And then there were four: Titan Cranes of the Clyde

Both my grandfathers have links to shipbuilding on the Clyde; my maternal grandfather worked on the QE2, and many other ships; his speciality was working on propellar shafts. My paternal grandfather was a clerk in the yard at Greenock. Both would have been very familiar with the Titan cranes that make up such an iconic part of the shipbuilding heritage of the river.

42 were built originally around the world, of which 40 were designed by Willaim Arrol Ltd. 27 of those were in the UK, of which (in 1988) 15 still existed, of which 7 were in Scotland.

Until quite recently, there were five Titan cranes left on the Clyde; there were also two at Rosyth on the east coast.

Today (2011) there are only four left in Scotland…

Finnieston Crane

The most famous Titan; this can be seen in the background of most BBC Scotland news studio reports.

Finnieston Titan Crane

There are some absolutely stunning images of the city taken from the crane at night here, by the Cycleologist.

[Listed building description]

Whiteinch Crane

Just next to a junkyard, and itself next to a listed building of the former Diesel works, this crane is visible from the M8 as you approach Glasgow from the west.

Whiteinch Titan Crane

[Listed building description]

Clydebank Crane

This is the only crane that’s currently publiclly accessible; see their website here:

Titan Crane

Orignally part of John Brown’s yard in Clydebank, this crane now has a lift and staircase erected next to it, allowing the visitor to see the town from a unique angle. The view from the top is stunning, to say the least…

[Listed building description]

Greenock Crane

The Greenock crane is the one my grandfather climbed back when he worked in the yard.

Post-industrial Skyline

Here he is revisiting old haunts….

Revisiting old haunts

[he’s currently 99 years old, and we took him up the Clydebank Titan a couple of years ago, which was a fantastic experience for all involved!]

[Listed building description]

The fifth crane, at Govan, despite also being Category A listed, was demolished in 2007. Sadly, the justification was that the yard needed the space to remain economically viable, and the only option was to demolish the crane. Despite the fact a scale model of it was made, I still feel its a shame that it couldn’t have been moved or otherwise retained for display elsewhere.

Pictures from its last days during demolishiion can be found here.

The Rosyth cranes appear to have been demolished around 1990; a great photo of one of these cranes can be seen on the RCAHMS website here.

There’s something about these Titan cranes – their elegance as objects designed to do a job, but in the best possible way – that reminds me of the Forth Bridge; in some ways, they are all practical, but at the same time, they become beautiful, and well worth fighting to make sure some remain.

About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
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11 Responses to And then there were four: Titan Cranes of the Clyde

  1. Ross says:

    I’d like to know why, on both our visits to Glasgow, you’ve neglected to take us on an illegal nighttime climb of the Finnieston Crane. Seems an oversight to me 🙂

  2. Paul Sweeney says:

    Gordon, you mention that a ‘scale model’ was made of the Govan Titan Crane. Any idea where this is currently located? I know that some equipment from the crane (hoists etc.) was sent to the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. Any information would be much appreciated!

    • Gordon Barr says:

      I *think* it is part of Glasgow Museum’s collections now – not sure how you’d go about finding it though.
      Can put you in touch with someone at GM if you’d like?


  3. Mr Eric Forsyth says:

    Hello Gordon, Was there ever a Titan Crane located in the Broomielaw just east of Finnieston Street. This is to settle a discussion.

  4. The ‘Finnieston Crane’, actually the proper description should be the ‘Stobcross Crane’ was built in the early 1930s to replace a 130 ton steam crane which was located about 100m upstream of it. It was called the Finnieston Crane. The reason for removing it was to make way for a high level bridge at the location now occupied by the Clyde Arc (Squinty Bridge). Ships would have been able to pass under it. However, the Great Depression in the late 1920s put paid to the idea of building a bridge the until the start of the 21st Century. As a result the old Finnieston Crane remained in use and it’s intended replacement was completed and called the Stobcross Crane (or Crane No 7 in the Clyde Navigation Trust’s plant inventories). There had been an earlier Stobcross Crane of around 50 ton SWL,which was big in its day

  5. There is still an Arrol Titan on the Tyne and the one and only Titan built by Babcock & Wilcox of Renfrew for j Samuel White’s shipyard at Cowes on the Isle of Wight is still standing but not in good nick. There was an Arrol designed Titan at the Royal Australian Navy base at Sydney until earlier this year but it was under a demolition order and may well be gone now. It was built during WW2 to replace an Arrol-built Titan at the Royal Navy base at Singapore which had been destroyed by British forces just in advance of the Japanese invasion to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Another Scottish-built Titan still stands in the harbour at Nagasaki, Japan. It was built by Motherwell Bridge Engineering for the Mitsu Bishi shipyard there. It was to be the marker the US Air Force would use to drop the atomic bomb in 1945. However, the weather was very cloudy and they failed to find the Crane as a result of which the crane survived but the bomb landed in a more residential area of Nagasaki. Today the crane is regarded as a sort of memorial to those who died.

    • Jon Steaggles says:

      Hello Stuart. Do you know when the Nagasaki Titan was erected, is it regarded as a true hammerhead?

      • Gordon Campbell says:

        The Nagasaki Crane was built in 1909 by the Glasgow company “Appleby” who had their works in Rigby Street. Erection of the crane may have been sub-contracted to Motherwell Bridge. The bomb detonated at a height of 500 feet, one mile away from the crane so the crane took the full effect of the blast. It was still in working order when I was there in 2015.
        Applebys became part of Sir William Arrol & Co. Ltd in 2011 as far as I know.

  6. Eileen says:

    Which one was Big Bessie?

  7. Gordon Campbell says:

    The scale model of the crane you are referring to sat in the entrance foyer of Sir William Arrol & Co. Ltd where I worked for five years.. From memory it was a model of the crane built in Belfast for Harland & Wolff. Just for clarity folks none of these cranes are “Titan” cranes, they are Giant Cantilever Cranes.
    Best Regards
    Gordon Campbell

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