Eiffel Tower status for Scotland's Titan

John Brown, who has been public relations adviser to Clydebank re-built and Titan Crane since it opened as a heritage visitor attraction, reports on the ceremony to award the crane international engineering landmark status.

The Titan Crane at Clydebank, the first giant electrically-powered cantilevered crane, has just been designated an 'International Historic Civil and Mechanical  Engineering Landmark' by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the world's three other leading engineering institutes.  It joins other world landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Machu Picchu in Peru.

Hailed as an engineering triumph, the 106-year old crane is one of only 13 of its kind the left in the world.  It is only the fourteenth landmark in the UK to have received the ASCE accolade and the first in UK to be endorsed by all four leading international engineering institutions - the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Awarding the landmark designation at a special ceremony under the towering Titan in Clydebank, Andrew Herrmann, immediate past President of the ASCE, said: "The Titan Crane is a beacon among cranes as it influenced the development of many similar cranes across the globe. ASCE is honoured to join for the first time with three other engineering societies to designate the Titan as an international historic engineering landmark"

The Titan becomes the fifth internationally recognised engineering landmark in Scotland taking its place alongside the Forth Railway Bridge, the Forth & Clyde Canal, the Bridge Craigellachie and the Caledonian Canal.   The Clydebank Titan post-dates all the other giant cranes on the Clyde; the remaining Glasgow Fairfield's crane was built in 1911, the Greenock Crane in 1917, and the much-featured Glasgow Finneston Crane was built in 1932.  Constructed in 1907 at a cost of £24,600, the Titan was designed by "engineer extraordinaire" Adam Hunter (1869 - 1933), a Scottish engineer from Glasgow based firm Sir William Arrol & Co and member of both the ASCE and ICE.  The innovative design of the crane, which included a fixed counterweight and electrically operated hoists, mounted on a rotated beam, made it faster and more responsive than its steam powered predecessors. On completion, the Titan was tested to lift loads of up to 160 tons.  Hunter's design later became the most widely adopted in the world, influencing the erection of cranes of this type worldwide.

The crane, now a unique visitor and education heritage centre on the River Clyde, made a major contribution to Glasgow's shipbuilding industry last century, helping to fit out some of the world's biggest battleships and liners including the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and the QE2.

A plaque was unveiled at the ceremony at the Crane , attended by over 100 guests from home and abroad, on 20th August 2013.  The plaque, supporting the logos of the four institutes,  states that the Titan "influenced the design of cranes of this genre worldwide and is now the earliest survivor"

Accepting the plaque on behalf of the Titan Crane, Lyn Ryden, community board member of Clydebank Re-built and the Titan Clydebank Trust, said:  "Today's designation of the Titan Clydebank as a world engineering landmark is a tremendous boost to our educational work here in promoting the proud heritage of shipbuilding and engineering on the Clyde.

"Thanks to the Titan's lifting power, John Browns shipyards were able to build some of the biggest ships in the world last century.   The Titan is now sadly all that remains of the shipyards at Clydebank but this award puts the Titan on the world engineering map for today's visitors and future generations of young people."

The nomination for the award to the Titan was put forward by the Institution of Civil Engineer's Panel for Historical Engineering Works, following research undertaken by Professor Roland Paxton of Heriot Watt University.

ICE's President, Professor Barry Clarke, said: "This award represents a significant achievement for what is a unique example of the longstanding history of civil engineering excellence in Scotland. Equally, it highlights the creativity and ingenuity of the engineers who contributed to its construction - traits which civil engineers all over the world display in their work to this day."

ASME President, Madiha El-Mehelmy Kotb who also attended the ceremony said: "The American Society of Mechanical Engineers is honoured to be among the organisations recognising the historical significance of the Titan Crane. The Titan is a mechanical as well as civil engineering marvel, incorporating electric motors and aspects of structural design that became models for future cranes."  She hoped that the Award, and the educational work at the Titan,  would inspire new generations of young people not just learn about the past successes but take up engineering as a career for the future.

In 2007, on the centenary of its construction, Clydebank Re-built following campaigning from local people restored the Titan at a cost of over £3 million as a heritage visitor and education centre, with funding from West Dunbartonshire Council, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Government, Historic Scotland, the European Regional Development Fund  and the Heritage Lottery Fund.  A lift was sensitively installed to allow visitors to get up to the crane's jib platform over 150 feet above ground.

The structure has previously been awarded IMechE's Engineering Heritage Award in 2012 and its restoration in 2007 was recognised by the Chicago Athenaeum Award for Architecture in 2008 and the Civic Trust Award in 2009.

Since 2007, over 40,000 people, including many college and school children, have visited the Titan, taking the lift to the top and learning more about Clydebank's shipbuilding heritage.   The Titan is open to the public during the summer months on Saturdays and Sundays or at any time by arrangement for community and school groups throughout the year. An educational centre, with a classroom area, is available for groups.

John Brown
22 Aug 2013


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On Clydewaterfront.com
  • Titan education and visitor centre
  • Titan Clydebank
    • The Titan Crane is the oldest electrically driven cantilever crane, built 1907 at John Brown's Shipyard Clydebank and now restored as Scotland's most unusual visitor attraction
    • Chief engineer Adam Hunter (1869 - 1933)   Hunter worked as an apprentice on the Forth Rail Bridge, and became Chief Engineer at Arrol & Co Glasgow.  After Titan Crane he was chief engineer for several bridges across the Thames in London and abroad. Picture Glasgow Herald/National Library of Scotland
    • Titan in the background as by-standers view the launch of the Royal Yacht Britannia in April 1953