Titan crane


Duration:2 years

Cost:£24,600 (£2.7m today)

Country: Glasgow, UK

What did this project achieve?

Construct a crane to help build some of the biggest ships in the world

The Clydebank shipyard was created in 1871 after marine engineering and shipbuilding firm John Brown & Company bought the yard.

The yard's position at the junction of the rivers Clyde and Cart made it a good location for building larger ships. Brown & Company commissioned the Clydebank Titan to help fit out these larger ships.

The Titan was designed and built by engineer Adam Hunter. Hunter had previously worked on construction of the Forth Bridge.

At the time the Titan was the biggest crane of its type ever built. At 161ft (49m) tall, it weighed around 800 tonnes and had a lifting capacity of 160 tonnes.

Difference the crane has made

Marine engineers use cranes to fit out ships during construction such as lifting engines and boilers into place.

The Titan was the biggest crane of its type at the time. Its lifting capacity was a big factor in Clydebank's success as it meant the yard was able to build and fit out extremely large ships.

Without the Titan, Clydebank shipyard couldn't have built ships such as the 700ft (213m) long battleship the Duke of York.

How the crane was built

Titan was the largest cantilever crane of its day. A cantilever crane is a crane with a tower and a horizontal, revolving, cantilever or jib. The longer part of the jib carries lifting equipment, the shorter part extends backwards and carries the crane's machinery and counterweight.

Titan's tower was 39ft (12m) square. The arms of the cantilever were 150ft (45.7m) and 90ft (27.4m) long. The centre of the crane is 35ft (10.7m) from the edge of the quay.

Engineer Adam Hunter designed Titan with a fixed counterweight and electrically-driven hoists mounted on a rotating jib. This made Titan faster and more responsive than previous steam-powered cranes.

Hunter and the construction team sank 4 concrete piles 75ft (23m) to support the crane's massive weight of 800 tonnes.

Titan was later upgraded to handle heavier loads. Its original capacity of 160 tonnes was boosted to 203 tonnes in 1938 to install long-range gun turrets into battleships.


The Clydebank Titan Crane is a magnificent example of mechanical engineering… [it] forms an integral part of the local landscape.

John Wood

Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Fascinating facts

The Clydebank Titan helped construct some of Britain's best-known ships. This includes the ocean liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2 and the royal yacht Britannia.

The crane fell into disuse in the 1980s. It reopened in 2007 as a tourist attraction after 2 years' restoration work costing £3.75m.

The Titan is acknowledged as a masterpiece of civil engineering and won the 2012 Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

It was also designated an international historic landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2013.

People who made it happen

  • Designer: Adam Hunter, ICE member
  • Contractors: Sir William Arrol & Co

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