Falkirk’s newest icons have had their strength severely tested... but passed with flying colours.
The Helix Project’s 100ft tall Kelpies, completed late last year, have been drawing admiring glances for months. But in the last few weeks the popular horse heads have been battered by winds gusting as high as 80 mph.
Residents have been worried the gales could damage the newly completed 300 ton structures, but the Helix team confirmed this week the Kelpies had survived their first real weather challenge unscathed.
A spokesman said: “The Kelpies were wind tunnel tested through every stage of their design and construction and are built to withstand extreme weather, including the kind of high winds we experienced over the festive period.”
The gale-force winds which hit Scotland left thousands of homes without power and disrupted travel by road and rail, while heavy rain and high tides led to flood warnings being issued for a number of areas, including Grangemouth.
The Kelpies, created by artist Andy Scott and fabricated and constructed by Yorkshire-based SH Structures, were designed to withstand weather like this and everything else Mother Nature could throw at them.
“During the design phase of the full-size Kelpies, many engineering challenges were faced, not least in recreating the look and impression of the many small plates which formed the skin.
“They are fabricated from structural steel with stainless steel cladding and, in order to reflect the curves and shapes Andy Scott sculpted into his scale model maquettes, the stainless steel skin was formed into shape on site, section by section using clever bolt assemblies.
“Each piece is unique. It was like assembling a 990 piece jigsaw using cranes.”
The completion of the Kelpies in November last year marked a significant stage in the £43 million Helix development, which opens next summer, and is expected to help attract 350,000 visitors and bring in £1.5 million in tourism spending annually.
The end of the £5 million project, a partnership of The Big Lottery Fund, Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals, was marked with a celebration on site and a real sense of pride from all parties involved.
The Kelpies will play a massive part in the overall plans of the Helix, as both a striking symbol, which is seen by thousands of motorists every day, and as a tourist attraction itself.
Visitors will be able to experience the structure in all its glory, being allowed inside the heads to see the complex and impressive construction up close.
There are also plans to add floodlighting to the Kelpies in the near future to make them a sight to behold at night as well.