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Mount Sion Steam Crane

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OS Map Ref SD 766 068


This crane is located alongside the Manchester, Bolton & Bury canal approximately 1 mile from the centre of Radcliffe, on the side heading towards Manchester. It was a self-contained unit of furnace, boiler, steam engine and crane, rotating on a fixed plinth. There is a factory, formerly Mount Sion Bleach Works, on Mount Sion Road next to the canal but some 20 feet lower down, hence the need for a crane. The crane was built in Leeds in 1884 by J Smith & Sons.


The crane is positioned on the canal towpath and could rotate to transfer loads, mostly boxes of coal from Ladyshore colliery, between barges on the canal and the factory yard on the other side of the railings.
All the brass fittings from the crane are of course long gone but the ironwork is still remarkably intact.

Steam Crane


Here is an old black and white photograph of a similar crane in use, mounted on rails.
I doubt that riding on the bucket would meet with current railway safety regulations.

Steam Crane in Use


What makes old machinery fascinating is that all the working parts are open to view, whereas so many modern devices are essentially a sealed box.
One of the steam engine cylinders can be seen in this photograph, as well as the drum that the cable was wound onto, and the circular track and one of the guide wheels which allowed it all to rotate.

Steam crane working parts


This picture shows the area in front of where the operator sat. Part of an iron seat still remains. With his back against the boiler he would at least have been warm in winter.
There is a fairly complex transmission system at the top to transfer drive to the cable winder or to the gears which rotated the crane.
With all these unguarded gear wheels it is not surprising that industrial injuries used to be common.

Steam crane controls


 

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