The Tay Bridge Disaster

It was a dark and stormy night in Scotland on December 28, 1879, when an iron railway bridge buckled and sent a train careening into the wintry waters below. Almost 60 passengers died, and the disaster prompted an inquiry that placed most of the blame on the bridge's designer, Sir Thomas Bouch. A little less than two miles long, the Tay Bridge connected Dundee to Wormit over an estuary of the River Tay along Scotland’s eastern coast. It opened to trains in June 1878, and even Queen Victoria traveled across it during a trip to Balmoral Castle. Bouch had actually been knighted for his admirable feat of Victorian industrial ingenuity, but the bridge’s collapse after just over 18 months in operation proved that it hadn’t been constructed to withstand fierce winds. Investigators also found that certain pressure and speed limits had been disregarded, which may have contributed to the gradual weakening of the structure. Bouch died in disgrace within a year of the accident.