Do you have any information regarding crane-makers you can share? Please contact: Phillip Treweek
One line of inquiry for this project is the designers and builders of the cranes used by NZR. This page is intended to hold notes/summaries of the material I have gathered about the crane manufacturers. I have some material to hand and have included notes on seven of the sixteen crane makers whose products I am aware were used by the New Zealand Government Railways. These can be reached from the selection bars below. I will be adding more 'soon'.
J. Anderson - Bray & Waddington - Browning Engineering - Butter Bros. - Cowans Sheldon - Craven Bros. - Fraser & Tinnie - Grafton & Co - Jessop & Appleby Bros. - Kincaid McQueen - S.Luke - New Zealand Railways - S.Owen - Priestman Bros. - Ransomes & Rapier - Stothert & Pitt
New Zealand RailwaysNo details as yet. Known Cranes:
J.Anderson & Co (Christchurch)No details as yet. Known Cranes:
Bray & Waddington (Leeds)No details as yet. Known Cranes:
Browning Engineering Co. (Cleveland, Ohio)
No details as yet.Known Cranes:
Butters (Glasgow)Probable Cranes:
No details as yet.
Cowans Sheldon & Co Ltd (Carlisle)
The firm was founded in 1846 with a works at Woodbank (about 2 miles south of Carlisle near Upperby) by John Cowans (1816-1873), Edward Pattison Sheldon (1815-1881) and brothers William and Thomas Bouch. The site was adjacent to the River Petteril which powered a tilt-hammer. The earliest known order was for the Shildon Engine Works. Early products included wagon wheels and axles for various railways, as well as items for mine and port work. The firm began exporting in 1852 when forgings went to Bremen for a shipbuilder.
In 1857 the company purchased a Carlisle site formerly occupied by G.D.Richardson, Iron Founder and Timber Merchant. Adjacent to the Newcastle-Carlisle Railway, the new St Nicholas Engine & Iron Works were named for the leper hospital located there during the middle ages. The works were managed by George Dove (1817-1906), who became a partner in 1863. In 1870 John Cowans retired due to ill-health. He died aged only 57 in 1873. That year the company became a limited liability company, and John Horne became Works manager. Horne later became a director, and did not retire until 1913. Edward Sheldon who had been blinded in an accident was the last of the partners when he died in 1881. (Thomas Bouch had been knighted in 1879 but died soon after in disgrace following the collapse of the Tay bridge). George Dove became the Managing Director, assisted by his son John, who became joint Managing Director in 1889. John Dove passed away in 1922.
Under these managers the company became Britain's best known crane maker. The earliest known rail crane order was a 2.5-ton travelling hand crane for the Oldham Corporation in July1859. The company was the pioneer in steam rail cranes by the mid 1860s. Boilers were applied to hand cranes leading to cranes of 5 to 10 ton capacity for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway in 1865. By the 1880s 15 ton breakdown cranes were being produced, and the first 20 ton breakdown crane was for the London &York Railway in 1902. Capacity increased swiftly with 25 to 30-ton rail cranes by 1906 and 35-ton cranes by 1911. The post WWI period saw 50 ton cranes in Britain, 75-ton cranes for India, and in 1924 two 120-ton steam breakdown rail cranes for the South Australia Railway. Other power sources were explored with electric rail cranes being produced by 1909, and later diesel power. In 1960-61 150 and 250-ton capacity diesel cranes were exported to Canada. Much smaller 10 and 15-ton diesel cranes arrived in New Zealand in the 1962-64 period.
Cowans Sheldon also produced overhead cranes, starting with 20-ton hand cranes for the Inverness & Aberdeen Junction Railway in 1863 before moving to steam power, and then electric overhead cranes by the end of the 19th century. The company is also well known for dockside cranes - such as the 130-ton capacity steam jib crane built in 1891 at Finnieston Quay in Glasgow. Other maritime products included steam sheers, including the 100-ton examples for the Admiralty at Portsmouth. At the other end of the scale were coaling cranes and 'Fairburn type' whip cranes. Other products included boilers, steam engines, rolling stock, permanent way materials, turntables (Cowans Sheldon invented the loco brake system vacuum operating mechanism), water vats and cranes, creosoting plants, tobacco presses, and equipment for coal, gas, and iron production.
In the post-WWII period, like most companies involved in crane and particularly rail crane production, Cowans Sheldon faced a downturn. However, by the 1960's they were the last remaining producer of large rail cranes in Britain. In 1962 the company became associated with another well established firm Clyde, Crane & Booth (whose heritage dated back to the 1820s), who then discontinued producing 'Booth' type rail cranes. In 1968 the company was taken over by Clarke Chapman (which itself dates back to the 1860s). The acquisition of other well known manufacturers Sir William Arrol & Co and Wellman Cranes the following year saw them combined as the Clarke Chapman Crane & Bridge Division. Clarke Chapman joined with Reyrolle Parsons (a product of the 1968 merger of C.A.Parsons and Reyrolle) to create Northern Engineering Industries (NEI) in 1977. It was soon after this that NZR acquired its last rail cranes, two 60-tonners built by 'NEI-Clarke Chapman' but bearing the name Cowans Sheldon. In 1989 the company was acquired by Rolls Royce as its Materials Handling group. During this management the Carlisle Works were finally closed. In 2001 present owners Langley Holdings acquired the Clarke Chapman Group, and Cowans Sheldon continues to operate with a focus on rail cranes, alongside the other companies in the Group - RB (Ruston Bucyrus), Stothert & Pitt, and Wellman Booth - all famous crane making names.
Craven Bros. Ltd (Loughborough)
William and John Craven served their time with Sharp Roberts & Co. Ltd, locomotive manufacturers in the Manchester area. In 1853 they startedthe Vauxhall works at Salford, which were moved to an Osborne street locatiuon in 1857. The firm became a producer of large machine tools for the railways and other workshops, and later included workshop cranes in their production. By 1900 the company had also established a works at Reddish on a 25 acre site near the Stockport boundary. Here they became known for their electric cranes.
Although not a 'steam' firm, in 1906 the company took orders for five 15-ton hand cranes and one 2-ton steam crane from the Great Central Railway, which followed up an order for two 20-ton steam cranes for the Caledonian Railway, and was followed by three 20-ton (later increased to 25 ton) cranes for the North Eastern Railway, all in the same year. While not a large-scale manufacturer, the firm became known for high-quality construction. Roller thrust bearings were used at the top of the post or pin, weston clutches were used for the travelling gear along with pad oiled axle bearings of locomotive type, rope barrels had left and right hand grooves ( a practice derived from overhead cranes) for even winding, and large spur wheels were used (mostly double helical) for quietness and strength. Many parts were sub-contracted - such as race wheels and engines from Beyer Peacock, and carriage structures from Markham and Co. Cravens developed some special features of their own, including a patented relieving bogie in 1907, and special outriggers of cast steel built into the headstocks. The company also experimented with battery propulsion, and cantilever and bascule jibs prior to World War I.
A few cranes were built for the War Department during World War I (including 2 for pile driving), but by 1923 only about a dozen had been completed for British railways. The post-war downturn had seen the Osborne street works (which included the drawing office) closed in 1920. In 1928 the business was reorganised, and as a consequence divided into two. The machine tool opeartion continued at Reddish, in conjunction with W.G Armstrong and later Armstrong Whitworth whose Openshaw works were nearby. They were later associated with Vickers Armstrong limited. This operation closed down around 1970. The crane division was acquired by Herbert Morris Ltd, and was transferred to Loughborough around 1930.
Herbert Morris Ltd had its origins in Sheffield in 1884 producing mechanical handling equipment. By 1902 its 'East Works' had been acquired on the southern edge of Loughborough, allowing room to expand. Their the company produced chain blocks, conveyors, hand and electric cranes, and other such lifting equipment. The firm used an American style batch production system. In 1920 a new site was acquired at the 'North Works' which included the Midland Ironworks of H.Coltman, and had a connection to the Midland Railway. Using the experience of the former Coltman employees the company moved into producing crane boilers, and then under the design of a Mr Hustler, general and contractors steam cranes of up to 10-tons capacity were built.
The steam driven Morris track layer had been developed and trialled on the Great Southern Railway in Ireland in 1924. This was then used by the London North East Railway from 1928. This was followed by a logical expansion into rail-cranes with the acquisition of the Craven Bros crane division and two similar concerns around 1930. However, the economic down turn did not support this move and only a few cranes were built, mostly for export. The last railway crane was produced in 1937. The four Craven 40-ton cranes built for NZR's 1936 order are therefore unusual as only five cranes were built to the Craven name after the move to Loughborough, and these were amongst the last rail-cranes built by this concern.
After this period Herbert Morris concentrated primarily on high-grade electric cranes, as well as producing traversers, turntables, and the like.Morris Material Handling Known Cranes:
Fraser & Tinnie (Auckland)No details as yet. Known Cranes:
Grafton & Co (Bedford)Alexander Grafton (1845-1807) was articled in Paris before joining Appleby Bros. in 1867. He remained with the firm until 1879 during which time he spent 4 years in Egypt in charge of their work with the Sudan Railway and other contracts, and rising to assistant manager. He then spent more time in Paris before returning to London to set up his own firm, which was known from 1883 as Grafton &Co. The company supplied a wide range of iron work including building framing, gasworks materials and locomotive spare parts, as well as contractors cranes, both hand and steam. Initially these were purchased in batches from Jessops of Leicester (later Jessop & Appleby Bros.) and resold either as standard or with customer specified extras. After Grafton entered partnership with C.Q.Henriques (a Frenchman) the company became an independent producer. The Vulcan Works were developed at a large site at Bedford with a LNWR connection in 1886. Grafton had been granted a patent in 1882 for a loose race slewing gear with a conical seat. Patterning a new design on the Leicester produced 'Tilbury' crane included derricking and travelling functions (although these were later added by Jessops), and incorporating the patent slewing gear, this became the basis for what was known as the 'London' type crane. The crane had a short centre pin and horizontal engines, allowing a low centre of gravity. Brownlie notes that Grafton had the design perfected almost immediately and only minor details were added over time. The importance of this becomes clear when it is realised that manufacture continued into the 1960's. The other important facet of the Grafton & Co. manufacturing was the use of standard sizing. At a time when many cranes were produced on a one off basis, Grafton produced five standard sizes in the 2 to 10 ton range. Castings were standardised and gearings were at standard centres, meaning only a few mechanical parts needed to be adjusted to suit customer requirements. Crane carriages were produced in a range of widths to meet gauge requirements. Any special contracts required little revision of drawing work and some extra machining. The foundry work was alsosystematic, with castings produced in batches and marked for model and size (very useful when spares were ordered). Because the company concentrated on sizes that were in demand it was able to keep one or two standard cranes in preparation allowing a fast response to customers. The company had also rigorously tested its cranes, noting engine and hoisting speeds for a variety of loads, derricking times and other useful details for customers, down to coal consumption. Grafton cranes were put to a variety of uses. As well as industrial, many were used for docks and wharves, and there were also railway customers. The latter were primarily for permanent way work. As well as UK railways export markets included Scandinavia and Argentina. One crane is known to have come to New Zealand, being imported by the New Zealand Midland Railway. After Alexander Grafton's death in 1907, control of the company passed to his nephews. Although some development work continued (using new materials such as phospher-bronze and steel changing from chain to wire rope, and converting to new power units) business began to reduce in the post WWII period as railway and shipping demands changed. the company had little business after 1960, and follwing the death of one of the nephews in 1963 dissent amongst the family saw the Vulcan Works close. The assets and goodwill of the company was transferred to Taylor & Hubbard who maintained a parts service for Grafton cranes. The UK's Historical Manuscripts Commission holds records for Taylor & Hubbard up to 1981, but I do not know what has become of the company since. Known Cranes:
Jessop & Appleby Bros (Leicester & London)Brothers C.J. & T.H. Appleby appear to have set up business in London by the late 1850s. They certainly had a workshop in Emerson St, Southwark by 1858. It is known that Charles Appleby had trained at the Renishaw Ironworks (acquired by his grandfather in 1782), before gaining experience at the Atlas Works of Sharp Roberts and Co.Ltd in the Manchester area. He then travelled to Russia in 1840 and worked as a railway construction engineer. Putting his experience to work, and taking advantage of being in contact with a number of leading contractors, the company produced a variety of plant including pumps, boilers, winding and stationary engines. In 1866 the Leicester branch of the 'London Steam Crane and Engine Works' was opened in Grace street near the River Soar under the management of resident partner Joseph Jessop who traded as J.Jessop & Son for over 30 years. Catalogues of the time talk about 'Jessop' cranes and the Leicester works of Appleby Bros. The firm was amongst the pioneers in the development of the self propelled travelling crane. They are known to have exhibited at Paris in 1867 and Vienna in 1873. A patent was issued in 1874 for a 'self acting balance weight or counterpoise for handcranes'. In 1883 another patent reflected a new advancement in crane design. This put forward a horizontal engine layout with a reduced central pillar which became known as the 'Jessop' type (as opposed to the vertical engined pillar type commonly referred to as a 'Leeds' crane). This is known to have been incorporated in permanent way cranes of the time, and later the larger breakdown cranes. C.J. Appleby travelled widely to secure contracts. In 1871 vertical engine type cranes were supplied to the Bengal Railways, and in 1884 Applebys were the initial supplier of plant and rolling stock to the Sudan Railway. As well as Africa and India, their product was also found in Australia. There is no evidence to hand indicating Mr Appleby visited New Zealand. The New Zealand Government Railway did acquire a number of cranes, and crane workings from his company, but toward the end and after his carreer. It was not unusual at that time for the crane workings and other fittings to be supplied and then fitted to locally made frames. Several NZR cranes were also built to Appleby designs. There seem to have been some changes in ownership structure around 1872. At that time the family owned Renishaw Works which suppled castings to Appleby Bros. came under Appleby & Co, although later they operated as the Renishaw Iron Company. In 1886 Appleby Bros. opened a new works at East Greenwhich which provided large foundries and boiler shops with access to two jetties on the Thames - important for export. It appears the outgrown Southwark works were closed at that time, and the firm may have ceased using renishaw for crane work (an 1888 catalogue does not list any cranes). In 1897-8 there was a reorganisation which saw the businesses renamed Jessop & Appleby Bros. (London & Leicester) Ltd. Apparently Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd who were utilising Appleby plant in their works, had gained control in Nov 1897. C.J. Appleby who seems to have been the dominant figure retired in May 1898 (at age 70 approx.) to Redhill. His sons do not appear to have been involved with the company - one being a consulting engineer in London, and the other was overseas. Jessop & Appleby Bros. continued to trade in its own right under what appears to have been nominal control by Vickers. Over the next decade or so things seem to have gone well with various acquisitions and mergers. Notably these include the 1907 acquisition of the Glasgow Electric Crane & Hoist Co. (originally established by Vickers and Wm. Beardmore & Co Ltd), and the 1908 merger with The Temperley Transporter Co. Ltd (suppliers of pateneted handling equipment) which saw the name again change to 'The Appleby Crane and Transporter Co. Ltd.' However in 1910 Vickers Sons & Co. Ltd got in some financial strife after an extensive rebuild of their steel works. The work was done by Wm.Arrols, and when a debenture was foreclosed, Arrols picked up the crane business. Arrols immediately closed the Greenwich works. The Leicester works completed the work in hand, and then the crane work went to the Glasgow Electric Crane and Hoist Co. which happened to be near the Arrol headquarters, and the Appleby name dissappeared as a crane maker. Known Cranes:
Kincaid McQueen (Dunedin)The firm was founded in 1862 by partners Charles McQueen (1836-1906) and James Kincaid (?-1880). Scottish born McQueen had served his time with a boiler maker prior to emigrating c1860 to Victoria, Australia. There he met Kincaid, and the two moved on to Dunedin in 1862 where they set up the Dunedin Boiler Works and later the Vulcan Foundry. The firm was engaged in building a range of iron work - farm machinery, mining and gold-dredging equipment (the partners were involved with the Dunedin Gold Dredging Co.), and ship building. The firm is known to have several railway connections. A 0-4-0 vertical boilered locomotive was built for Findlay & Howarth of Hokitika in 1874. The locomotive was written off after only two months service, having suffered a runaway crash. The boiler was then used in a Kumara mill, but blew up on Oct 27, 1876. The company built the steamer Mountaineer for the Wakatipu Steam Shipping Co., launched on lake Wakatipu in 1879 and taken over by NZR in 1903. Mountaineer remained in service until 1932. Little in the way of details are known about crane 50 (3 ton lift capacity), although it survived till the 1940s at Westport. After Kincaid died in 1880, McQueen continued as the sole proprietor. In 1889 the company was reorganised as Kincaid McQueen & Co. Ltd which consolidated the assets of a number of companies McQueen was involved in. The company appears to have suffered in the collapse of the dredging boom post 1890, and in June 1891 the company petitioned to be wound up. The dissolution was completed in 1893, after which McQueen returned to Australia. Known Cranes:
S.Luke & Son. (Wellington)No details as yet. Known Cranes:
S.Owen & Co. (??)No details as yet. Known Cranes:
Priestman Bros. Ltd (Hull)
No details as yet.Known Cranes:
Ransomes & Rapier Co. Ltd (Ipswich)
Ransomes and Rapier was an offshoot of the earlier Ransomes company which produced agricultural equipment. Robert Ransome (b.1753, d.1830) began trading as Ransome & Co in Ipswich in 1799, and was followed in the business by his sons James and Robert Jnr. The firm had become Ransome & Son in 1809, Ransome & Sons in 1818, and after Robert Snr retired in 1825 to J&R Ransome. Then the addition of a third generation with James son James Allen, the firm became J.R.&A. Ransome in 1830. The company moved into steam manufacturing soon after this, and later railway materials. The Orwell works were opened for the expanding business at the Ispswich docks in 1841. New partners saw further name changes to Ransomes & May in 1846 and Ransomes & Sims in 1852.
In 1869 Ransomes & Rapier was set up as a seperate establishment under partners J.A. and R.J Ransome, R.C.Rapier, and A.A. Bennett. The original company which remained focused on the agricultural sector became Ransomes Sims & Head in that year, then Ransomes Head & Jefferies in 1880, and Ransomes Sims & Jefferies Ltd in 1884. The new company of Ransomes & Rapier set up on new premises known as the Waterside Works opposite the original company. These works were set up for large scale production and included foundries, structural and machine shops, and most usefully a wharf. The site would eventually expand to occupy 13 acres. Manufacturing of a variety of products was undertaken.
As well as railway equipment the company produced portable rivet machines (taking advantage of the swing from wrought iron to steel plates and sections), and was a pioneer in the production of concrete mixers during the 1880's. Later (in 1932) they produced the first concrete trucks. They also worked on refrigeration plants, theatre stage equipment, and water control gates. The latter to Stoney's patent useda free roller path which reappears below. Among the more unusual products were catapults for the Royal Navy and a trench mortar developed during World War I by manager Wilfred Stokes.
Railway equipment, particularly narrow gauge, was a major constituent with a lot going to South Wales during the 1870's. Ransomes and Rapier had the contract for the first railway in China in 1874, supplying plant, rolling stock and two locomotives. The railway was closed for political reasons however, (primarily the local Mandarins) in 1877. Rapier published a book in 1878 called "Remunerative Railways" intended to stimulate narrow gauge development, and in 1879 was the chairman and promotor of the Southwold-Halesworth Railway which opened that year (incorporating some equipment returned from China). By 1887 a catalogue lists most railway needs, including signals and frames, water-cranes, footbridges, permanent way materials, axle boxes, along with boilers and tank locomotives, as well as hand and steam cranes.
Hand cranes were amongst the early items produced and amongst the cranes imported to New Zealand were a number of five tonners marked 1874. These featured a straight jib with chain or rope hoist and an adjustable balance box on a carriage with grease axle boxes. The company was producing steam cranes by 1875. Early steam cranes were of the pillar type. After F.G.M. Stoney was appointed manager in 1889, he reorganised and developed the steam crane production. Changing to a centre pin style the side plates were reduced lowering the overall height, and most importantly, made the first wide scale adoption of a live-roller slewing race. Although tried by various manufacturers, this last feature can be traced to Stoney's 1894 patent for a grab crane developed for use on the Manchester ship canal development. Breakdown cranes of up to 45 ton capacity were achieved by the 1940s.
Other crane developments by Ransomes and Rapier include the patent relieving bogie of 1906 which was first used on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. The bogie was intended to reduce the axle load of the crane while travelling. It was not used in Britain until 1914, and none of the Ransomes and Rapier cranes imported to New Zealand incorporated this feature. Relieving bogies were not seen in New Zealand till the NEI-Clarke Chapman 60 tonners were introduced in 1980. Another Ransomes and Rapier development from 1910 was the removable tailweight. Again intended to reduce axle loading, the weight was removed for travelling and replaced when working.
Ransomes and Rapier had become a limited liability company in 1896, a year before R.C. Rapier died. At that time Wilfred Stokes was appointed Director (he had previously been New Works Enginer for the G.W.R.). Stokes developed the company's reputation as a supplier, particularly to overseas clients by setting up offices and works in London - where they were easily available to Consulting Engineers. Stokes also worked on a more specialised focus for the company, which continued with Manager Richard R. Stokes. Rationalisation was an ongoing process. Although production was up during both World Wars, in the post World War II period demand in Britain for rail-cranes was in decline after Nationalisation. In 1954 the company participated in the design of new standard cranes for British Rail, but withdrew after the death of Stokes in 1957. The last breakdown crane was exported to East Africa in 1958.
Ransomes and Rapier (through Stokes) had been associated with Cochrane & Co (Annan), but control was later acquired by Newton Chambers & Co Ltd of the Thorncliff Iron Works. The company's direction turned toward mobile cranes and excavators. Mobile cranes (petrol electric powered and rubber tyred) were first displayed at the British Empire exhibition at Wembley in 1923. The 2-ton capacity machine was the fore-runner of a major industry. The mobile crane has been adapted for many uses - including railways, and has largely replaced the rail-crane in New Zealand. Excavators had been first developed in 1914 in response to an Australian order, a patent mechanism being incorporated. The patent later lapsed and the mechanism became popular with American manufacturers. The company re-entered the excavator field in the 1920's, developing a new mechanism for operating the bucket arm. The development of the crawler crane and post-war, the walking dragline saw these machines increasingly becoming the major specialisation of the company.
I have no information on the company's control from the 1960s to the 1990s, but during the 1990s Ransomes and Rapier were acquired by Bucyrus International, which also absorbed the Marion Power Shovel Co in 1997. As Ruston Bucyrus this company was in turn absorbed by Langley Holdings by 2001 and now operates as a division of this major company.
Stothert & Pitt (Bath)
The firms origins were in the late eighteenth century when a foundry was established in Newark street in Bath. The company is reported to have engaged in general millwright work as well as being noted for producing pipes (both gas and water) as well as pumps and beam engines. During the Crimean war the company produced water supply equipment for Brunel, and through this work was later associated with the Great Western Railway. In 1875 a new works was established in the Lower Bristol road. The 'Victoria' Works had a private siding on the Midland Railway for ease of delivery of product, and were adjacent to the River Avon by which coke and other materials were delivered. The firm became a limited liability company in 1883.
Production of cranes began in the 1850s, and by 1875 were one of the company's specialties. Initially handcranes for railway goods were produced, then hydraulic and steam cranes. Electric cranes began to be developed in the 1890s. The company had been well placed to supply iron and steel works in South Wales. The company was supplying Way and Works cranes to the London & South West Railway by the 1880s (and continued to do so until 1925). Rail breakdown cranes began to be produced around the turn of the 20th century incorporating a pillar design with vertical engines. Early exports included a 10-ton crane to the Imperial Japanese Railway, and a 20-ton crane to South America in 1905. A 36-ton capacity crane was supplied to the Great Western Railway in 1909. The company also provided a number of travelling rail cranes to for port use. Local orders declined following the Railway grouping of 1923, but production for export continued till 1954 (the last going to the India Stores Dept).
Port cranes had also been an early product, with the company having strong ties with the Admiralty. Stothert and Pitt equipment could be found in naval bases throughout the British Empire, and the company was well known for its 'Titan' and 'Goliath' cranes. So Stothert and Pitt then tended to specialise in cranes for cargo handling.
I have no information on the company's control from the 1920s through to the later part of the twentiath century. At some point the company became part of the Hollis Engineering group, which was in turn taken over by the Robert Maxwell empire. Today the company is part of the Clarke Chapman Group within Langley Holdings. The company's focus is still oncranes for cargo handling.
Beaumont, A. Ransomes Steam Engines: An Illustrated History.
Brownlie, J. Railway Steam Cranes
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Meyer R.J. All Aboard