Steam Cranes - James Taylor

Mike Kemble
22nd January 2011, 14:08
I got this email from Australia and the attached image. I have recommended a call to the birkenhead Historical Society, but do any of the members know anything about this topic?

I am a crane historian and one day will be writing about the importance of Birkenhead as the centre of world large steam crane making - especially James Taylor of the Britannia Engine Works - from about 1855 to about 1889.

We have some information about this mysterious man - who suddenly closed his works in 1889.

Do you know of anyone who might have any biographies or article about James Taylor or the Britannia Engine Works or photos or drawings any of his cranes. One last very deep question.

The attached crane - once famous - not a Taylor - was made by who ?

Anyone have any ideas ?

22nd January 2011, 14:30
So far as I can see, this crane is a luff-able sheer legs rigged for about 40t SWL, (count the wires running through the main block), This type of crane has been used in Holland for the last century and a half. There are also the luff-able Jib cranes who have Luffing Screws sticking up at the back of the base of the jib, these are usually rated at about 60-80 t SWL and were a standard dock floating crane from about 1870 to 1960, there was one in Cardiff called Thor, in 1959.

As for the builders names, I'm afraid I can't help you.

Mike Kemble
22nd January 2011, 15:06
thanks Billie

Pat Kennedy
22nd January 2011, 18:29
That photo shows the 87 ton crane which was situated in Birkenhead Docks on the South West side of the West Float, approximately opposite No3 West Float, which was the City line loading berth.
It was demolished, I think. in the late 1970s.
The Britannia Works of James Taylor and Son was in Cleveland Street in Birkenhead, I believe it was sited where the Council depot stands today, almost opposite the old Birkenhead Brewery.
Best Regards,

23rd January 2011, 10:00
Pat, wasn't that crane used for loading Rolling stock and Locomotives from the Vulcan works, for Southern Rhodesia Railways?

Pat Kennedy
23rd January 2011, 15:00
Pat, wasn't that crane used for loading Rolling stock and Locomotives from the Vulcan works, for Southern Rhodesia Railways?
Thats quite correct, I have watched it loading locos onto City Line ships when I was a schoolboy, and used to cycle past on my way to school.
There was a large coal hoist adjacent to it, which vanished in the early 60s while I was away at sea.
Later on, Hoveringham had a sand depot there and ran a couple of their small dredgers from there, Hoveringham 12 and 13 I think.

24th January 2011, 01:18
This link shows a partial film of the crane in use and slewing over the ship.

It is not a sheer legs which was fixed and moved across the ship only and usually had three legs, the centre rear leg controlled the distance out from the dock, the ship would have to warp alongside the dock which was not the case here.

The railway track on the dock was multiple gauges to allow just about any export locomotive to be brought within reach of the crane.


Pat Kennedy
24th January 2011, 10:01
A good clip Ian,
You can also see in the first few seconds, the MDHB floating crane Mammoth.