mm crack was found in the steelwork.

This is much earlier than the date of 4th Jan for reopening given last week, which would have been exactly a month after it was closed.

Amey’s Mark Arndt said last week that their engineers were “working around the clock to get the bridge reopened to that timetable,” but suggested that the opening date in January was entirely dependent on weather.

Heavy goods vehicles will not be allowed to use the bridge and will be required to continue to use alternative routes indefinitely.

The transport minister said that interim repair work has now been completed, which has allowed the bridge to be reopened ahead of schedule.

The sheer scale of the chaos and crisis caused by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge has undoubtedly had a negative impact on Scottish Economy, among other problems. Since the closure, the surrounding roads have regularly seen tailbacks of up to 11 miles on diversion routes. Some 70,000 vehicles cross the bridge each week day prior to closing.

The full economic impact on the economy has not yet been assessed, but just a few years ago bridge management estimated the closure of just one carriageway cost the Scottish economy a staggering £650,000 a day.