Gallery - Westport Wharf Coaling Cranes

The following pictures of Westport Wharf at work on the West Coast were kindly provided by Mr Ian Tibbles. (Ian is one of the proud staff at Shantytown, a 'living history' heritage site operated by the West Coast Historical and Mechanical Society Incorporated near Greymouth).

Ian writes:
"During August 1971 while in Westport covering a shortage of loco crew, I was fortunate to be offered a "ride" on steam crane 168 while loading the "Kawatiri". The crew, a driver & fireman were employed as labourers at the nearby railway workshop when there was no shipping. Although not physical the drivers job allowed little time to watch the scenery, the continuos process of lifting the hopper from the rail wagon, slewed over the hold to have the bottom dump doors opened, allowing another 8 ton of coal to fall into the hold. Returning the hopper to its railway wheels there was a short pause while a wharf capstan pulled another loaded Q wagon into place. A process that was repeated every 60 - 90 seconds, The crew alternated jobs about every 30 minutes, the fireman resting on a box in the doorway occasionally stoking the boiler, attending the boiler water level and offering friendly advise to the workers below. Strangely to me they preferred the steamer over the electric saying the electric was slower because of the need to wait for the motion to stop before the direction could be reversed. Nothing as flexible as steam.

The equipment on board was very basic by locomotive standards. The driving position adjacent to the jib base was quite cramped with enclosed disk crank close beside the driver's box seat. The 3 main control levers, throttle, forward & reverse and slew were arranged in front of the driving position, the brake was not used often the reverse of the engine being used to steady the motion. The jib was not luffed during normal operation, the coal being dropped into a central position in the hold and manually trimmed to the sides. Unlike a breakdown crane the main hoisting drum was fixed in gear, any travelling involved moving until the main hook was at the top or bottom of its travel, disengaging the travelling gear repositioning the hoist rope and repeating the process. Needless to say travelling only involved repositioning the crane for different ships. The vertical boiler steamed sufficiently well to need only one cylinder exhausting up the chimney, the other venting out through the roof giving the impression that the engine worked at half speed. A single feed Detroit lubricator feed the cylinders with a Penberthy type injector feeding the boiler. For night operation a Pyle National loco generator supplied boiler gauge lights and flood lighting the work area. Coal was hoisted up in canvas bags by a rope attached to a small winding drum on the end of the main hoisting drum, water was taken by the hose hanging from the rear of the crane.

My next trip to Westport must have been in 1972 when the old cranes were almost dismantled, looking back think I was lucky to have experienced the operation of steam equipment dating from the 1900's."

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1) Union Steamship Co. vessel 'Kawatiri' entering Westport. The vessel was arriving to transport coal. 2) Westport coal wharf looking upstream, Aug 31 1971 as Union Steamship Co. vessel 'Kawatiri' is being loaded. Left to Right, the cranes are probably the 15-ton electric luffing crane 367 and the 20-ton steam crane 168. The 20-ton steam crane 143 is to the left (not visible in thumbnail) and the 15-ton electric luffing crane 368 out of frame to the right loading the stern hatch.
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3) Westport coal wharf looking downstream, Aug 31 1971. The crane is probably 168 with 367 beyond. The cranes carried number plates on the upstream side, but this is obscured in the shadow. 4) Westport coal wharf circa.1972. Probably crane 143 engaged in dismantling the other two Jessop & Appleby Bros. 20 ton steam cranes. 5) Westport coal wharf circa.1972. One of the Jessop & Appleby Bros. 20 ton steam cranes after being dismantled (probably Crane 60 or 168.