Report - - Smitten come Smote, Forth Rail Scotland - Jan 2009 | High Stuff | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Smitten come Smote, Forth Rail Scotland - Jan 2009


si ce que tu dis est vrai
28DL Full Member
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.

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, the Otter and I had come so far and achieved nothing. For 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.

The tracks curve gently on approach to the bridge, that begins with a stone and steel viaduct under which the ground drops rapidly away. The 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. To us minimal equates with maimed not killed, by our dead reckoning if one was to lie flat on the edge without a backpack the train's clearance would be enough.

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. 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. Not dying was the priority but getting seen would fuck our plans to. On the previous trip we discovered that 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. Trains are easier to dodge than the workers. Our plan summarised simply as: charge it. Praeparo vestri testis.

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.

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: qx

30 minutes before the last train to the '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. So the bridge was 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 we found the last train to Edinburgh also pulling in. How fortuitous!

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 through we were a smaller but equally serious challenge presented itself, where exactly were we going to sleep?

photo: qx