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Royal Engineers - Railway Operating Division


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Dear All,

The attached image shows Royal Engineers at the Railway Operating Division's HQ at Longmoor between WW1 and WW2.

 

Can anyone identify the crane type and light tank being lifted and Scammell being loaded onto rail flat?

 

Mick Norton

Longmoor 1.jpg

Longmoor 2.jpg

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I think the crane is a Cowans, Sheldon 35 ton from WW1 or just after, the tank is a Vickers Medium [Mark 1, I think, introduced 1924], and the Scammell is a Pioneer heavy recovery vehicle introduced 1936.

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Such a shame that the LMMR, Longmoor Military railway has all gone, the A3 road now passes through the site of Longmoor junction and Station,  as featured in the film "The Great St Trinians train robbery"

Edited by Nick Johns
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4 hours ago, Bob Grundy said:

I believe the second photograph is well into the Second World War

I wonder whether it is immediately post-war.  Some of the Sappers seem to have been issued navy blue berets in place of the khaki and the corporal on the warflat seems to be wearing a shirt with a collar.  Also the Scammel has no headlamp covers.

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2 hours ago, Noel7 said:

I think the crane is a Cowans, Sheldon 35 ton from WW1 or just after, the tank is a Vickers Medium [Mark 1, I think, introduced 1924], and the Scammell is a Pioneer heavy recovery vehicle introduced 1936.

I don't think the Scammell SV1S had slinging flanges on the front hubs and most were lost by the BEF, so most likely an SV2S available from 1938.

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Certainly could be foreign - that's a dodgy looking swagger stick for a Sapper and his mac isn't the standard officers' riding mac of the period!  The other chap (half hidden) may be foreign, but certainly seems to have a hatband of a different colour and the back is a bit cocked up.  Could be a colonel+ with a red band or something else.

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On 6/26/2022 at 1:44 PM, Mick Norton said:

...

Can anyone identify the crane type ...

Longmoor 1.jpg

 

The crane is unique and readily identifiable as Cowans Sheldon Works No. 3828 built in 1917 for the Ministry of Munitions as a one-off pile-driver, excavator (face shovel) and crane for military use in the Near East. It was supplied with two jibs; one 34' for use with the digger bucket or the pile driver; the other a 51'3" lattice.  Lifting capacity was 7 tons at 30', 13 tons at 15'.

Whilst essentially similar to five 20-ton cranes built by CS between 1916 and 1920 (four of which were for the military and two of which still exist overseas) this particular crane had modifications to the carriage and general layout which make it uniquely identifiable. Of note is the provision of external operating controls visible in the photo above. 

Initially sent overseas it was returned to the UK from Anatolia, ca. 1923, initially to Woolmer, and was in use at Longmoor until early/mid 1950s.

 

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Railway steam cranes are very much my "thing" and I have been involved with them, their operation and preservation, and history, for more decades that I care to admit. I even own one, a crane of great historic significance, which I hope one day will be restored to working order. In the course of pursuing this particular interest, I, along with a friend with similar interests and involvements, founded an informal organisation dedicated not just to the preservation and safe operation of heritage steam cranes, but also the preservation of related artefacts, drawings, documents, etc. and the study of their development and history, and the capture of the memories and skills of the men who worked them (such men are still with us but in declining numbers of course).

The organisation became the Breakdown Crane Association (BDCA) and the public face is our website and forum at www.bdca.org.uk. I think I can safely say that this is the world's leading on-line resource dedicated to steam breakdown cranes since as far as I know it is the only such resource! We have many former steam crane men who contribute, we have contacts with most of the organisations which operate such cranes today, and perhaps more significantly we have links to the most eminent railway crane historians in the UK and the RoW, one of whom in particular is an authority on British-built cranes sent overseas. On this occasion I asked his opinion and his identification was immediate and correct.

Verification is easy since this particular crane is well-illustrated in David Ronald's and Mike Christensen's "Longmoor Military Railway" Vol.3 (Lightmoor Press, 2014),  but beware of many erroneous captions as far as the crane photos in this book are concerned. There is also a photo of it rigged in its face shovel configuration in John Brownlie's seminal "Railway Steam Cranes" (privately published, 1973). Peter Tatlow's "Railway Breakdown Cranes" Vol 1 (Noodle Books, 2012) includes several photos and a good description of the five similar cranes mentioned in my post above but makes no mention of this particular crane, since in general one-off military cranes were out of scope for Peter's book. It does however provide a useful reference to assess the similarities and differences.

I hope that that answers your questions, and in general I would suggest that if you want information on steam railway cranes, the BDCA is the best place to ask.

Edited by utt61
Typo in hyperlink
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Many thanks for the feedback and fascinating to hear of your work with railway steam cranes.

I will look out for the reference publications you mentioned especially the one on the Longmoor Military Railway.

My own tenuous link with "Railways" is that I was born and brought up in Eastleigh where my late Dad was employed as an "Iron Moulder" in the Railway Works Iron Foundry for some 35 years after WW2.  

My Great Uncle John Richard Norton was killed in WW1 whilst serving with the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers where his unit was, 39th Broad Gauge Railway Miscellaneous Trades Company  RE.  He's buried at the Dernancourt War Cemetery in France.  (See attached)

Thankyou again for your time and the information.

 

J R Norton grave 2.jpg

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The photo with the Pioneer is definitely end of war or post war.  The slinger hubs were only fitted at the end of wartime production.  Think it was late 1944 onwards, might even be 1945 delivered ones only.

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Actually not, it's British, Cowans Sheldon works number 3823 of 1916 or 1917, 20 ton capacity. Supplied to the War Office, later to SNCB, now at Simpelveld ZLSM South Limburg.

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