Porthmadoc Heavy Lift Crane

Our late friend Phil Bradley was renowned for his models of cranes, among many other things. Such was his knowledge of them he was able to build great models sometimes from very little primary information.

A case in point is his model of the one-off crane built in Porthmadog to offload material for the building of the Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station.

CEGB photo of the original crane, credit Martin Pritchard, Flickr.

Since then the Internet transformed our ability to conduct research and after I uploaded a set of Phil’s photos of his model to the New Zealand website (http://www.nzmeccano.com/image-155903)  

John Hornsby began surfing the net and came up with some others via Flickr and other sites. He also found the Porthmadoc Maritime Museum website which provides the following information:

Specialist Heavy Loads                 

The building of the nuclear power station twelve miles from Porthmadog up in the hills of Snowdonia at Trawsfynydd gave rise to an interesting problem – how to get the pieces of heavy equipment and machinery to this remote site. Construction of the power station was undertaken by a consortium involving Crompton Parkinson, International Combustion, Fairey Engineering and Richardsons Westgarth. The architectural consultant for the buildings was Sir Basil Spence and the landscape architect was Sylvia Crowe. Construction began in July 1959 and both of the two reactors were in operation by March 1965, with the station opening fully in October 1968 at a cost of £103 million.

Text Box: credit Martin Pritchard, Flickr.It was decided early in the planning that the only way to bring heavy loads from the point of manufacture was by sea to Porthmadog then by road to Trawsfynydd. This required the laying of a concrete plinth at Maenofferen wharf, the erection of a heavy lift crane to unload the machinery from the ships and the widening and improving of sections of the road and strengthening of bridges. The crane was erected in 1960 and the heavy lifts brought in over the next two to three years. During the twenty six year working life of the station other heavy lifts were delivered by barge and unloaded via a ramp on to Pen Cei. In 1987 a large transformer, destined for the Ffestiniog Power Station, was brought in by a barge towed by two tugs, the North Stack and South Stack, owned by the Holyhead Towing Co Ltd.

I had built a version of Phil’s model (below) once before but with all this extra material I thought it was worth having another go.

I used Phil’s trademark turntable as the base, of course, but made up an octagonal rather than a polygonal base. I added a Ring Frame above the turntable and then began work on the main frame. Careful study of the new photos suggested that the model could be a little taller than Phil’s and this produced an elegant model. Each side of the frame was double-skinned and they were supported by cross platforms and girders, ending in a very solid pulley house at the apex. Winding gear, ladders and gangways, along with a control cabin were added as one would expect.

The crane was heavily counterbalanced by blocks stacked on a rear framework so rather than reproducing Phil’s monolith I made up three stacks like the original’s and suggested their component parts by using Flanged Plates along each side face. The jib itself was of course lengthened. Again, rather than using Angle Girders top and bottom I followed the original in using a double face construction for each side. Erector 3″ Braced Strips reproduced a feature at the jib’s centre as well and the nose of the jib was also canted forwards. The finishing touch was of course a suitably heavy-duty pulley block.

All in all I was pleased with my attempt to rebuild this classic model – my thanks to John Hornsby for his encouragement – and especially to Phil Bradley!

More photos at http://www.nzmeccano.com/image- 159344&frompage=1

About Philip Webb

Chairman of the International Society of Meccanomen
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