A 1:30 scale model of the Wallsend Slipway 150 ton giant hammerhead cantilever (Titan) crane made by Dr Brian Newman. The crane was built by Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd at a cost of £27,440 being completed in March 1910.
The majority of the model is made from Meccano with other pieces fashioned from steel or aluminium strips.
Mrs Newman kindly provided the following biography of her late husband:
Dr Brian Newman was born and grew up in Howdon, North Tyneside close to the site of the Wallsend Slipway crane. On his route to school, he could see part of a large grey structure above the rooftops of the houses. At that time, he did not know what it was, but it intrigued him.
From an early age he was interested in making mechanical models. Having been given a Meccano set as a Christmas present, he began constructing small models. As his experience in model making grew, so did his collection of Meccano.
On leaving school he became an engineering apprentice at Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company. After completing his apprenticeship, he had a short career as a seagoing engineer, returning home he worked at various Tyneside engineering companies.
He was interested in local history and when it became clear that shipyards and engineering works were to close and the crane was to be demolished Brian and a colleague visited many of these companies, recovering records and documents. These records and documents would become the foundation of the Marine Technology Special Collection now housed in the School of Engineering in Newcastle University.
Brian embarked on a degree course at Newcastle University graduating with a BA followed by an MPhil and finally a PHD. His choice of subject for his PHD thesis was heavy shipbuilding cranes. He was a world expert on these cranes and was consulted on crane preservation projects in the UK and Japan. The Japanese government invited him to visit Japan to advise them on their application for World Heritage status for the giant cantilever crane at Nagasaki.
Brian had been researching and photographing cranes for many years prior to writing his book. He was given access to Company archives to continue his research. He also interviewed many former shipyard employees recording their recollections of working on the cranes. This research resulted in the writing of his book entitled “A Work of Titans”
In 2010 Brian was appointed as an Archive Cataloguer for the Marine Technology Special Collection where his subject expertise was invaluable. Over the next ten years he put the Collection on a firm foundation before retiring in 2020.
Making the model was a long-term ambition and the culmination of Brian’s passion for both cranes and Meccano.
Also donated with the model is a collection of papers, catalogues and a book.
Sir Willam Arrol & Co Ltd Catalogues:
- Cranes and Transporters, Hydraulic Pumps, Presses, Riveters, &c. Gas Retort Charging Machinery and Mechanical Production.
- Temperley Portable and Radial Transporters (1909).
- Giant Cantilever Cranes (c.1960) (Photocopy).
- Picture Gallery (1913) (Photocopy).
- 40 tons Capacity Erection Crane (c.1965).
- Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd 1909-1950 A record, compiled by Mr H Cunningham, Chairman of the Company, traces the outline of Arrol’s history as a business during the years 1909 to 1950 (c.1951) (Photocopy).
- Catalogue (part) (1932) (Photocopy).
- Arrol: a name that spans the earth (Undated). (Photocopy).
Book (by Brian Newman):
- NEWMAN, B. A Work of Titans / A History of the Swan Hunter Floating Cranes, Titan, Titan II & Titan III. Brian Newman, 2012.
- Sir William Arrol – A Biographical Sketch of the Great Bridge Builder. AS Biggart, Cassier’s Magazine, Vol XV No 1, pp 2-19, November 1898. (Photocopy).
- Andrew S Biggart, Obituary. Shipbuilding and Shipping Record 3 May 1917 p 435. (Photocopy).
- Thomas Arrol, Obituary. Shipbuilding and Shipping Record 28 August 1918 p 265. (Photocopy).
The papers include a miscellanous selection of crane lists and photocopies of associated materials including:
- Hand written table titled “Sir William Arrol Giant Cranes”. (Undated). The list provides (Completion) Year, Customer, Max Load, Height of Lift, Working Radius, Slew Roller Path and Remarks.
- Various handwritten Minutes of Meetings of Directors of Sir Willam Arrol & Co Ltd. (1910-1914). (Photocopy).
This model may also be of interest to Mecanno aficionados – a crane of this type was featured in a 1928 Meccano Book of New Models (see image).
This item was loaned to South Ayrshire Council for an exhibition Spanning the Centuries Sir William Arrol’s Legacy in Steel, Stone, and Culture. Roselle House Museum & Galleries, Ayr. February – May 2023.