"The majestic Forth Bridge ... symbolises the tremendous achievements of Victorian engineers and the immense strides made in the technique of bridge design and construction since the dawn of the Railway Age..."
- Derrick Bennett, Bridges: Great Buildings of the World
Throughout the 19th century, several proposals were made to reduce travel time from Edinburgh and southeastern England to the northern cities of Scotland by building a railroad bridge across the expansive mouth of the Forth River. The first attempt, by Thomas Bouch, was abandoned when his previous project, the Tay Bridge, collapsed in 1879. The unique double-cantilever design eventually used was proposed by Benjamin Baker, who had designed the first underground railways in England and later would become the youngest president in history of the Institute of Civil Engineers, the British counterpart to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
More than a mile-and-a-half long, the Forth Bridge was the longest bridge in the world when it was built, easily surpassing the Brooklyn Bridge. The Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII, presided at the bridge's opening ceremony, driving home the last of eight million rivets, specially cast in gold and inscribed to record the event.