Riveting exhibit! A riveting machine used in the building of the Forth Bridge and on loan to ICE from the National Railway Museum. Hugh Dougherty

EARLY SCOTTISH CANAL ENGINEERING ON ICE!


If you want to view the history of the early days of canal engineering on ICE, then set your sights on a visit to the ICE Scotland Museum at Edinburgh’s Herriot Watt University.

Instrumental: early civil engingeering instruments, including levels of the sort used to survey early canals are on show. Hugh Dougherty
Instrumental: early civil engingeering instruments, including levels of the sort used to survey early canals are on show. Hugh Dougherty

The ICE in question stands for the Institute of Civil Engineers, and the professional body operates the museum over three floors of the university’s William Arrol Building. There’s plenty of information on early, Scottish engineers, and, especially, about Thomas Telford, who, famously, built the Caledonian Canal.

Thomas Telford on ICE. The pioneering canal, bridge, harbour and roads engineer is well recalled at the museum. Hugh Dougherty
Thomas Telford on ICE. The pioneering canal, bridge, harbour and roads engineer is well recalled at the museum. Hugh Dougherty

“We have a special place for Telford,” said curator and chair of the committee which runs the museum, Professor David McGuigan. “Not only did he design and supervise the construction of the well-known Caledonian and Ellesmere Canals, and many bridges over waterways and rivers, but he was also the first president of our institute.”

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Forth Bridge in miniature! This quarter-scale model of a skewback of the bridge shows just how massive this river crossing is. Professor David McGuigan takes a look and shows its scale. Hugh Dougherty
Forth Bridge in miniature! This quarter-scale model of a skewback of the bridge shows just how massive this river crossing is. Professor David McGuigan takes a look and shows its scale. Hugh Dougherty

One of the more unusual exhibits on display is a section of rail from the building of the Caledonian Canal, built between 1804 and 1822. “Most people don’t know that Telford used a plateway, that is a railway with flanged rails and wagons moved by horse or human power to move earth and materials during the building of the canal, and we’re very fortunate to have a section of this early, and unique, rail on show.”

Riveting exhibit! A riveting machine used in the building of the Forth Bridge and on loan to ICE from the National Railway Museum. Hugh Dougherty
Riveting exhibit! A riveting machine used in the building of the Forth Bridge and on loan to ICE from the National Railway Museum. Hugh Dougherty

The museum also houses a collection of surveying instruments used by early engineers in canal and railway construction, while there’s a riveting machine, used to drive some of the 6 million rivets used in the construction of the Forth Railway Bridge. It was carefully engineered to boat traffic on the River Forth to pass safely under it, and the museum also house an impressive, a large-scale model of on one of the bridge’s skewbacks.

The ICE Museum is open Monday to Friday 8.00 am to 6.00pm, entry is free, and self-guiding leaflet is available. Full details are at https://ice-museum-scotland.hw.ac.org

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