Smitten come Smote, Edinburgh

A chill wind howled over the Firth of Forth's icy waters, blasting rain into my face with a bitter sting. In the haze far below small waves rose from the turbulent water. Scotland turned her fury against us and there was naught we could do but tuck our faces deeper into saturated hoods and cower at the scene around us. The Forth Rail Bridge glowed a brilliant crimson against the angry sky, flinching not an inch within the maelstrom of the gale. Standing high over the waters, encircled by a swirling shield of the elements, this night she was nigh on impenetrable to the likes of us.

It's only 300m, what are you waiting for? Failed attempt, June 2008.

With heavy hearts and sodden feet we trudged along the tracks, peering back intermittently until all that remained visible was the apocalyptic glow in the sky. This 1000 mile roundtrip was for naught, Loops, Teh Otter and I had come so far and achieved nothing. For the following 3 months my desktop image would be the Forth Rail Bridge, a constant reminder of unfinished business. I would conquer the red monster of the north.

In 1890 the Prince of Wales banged home the last of the 8 million rivets, declaring the bridge open to traffic. At 2.5km long, made of 3 towering cantilever structures it dominates the landscape. The modern road bridge adjacent is slender and twinky compared to this mammoth mass of red metal. Almost 100 workers died during the 7 year construction using a material not previously used for bridge construction - steel. The three cantilever structures are each supported by 4 steel towers anchored into foundations which extend  27 meters below. Learned Scotsman Siologen Westminster Jeeves III quickly dismissed the possibility of boating to a pylon, "you'll be sucked out into the North sea ya wanker". Luckily, we had a plan B.

Encircled by the elemental chastity belt of the storm, the Forth Rail Bridge mocks our lack of courage. Failed attempt, ...

The tracks curve gently on approach to the bridge, which begins with a stone and steel viaduct under which the ground drops rapidly away. Thise viaduct extends three hundred meters (1000ft) to a massive stone arch which anchors the first red steel cantilever. Flanking the tracks are two walkways with signs kindly informing those out for a late night stroll there is Minimal Clearance on bridge. By our reckoning minimal space meant that if one was to lie flat on the edge without a backpack the train's clearance would be enough.

With a smattering of cloud poised low upon a sky of iridescent blue wee lass E drops the best weather she could, a grate...

quantum-x and I sat at the end of the viaduct, triple-checking the jumble of timetables we'd collected for the local trains. The Forth carries an average of 200 trains per day. The local trains were cake, separated by up to half an hour. We lacked timetables for the wildcard entries to this rollingstock steeplechase, the intercity passenger trains and freighters. Our recce had shown they rattle through frequently and fast enough to mash the brave. We wouldn't die but being seen would fuck our plans to. A midservice burst was required as we'd discovered previously because the moment the last train passes the orange clad worker ants swarm the bridge and begin work, even in the worst of weather. The only certain way to dodge the workers meant getting up mid service and down before the last train. Besides trains are easier to dodge than workers. Our plan summarised simply as: charge it. Praeparo vestri testis.

Good things may come to those who wait, but they come much quicker to those who bust their balls and put in the hard yar...

qx and I launched from our hiding space like rapists from a shrub, sprinting out onto the viaduct. Our cumbersome backpacks bounced around furiously, a tripod head bashing into my kidneys. The wind picked up as the vegetation dropped further below us and we charged towards the red monster looming larger above us with every stride. A train headlight beamed over the rise of his gaping maw and shambled out to meet us. Bring out the welcoming party! Hearts pounding, breathless we ran faster towards either our glory or doom, two outcomes  more tightly intertwined everyday. Diving into the safety of the stone arch, we watched the train rattle past. Had the driver seen us, was he already on the radio? What could be gained by standing around touching our nuts debating a course of action, waiting to be busted by an angry Scottish policeman? Fuck it, we climbed.

Soon the hard as nails Scottish workers arrive, hair bristling with the hue of the bridge, built tough as the steel they...

Weaving up through the red lattice threads of this giant spider web, cross-hatched against perfect a mauve sky, we climbed closer and closer to the stars slowly blooming for the night. Clearly nobody expected climbers, or believed the physical location and nature of the bridge would dissuade them. There was no security, no alarms and no sensors. Blessed with perfect weather we snapped a couple of quick photos then simply kicked back to just enjoy the view. Snaps are nice but they could never sum up the feeling of surveying the surrounds from high upon the crest of the staunch metal monster.

photo by qx

30 minutes before the last train to Teh 'burg and the arrival of workers we began our descent. In haste we climbed too far and discovered a worker office slung below the tracks. Inside a single figure went about his business oblivious to our antics. To any future climbers take note the bridge is manned all night after all. Track level was calm and quiet so we began jogging over the viaduct. Halfway across a train clattered up behind us. This train racing business was becoming fucking tiresome. We kicked back a gear and streaked across the viaduct. Our tanks were empty but redbull fumes and adrenaline pushed us on. The train rolled past as we burst off the viaduct onto the crunchy railway rocks, continuing to run alongside the train right to the platform where fortuitously we found the last train to Edinburgh also pulling in.

Liberally coated in smears of red paint, reeking of sweat and hyperventilating we rode over the bridge grinning like retarded children with our hands cupped tight around our faces and noses pushed sideways across the glass. The Forth had fallen, the loose ends were tied, I could leave the UK content. Elated though we were a smaller but equally serious challenge presented itself, where exactly were we going to sleep?

photo by qx
About the author

Found frigid and dying in the snow by a passing missionary at the abandoned Soviet airbase in Choir, Mongolia, little dsankt never had a chance. The Dreams Foundation granted his wish to one day travel the world, thinking he'd only last a month or so. To everyone's amazement he's still going strong. When asked for comment the foundation's treasurer would only say, "The little mongrel cunt just won't fucking die, it's costing us a fortune!"

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Site   6 years ago
Lovely write up! looks amazing, you could of been ninja, and just train surged then jumped off at the right time :P Loved the 'where to sleep at the end'
S///   6 years ago
Thanks for holding off fellas ;) The view from the top and those skew-iff walkways were amazing, and ive now worked out the golden timetable numbers regarding the perfect Train Dodge. Big Up's Mutharfucks!
sploder   6 years ago
nice story, love train tracks and bridges and the combination of them :D
Guess   6 years ago
yaz   6 years ago
Mad skills. Awesome
Otter   6 years ago
Buddy you get the wrong i dear, i love you :). Sexually
flame   6 years ago
fucking tops. gold nutz of the year for you guys and siolo. makes me twitchy to climb again.
Little Mike   6 years ago
Most excellent. Sleeping on rooftops for the win!
`nsap   6 years ago
Shut down in style!
uliveandyouburn   6 years ago
You rawk. Your writing never disappoints.
dopefish   6 years ago
fukken awesome
dsankt   6 years ago
Site, some of the trains actually rolled through pretty slowly. I'm sure with patience someone like userscott could rig some kind of fishing hook tethering device to yoink people from the top of trains...

Flame, gold is far too soft a metal for nutz manufacturing I suggest you seek alternatives. That said, never hurts to have backups, right?

Siolo, disappointed to hear you didn't even have to dodge trains on your jaunt. Retrospectively that was quite satisfying.
michaelg   6 years ago
I am very interested in helping to preserve and to look in the possibility of exhibiting your photographs at some point in the future. In my view they should not be allowed to disappear into the great digital black-hole, of which there is a great possibility if they remain just as they are pretty much as a ship that passes in the night, never to be seen again. Whoever you are, contact me off line: I am working on an exhibition of photographs by Evelyn George Carey, an Engineer-Photographe r and assistant to Benjamin Baker the designer of the Forth Rail Bridge. and a publication with an Italian university {@}
dimac   6 years ago
Just abseiled off this today - whats the chances of getting a copy of the pic of the bridge - when you didn't make it - these are magic and the 2 of yous are no right !
Our Willy   6 years ago
Loved reading it all, must have been a great sence of accivement when done.

and i have been on the roof that yous slept ;)
dsankt   5 years ago
@dimac, do you work on the bridge, or was the clandestine type nocturnal venture?

@Our Willy, it certainly was. Have at it.
thecleaner   5 years ago
excellent! my favourite bridge too. great write-up. thanx for sharing these amazing exploits for us mere pavement huggers.
orlando auto repair   4 years ago
I wish there is an english webpage version of this website so this will attract many english speaking visitors for them to stay and leave their valuable comments.