The Arrol Gantry

Chalkie

Chalkie

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Before work could even commence at the Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast on the three Olympic-Class liners (Olympic, Titanic and Gigantic) ordered by the White Star Line, slipways had to be put in place to accommodate the building of these huge vessels. Sir William Arrol & Company, the famous Scottish Civil Engineering Company founded in Dalmarnock in 1873 by William Arrol, was contracted by the Belfast shipyard to construct a large Gantry (the “Arrol Gantry”) in order that the construction of the first two of the three sister ships could commence (the Olympic and the Titanic). Between the years of 1906 and 1908, William Arrol & Co designed and erected the huge gantry system and like the liners that were to be constructed beneath the mammoth structure, the gantry itself was of an impressive scale; it towered 230 feet in height, 840 feet in length and 270 feet in width. The impressive steel structure weighed almost 6,000 tons and was one of the largest of its kind in the world, dominating the Belfast skyline for decades to come. The concrete base had a slight slope from the forward end of the gantry down to the river basin. Across the top of the gantry were cranes to help lift heavy steel plates into place during the construction of these impressive leviathans. Slipways No’s 2, 3 & 4 at the shipyard were converted into two berths and the Arrol Gantry was constructed over them at a cost of £100,000. In 1911, Harland & Wolff had 9 Slipways for the construction of ships of varying sizes; the newly created Slipways No's 2 and 3 were specifically used to accommodate the construction of the Olympic and the Titanic. William Arrol was knighted in 1890 and passed away in 1913, but his company carried on trading under his name until 1969. Other notable achievements associated with the William Arrol name are the construction of the Forth Bridge situated over the Firth of Forth, Scotland (opened in 1890) and the Nile Bridge, Cairo, Egypt (1908. However, Sir William’s most famous construction stands proudly in London over the River Thames, Tower Bridge built in 1894.

Did You Know That?
Prior to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, all of the White Star Line’s ships, with the exception of one, were built in Belfast.
 
Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
Now the subject of the Arrol Gantry has come up to build the new Olympic class ships.
There is no doubt the gantry may have been an impressive structure but was it relay necessary to spend all that money to build commercial ships? As seeing other shipyards where using the standard practice of tee tower cranes alongside the ship hull which have greater lifting capacity and are more universal in movement yet are considerable cheaper and more efficient to. Surprising enough the William Arrol company was one of the main suppliers of tee tower cranes for shipyards to. I am thinking Arrol must have been laughing all way to the bank to build such an elaborate gantry structure. I can only think of one person who had this bright Idea to spend so much on the gantry, that must have been the company chairman William Pirrie.
Looking into the background of this man certainty was a big wild spender indeed!
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
Now the subject of the Arrol Gantry has come up to build the new Olympic class ships.
There is no doubt the gantry may have been an impressive structure but was it relay necessary to spend all that money to build commercial ships? As seeing other shipyards where using the standard practice of tee tower cranes alongside the ship hull which have greater lifting capacity and are more universal in movement yet are considerable cheaper and more efficient to. Surprising enough the William Arrol company was one of the main suppliers of tee tower cranes for shipyards to. I am thinking Arrol must have been laughing all way to the bank to build such an elaborate gantry structure. I can only think of one person who had this bright Idea to spend so much on the gantry, that must have been the company chairman William Pirrie.
Looking into the background of this man certainty was a big wild spender indeed!
I doubt whether anyone cared.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both gantry cranes and T-cranes.

Whilst a T-crane can lift a bigger load the operator of the crane is at some distance from the load and must demonstrate good judgement as to when and where to raise or lower his load. In a gantry crane the operator is right on top of what he is lifting or lowering and can be more accurate.

The proof is in the pudding - the Olympic class were successfully constructed using the gantry cranes. There doesn't seem to have been any controversy about it.
 
Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
I don't question that the gantry was not successful in building of the Olympic class ships, but just see as an unnecessary cost against T tower cranes as other shipyards were using. As years on H&W are to use T tower cranes.
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
I don't question that the gantry was not successful in building of the Olympic class ships, but just see as an unnecessary cost against T tower cranes as other shipyards were using. As years on H&W are to use T tower cranes.
That's because during WWII marine engineering underwent radical changes, with large sections of merchant ships superstructures being pre-fabricated which required bigger, stronger cranes to lift them from road or rail transport and no obstructive gantries in the way.

It's not applicable in the case of the Olympic class.
 
Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
I still see it was not necessary to spend so much on that type of gantry, and to question the efficiency as building the Titanic hull took nearly four months longer than Olympic hull which at the time, they were both the same size.
 
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

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I still see it was not necessary to spend so much on that type of gantry, and to question the efficiency as building the Titanic hull took nearly four months longer than Olympic hull at the time, they were both the same size.
The Arrol Gantry was specifically designed for the Olympic Class vessels. The previous one in place was not sufficient for the three ships and so the Arrol Gantry, acted as an overhead crane for the construction of them. Without the Arrol Gantry, Olympic and Britannic would not have existed, and neither would have the Titanic (since they were a trio). It later became a landmark in Belfast, just as Samson and Goliath would decades later.

There is no getting around it. Plain and simple.
 
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Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
The Arrol Gantry was specifically designed for the Olympic Class vessels. The previous one in place was not sufficient for the three ships and so the Arrol Gantry, acted as an overhead crane for the construction of them. Without the Arrol Gantry, Olympic and Britannic would not have existed, and neither would have the Titanic (since they were a trio). It later became a landmark in Belfast, just as Samson and Goliath would decades later.

There is no getting around it. Plain and simple.
Sorry for the delay in reply. That statement without Arrol Gantry, Olympic and Britannic would not exist and neither Titanic to. I am afraid that is not true. Any of those three ships could have been built with T tower cranes as was Lusitania and Aquitania.
I realized I may not have explained why they used that type of gantry. First, I see that type of gantry is not new and had been used in other shipyards and built by William Arrol Co to. The purpose as I under standard that type of gantry is to build war ships in secrecy of new technology which is a must to keep ahead of foreign navies. The sides can be covered up from prying eyes. As T tower cranes are very exposed to the genral public. I have seen a photo this type of gantry as used by Beardmore Clydebank Glasglow shipyard who specialise in wars ships with two ships in progress and the sides cover up. The drawback it will take long to build hulls as there is restricted movement of materials when building two ships side by side. And a clash of cranes running on the same track. But as far the Admiralty is concern it performance of new technology is number one priority.
Seeing photos of other shipyards the T tower cranes seems to be the standard practice for quite a few yards to build commercial ship hulls
However, second thought was H&W thinking of building wars ships in the future.
 
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

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That statement without Arrol Gantry, Olympic and Britannic would not exist and neither Titanic to. I am afraid that is not true.
I disagree. The construction of Titanic and her sister ships represented a monumental task to Harland & Wolff - it had never been done previously. So, they required a gantry that would fulfill that requirement. You do realize the gantry had to accommodate a number of mobile cranes, do you not? Money apparently was not a factor for William Pirrie, as he was willing to do whatever it took to build the Olympic class liners.

Any of those three ships could have been built with T tower cranes as was Lusitania and Aquitania
Says who? Is this evidence based or pure speculation on your part?

As I stated, the Arrol Gantry ended up becoming a landmark in Belfast and was in place until the 1960s. So the fact that you are griping about a hundred and fourteen year old decision, is quite bemusing.
 
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Steven Christian

Steven Christian

Member
I still see it was not necessary to spend so much on that type of gantry, and to question the efficiency as building the Titanic hull took nearly four months longer than Olympic hull which at the time, they were both the same size.
I've read (forget the source now) that one of the reasons Titanic took longer to build was because there was no rush after Olympic was built. The wanted to get Olympic out as soon as possible for various reasons. The marketing and all that of the new class of ships. It was more Olympic was built quicker than Titanic was built was slower. If you want I can go hunt for the source of that. Cheers
 
Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
Now before getting into an argument here with cost figures, I see to build the Arrol Gantry at H&W is quoted about £100,000 wither that is the true figure I cannot say for sure. As for Lusitania followed by Aquitania where the slipway was extended with more T tower cranes and cost quoted where about £30,000. So, if one can find out what was the true costs for both shipyards it may well be we have a case of the true costs.
Then we must study which type of gantry is the most cost effective to build commercial ships. As at that time I do not see other shipyards following on the same practical as H&W have done with the Arrol gantry to build Olympic class ships.
 
Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
Steven thanks for the pictures which I have seen before. But where are the cost figures to build such elaborate gantry. Then I question the lay out where I see all the heavy materials is feed in at one end via three cranes on the same track with less lifting capacity of three tons as against five tons with a T tower cranes. As I see the T tower cranes have greater movability where the heavy materials are stack both sides along the ship hull.
Then the cost of the different systems. Which I have book on the John Brown shipyard history which does give figures of the two different systems where the costs are considerable cheaper in the way John Brown build their ship hulls for Lusitania follow on by Aquitania. Which actually Aquitania was longer and wider than Titanic. Unfortunately, I have let the book to a Scottish friend who is a qualified engineer came from Glasglow and is most interested and quite surprise to learn so mush was going in Scotland on the history into the industrial side to. Now I have the problem to get the book back!
 
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