When the Clyde Navigation Trust projected a need for a new dock to handle increased coal and mineral traffic in 1898, it chose a site downriver at Clydebank, next to the shipyard of Messrs J. & G. Thomson. The primary need was good rail access and the area was served by both the North British and the Caledonian Railways. The site itself was a difficult one for an engineering works as it was reclaimed land but by sinking a novel system of concrete monoliths, the dock foundations were quickly prepared and dredgers moved in to excavate the dock. It was decided that the dock cranes and hoists should be powered by electricity rather than the hydraulic power used in the docks in Glasgow. This was the first extensive use of electricity for a dock in the country. Early in 1907, the dock was sufficiently well advanced that it could be opened for traffic and the opening ceremony was performed by their majesties the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay on Thursday, April 25th, 1907. The Royal Party arrived appropriately on the steamer Duchess of Rothesay. A booklet for the occasion was prepared and gives a good description of the dock.
Opening Rothesay Dock
Duke and Duchess at Rothesay Dock (London Illustrated News)
“Description of Dock.
“The Dock at Clydebank originated in the desire of the Clyde Trustees, in the year 1898, to possess a well-appointed dock for dealing with minerals. As it was impossible to realise this aspiration within the limits of Glasgow Harbour, several sites along north bank of the river were examined, and, after careful consideration of their capabilities, the one at Clydebank was adopted.
“The ground is bounded on the north by the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway, on the east by Green Road, Yoker, and on the west by the remaining portion of the branch canal, which formerly connected the Forth and Clyde Canal with the River Clyde.
“The western portion of the ground, comprising the farm of Barns of Clyde, was acquired from Mr. Claud Hamilton, of Cochno; the central portion, consisting of the Yoker Shipbuilding Yard, was purchased from Messrs. Napier & Miller, Ltd; and the eastern portion, consisting of agricultural land, was acquired from Mr. Speirs, of Elderslie. The total land secured amounted to about 75 acres. The dock itself lies within the Burgh of Clydebank, but the siding ground between Yoker Burn and Green Road is in the County of Renfrew. The Shipbuilding Yard was connected with the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway by a branch from Yoker Station, and the North British Railway had a connection, crossing Dumbarton Road on the level. The yard being on lease for a series of years, complete possession of the ground was not obtainable until the beginning of 1906.
Rothesay Dock and surroundings
“In 1899 Parliamentary Powers were obtained to construct the dock, and in the autumn of 1900 the works were commenced at west end and carried gradually eastwards. The dock has an entrance 200 feet in width, leading into an outer basin about 600 feet square, from which runs eastward an inner basin of an average length of 1,735 feet, and in width tapering from 302 feet at west end to 230 feet at east end. In addition there is a Riverside Quay, eastward of entrance. The water area, exclusive of entrance, is nineteen and two-thirds acres. The available quayage inside dock amounts to 1,841 lineal yards, and the Riverside Quay has a length of 199 yards, making together 2,040 yards. The inside quayage will provide sixteen berths for shipping.
Rothesay Dock (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“Only the wall at east end of dock remains to be founded, and it will be completed in the autumn. The dock will have a depth of 25 feet at low water and 36½ feet at high water of average spring tides. The outer basin has been dredged out, also a portion of the inner basin.
“With regard to the quay walls, the strata in western portion of ground consisting of muddy sand highly charged with water, monolith foundations were put down to form the substructure of the walls, and this is the novel feature as respects the walls. Fortunately over a considerable portion of the ground to eastward boulder clay was within reach, and in some places rose to the surface of ground, and in this material the walls were constructed in open cutting.
Monolith construction (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“Landward access to the dock is obtained from the Dumbarton Road by means of Cart Street at west end, by Dock Street at east end, and by another street towards centre of dock. These accesses connect with a private road 40 feet in width formed on the dock ground along the margin of the railway. If found desirable, this road will be extended eastward to the Green Road at Yoker station. At the junctions of the public streets referred to gates will be erected, so that the dock may be kept private.
“The primary use of the dock is for the export of coals and the import of iron ore and other minerals, and it will provide for a combined trade of fully four millions of tons per annum.
“Numerous lines of rails will be laid in connection with the hoists and cranes, and the eastmost 15 acres of ground will be covered by about 7 miles of storage sidings. When complete the dock will possess about 18 miles of single line. To bring in the sidings at east end of dock, Yoker Burn had to be diverted and carried in a large culvert from northern boundary of the ground to the river.
Coal hoists No.1 and No. 2 (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“The railway connections given for the shipbuilding yard were quite inadequate for the service of a large dock. Accordingly the North British Railway obtained powers in 1904 to construct a branch from their Yoker and Clydebank line to join the Clyde Trustees’ lines at Green Road, and the Caledonian Railway followed suit by securing authority in 1905 to form a branch from the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway to a junction with the North British Railway branch at a point northward of Dumbarton Road. The portion of the North British Railway branch from this point to the Green Road will be used jointly by the two companies. Each company will have equal access to all parts of the dock.
Power Station (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“To ensure abundant provision for the accommodation of waggons and afford good service to the dock, each company upon its own branch has provided extensive lines of Sidings for the storing and marshalling of waggons.
“Hydraulic power was originally intended to be used at the dock, but, electricity having come so much to the front, the Trustees put it to the test by building an experimental crane at Prince’s Dock, Glasgow, and the results were so satisfactory that they decided to adopt electricity as the motive power at the new dock.
“The complete equipment of the dock will consist of four coal hoists and about 36 cranes and a few transporters, together with the necessary capstans, turntables, and other auxiliary machinery. The dock will then be the only one in this country equipped solely with electrical machinery to the exclusion of hydraulic or other forms of power.
“The power for working the various machines is generated in a station situated near west end of north quay of inner basin, and in close proximity to the coal hoists. This station comprises an engine house, 104 feet long by 60½ feet wide; a boiler house, 104 feet long by 49 feet wide; and a condensing plant house, 36½; feet long by 27¾ feet wide. The buildings have red terra-cotta brickwork on face, with red freestone facings. The chimney is 150 feet in height. Space is provided for adding further machinery and boilers.
Engine house, Rothesay Dock (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“The machinery throughout has been designed and arranged with a knowledge of the best and most recent practice in this country, America, and the Continent, but the absence of any previous similar work has necessitated designing plant on entirely new lines. The equipment may, therefore, be accepted as the latest development in the application of electricity to the working of specialised dock machinery.
“The machinery in the generating station comprises two main generating sets and one lighting set. The main generating sets form a combination entirely novel, and consist of an engine and three generators—one generator for supplying power to the general dock machinery, and two special generators for supplying current to the coal hoists.
“The engine is arranged to develop 450 b.h.p. at its normal load, the power generator has an output of 250 kw, and the coal hoist generators have each an output capacity up to about 400 e.h.p., the whole being so arranged that the three generators may be fully employed simultaneously. To meet such variable and excessive load conditions, storage batteries have hitherto been largely adopted, but in this instance they have been dispensed with.
“The steam-raising plant consists of water-tube boilers, each of which is capable of evaporating 12,500 lbs. of water per hour, with a working pressure of 160 lbs. per square inch. The lighting plant consists of one high-speed engine coupled direct to an electric generator, having an output of 130 kw, at an e.m.f. of 440 to 460 volts. The main switchboard is placed on a raised platform in the generating station, and will ultimately consist of about twenty panels. The engine house is provided with a 20-ton overhead crane capable of travelling the whole length of the house. Current is conveyed to the outside machines and plant by cables taken from the main switchboard through the basement of the engine house and along a subway constructed in the dock walls.
Condenser Room, Rothesay Dock (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“Two hoists are now ready for work. No. 1 hoist is placed direct upon the east quay of outer basin, while No. 2 hoist is set upon a pier 64 feet in length and projecting 40 feet out from quay wall, so as to permit of the overlapping of vessels. Similar piers are provided for the other two hoists still to be erected.
“Keeping in view the tendency of railway waggons to increase in size, the hoists are designed to handle a gross load of 32 tons; and to cope with the growing dimensions of vessels, the first Hoist has a lift of 50 feet above cope of Quay and the second a lift of 60 feet. Each Hoist is capable of loading about 800 tons of coal per hour. The controlling gear is so arranged that the cradle is automatically brought to a standstill at any predetermined position, thus obviating the possibility of overwinding or overtipping. The conditions which have hitherto been the determining factor in favour of coal hoists being worked by hydraulic power are here solved in a manner which will probably lead in the near future to the further development of electricity as the motive power for dock and harbour works.
Coal hoist, Rothesay Dock (Clyde Navigation Trust)
“The mode of handling the coal waggons is as follows :—
“Each loaded waggon approaches the hoist by gravity on the low level, and, after being stopped upon a weighbridge for weighing, is run on to a turntable and thence into the hoist cradle. The cradle is now lifted and the waggon tipped so as to discharge its contents into the shoot directing the coals into the vessel. The cradle is then lowered to the level of a bridge about 16 feet above surface of quay, and the waggon is ejected from the cradle on to a line of rails laid upon the bridge, along which it runs by gravity to a high level weighbridge, in order to be tared, after which it continues running by gravity back to the general level of the sidings. At the mineral discharging quays the rails are on the level, and waggons, beside being shunted by locomotives, will be manipulated by capstans.
“The travelling discharging cranes have a lifting capacity up to 4 tons. The carriages have a gauge of 14 feet and span over a single line of rails. The jibs are derricking, with a sweep of 45 feet from centre, and a projection of 32 feet beyond face of quay. The range of lift is 80 feet, and the hoisting speed is 120 feet per minute.
“On each side of dock entrance a powerful pier head capstan has been put down for controlling the movements of vessels. The quay capstans at present are of the ordinary dock description, each capable of hauling a load of about 200 tons on the level, but succeeding capstans will be of the “Clyde” patent type, which possess important advantages over the former. The turntables are 18 feet in diameter, and each can be tipped or tilted upwards so as to compel the waggon standing on it to run off the table into the hoist cradle. Throughout the dock the lighting is effected by means of arc and incandescent lamps. No exposed or overhead conductors are employed in connection with the distributive system.
“The dock undertaking has throughout been under the immediate direction of the Committee on New Works, under the Convenership of Mr. Thomas Mason, D.L., now Lord Dean of Guild, who from first to last has taken the greatest interest in the design, execution, and progress of the work.
“The Parliarnentary Plans of the Dock were prepared under the direction of the Trustees’ late Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. James Deas, in conjunction with their Consulting Engineer, Sir Benjamin Baker, K.C.B. Owing, however, to the lamented death of Mr. Deas at the end of 1899, it fell to his successor, Mr. William Murray Alston, M.Inst.C.E., to design the dock works, and carry them out departmentally, with the aid of Mr. Archibald Hamilton, M.Inst.C.E., Assistant Engineer, and Mr. Andrew Mitchell as Resident Engineer.
“The whole of the machinery equipment has been arranged and carried out under the direct personal supervision of the Trustees’ Mechanical Engineer, Mr. George H. Baxter, M.I.Mech.E., and of their Consulting Electrical Engineer, Mr. Walter Dixon, M.I.E.E., M.I.Mech.E., and much credit is due to the various British and German ﬁrms of contractors who were entrusted with the different sections of the work, for the excellent manner in which they have performed their duties.”
The works were completed in 1911 and included novel mineral transporters for unloading ore. These proved to be slower than normal cranes and were replaced in 1919.
Tranporter cranes at Rothesay Dock
Transporter cranes replaced in 1919
Rothesay Dock was also used for fitting out vessels from various shipyards on the Clyde. The following photograph can be dated to 1908 as the cantilever crane in the shipyard is under construction.
Outer-basin, Rothesay Dock in 1908
Looking from the inner-basin downriver towards the shipyard of Messrs John Brown & Co. Ltd. The Sheffield steel makers had taken over the yard of Messrs J. & G. Thomson in 1899. The tugs in the foreground are the Osprey and Albatross, laid up after service with Messrs Steel & McCaskill on Lough Foyle.
Albatross at Moville
Across the outer basin, Viper, built by the Fairfield Company for Messrs Burns daylight service between Ardrossan and Belfast in 1906 is against the west quay wall with another coastal steamer outside while St. Andrew built by Messrs John Brown for service on the Fishguard and Rosslare service can be seen at the north quay. Two steamers from this order can be seen in the first coloured picture in this article.
Viper leaving Ardrossan
St. Andrew at Fishguard
St. David, sister of St Andrew at Fishguard
Another view looking from the inner-basin with two small colliers.
Colliers at Rothesay Dock
Looking from the outer-basin to the inner-basin.
Collier Zanzibar in Rothesay Dock
A busy Rothesay Dock from the entrance
John F. Riddell, Clyde Navigation, John Donald, Edinburgh, 1979