SIR THOMAS BOUCH (1822 – 1880)

SIR THOMAS BOUCH (1822 – 1880) was born near Carlisle and lived in Edinburgh. In 1850, when engineer and manager to the Edinburgh and Northern Railway, he introduced the first roll on roll off ferry service in the world, across the Firth of Forth from Granton to Burntisland, in Fife. Launched in 1858, the paddle steamer, Carrier, was the third and smallest of a fleet of six train ferries designed to carry the ENR/NBR’s goods wagons across the Forth and Tay estuaries. She was built by Scott and Co of Greenock. Bouch not only designed the ferries but also the associated equipment, such as linkspans, which were the ‘drawbridges’ used in the operation of moving wagons on and off a ferry. This was the revolutionary design item allowing for operation in tidal waters the principle of which is in use on all roll on roll off ferries today.
Later, as a consulting engineer, he constructed some 270 miles of railways, helped develop the caisson and popularised the use of lattice girders in railway bridges. He was knighted by Queen Victoria after designing and building the first Tay Railway Bridge in 1878 The bridge collapsed in December 1879 when it was hit by very strong side winds. A train was travelling along it at the time, and 75 people were killed. Bouch was held responsible and he died within 18 months of being knighted, with his reputation ruined.
Summary by Ann Griffiths

THE FLOATING RAILWAY ACROSS THE FORTH – The Times 8th February 1850
It is with great satisfaction that we have to notice the completion of an undertaking, which will not only be of great public advantage but must add very materially to the prosperity of the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway Company. We allude to the large movable ships that have been erected by this company at Granton and Burntisland by means of which they will, in connexion with their large floating railway steamer, be enabled to give great facilities in the transmission of their traffic. Goods, minerals and livestock will now be conveyed across on the ferry without removal from the trucks. The first experimental trial took place on Wednesday last in the presence of the directors and was eminently successful. The spacious deck of the steamer is capable of holding a train of from 30 to 40 loaded trucks and on Wednesday 12 trucks, laden with coals and general merchandise were taken on board in about 7 minutes. The crossing took 25 minutes and the trucks were run ashore at Granton in the course of 3 minutes, amidst the hearty cheers of a large concourse of spectators, who had assembled to witness the interesting proceedings.

The following is a description of the apparatus:
Alongside the piers at Burntisland and Granton is an incline or slip constructed of masonry, upon which are laid two lines of rails, the same gauge as the main line. Upon the incline is placed a heavy movable platform 61 feet long by 21 feet wide, framed of timber and resting upon 16 wheels.
To the front of the platform are attached by means of universal joints, four malleable iron girders, 35 feet long, constructed of boiler plates, spanning the requisite distance from the platform to the vessel and affording sufficient depth of water for the keel of the vessel to clear the surface of the slip. These girders are raised and lowered on the arrival and departure of the vessel by means of a winch on each side of a staging, 18 feet high, erected across the platform. The whole platform with the girders is raised and lowered to suit the several heights of the tide by means of a small stationary steam engine, which is also employed in moving the trucks off and on board the vessel. The drums and gearing in connexion therewith are so arranged as to work the platform, or load and discharge the vessel with the greatest facility. The large vessel or floating railway (Leviathan), plying in connexion with the slips is 175 feet long and 54 feet wide over all, propelled by two powerful engines of peculiar construction, with paddles shafts unconnected. Upon her deck are laid three lines of railway for the standage of trucks. This vessel with all her machinery, was built by Robert Napier of Glasgow – Scotsman.

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