Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)
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Author:  Neil Cameron [ 18 Jun 2011, 14:27 ]
Post subject:  Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

During 1980's or early 1990's I recall a visit to Shoeburyness MOD, where they used to test-fire large guns, by 2 Bluebell members - I'd have gone myself but 2 visitors was the maximum permitted. They were looking at boiler equipment I think, but came back with reports of seeing 1 or 2 45t Ransomes & Rapier breakdown cranes, did they change the gun barrels?

Am I right in thinking that one of these went to preservation, if yes can it be seen and on which steam railway? I'm curious to compare with the other 45t cranes. They were said to be apparently in very good state, as usual with Army equipment. Were any cut up on site?
A lot of questions, but not a lot known about these.

The commandeered cranes in WW2 that led to Bluebell crane and others being built in replacement, were used to change gun barrels on the rail mounted cranes above Dover. The former contractor's line from Martin Mill into Port of Dover in the 1900's and used to bring in materials to build the Admiralty harbour extension was rebuilt in part and a fan of sidings built as firing points for the guns. A subject in itself.

The long siding at Shepherdswell, used mainly to aggregate colliery empties for Tilmanstone colliery was known by local railwaymen as the Gun road even during the 1980's when I worked at Dover on the Train Ferry operation. This was one of several locations away from enemy fire when not in use and could be camoulflaged against air attack. Another example of the retained folk memory of the Dover railwaymen was calling a 2 axle SR type PMV van a "Cavell" as one of the earliest examples of these in SECR days was used to covey the body of Nurse Edith Cavell, shot by the Germans for alleged spying.

Author:  Chris Capewell [ 19 Jun 2011, 05:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

I have a file on about twenty various steam cranes used at Shoebury but as I am in Kamloops British Columbia at present I'm not able to access the information. I'll be in touch after 9th July.

The military survivor of the 45 tonners is at Toddington.


Author:  Roger Cooke [ 20 Jun 2011, 11:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

It was the permanent requisitioning of two LNER cranes for use overseas in 1941 and their consequent permanent loss to the LNER which resulted in the orders for the two replacements, rather than the use at Martin Mill.

LNER 951515 (CS w/n 6874/1940 allocated to Gorton) and 941600 (CS w/n 6875/1940 allocated to King's Cross) were requisitioned in 1941 and transferred to the WD in Jan 42 for use overseas. The LNER converted both to oil-firing, fitted them with air brakes, and had them ready for shipment by 28/2/41. They were in-theatre and operational in Persia by May 1942, at Tehran and Ahwaz depots, and amazingly one was still extant in 2005.

After conscription, these were replaced by the two R&R 45-tonners, ordered on Government account by the MoS, 951516 (later 330122 then RS1083/45, now at the Bluebell Railway) and 941601 (later 330102, now at the NYMR). These two appear to have been identical to the batch of six ordered not long previously by the MoS for the SR (2) and GWR (4), and had GWR running gear and boiler fittings.

Prior to requisition, 941600 was one of several cranes known to have been sent to Martin Mill for use in connection with the erection the coastal defence batteries, the others involved in the initial construction being the SR's two brand new R&R 45-tonners 1560S and 1561S. Files in the PRO also indicate that two LMS cranes (Craven Bros. 50-tonner RS1015/50 (formerly MP9) from Willesden and one other) were also used at this time.

The magazine "After The Battle" issue 29 has an interesting article about the big coastal guns which includes a rare photo of three cranes lifting one of the tubes - two cranes at the breech and the third at the muzzle.

The story of the coastal defence batteries around Dover is fascianting and worthy of a book in its own right. The first guns constructed were intended as cross-channel guns and used spare 14" calibre “King George V” class battleship guns, modified for use as coastal artillery pieces. Manned upon completion by men of the Royal Marines Heavy Siege Battalion, these guns were named “Winnie” (after the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill) and “Pooh” (after Winnie-the-Pooh!). These were joined shortly afterwards by the Coastal Defence batteries at Wanstone Down, which used even larger bore 15” battleship guns. All of these guns had barrels so heavy that it needed all three cranes lifting together to lift one. The Wanstone batteries were later augmented with the experimental (and ultimately unsuccessful) hypervelocity gun “Bruce”, which was designed to be able to fire at targets well inside occupied France, but in the event proved less than ideal – the rate of wear in the barrel was such that a barrel would be worn out after only 35 rounds had been fired!

Not long after Wanstone Battery had been completed, the four surviving WWI railway gun mounts, rebarrelled with contemporary ordnance, were also moved to the area. These guns were named “Boche Buster”, “Scene Shifter”, “Piecemaker” and “Gladiator”, and in truth played little strategic role since theit limited range meant that they could not fire across the Channel. The were used to harass German shipping in the Channel, and would have been significant had the Germans actually invaded. “Boche Buster” was upgraded to carry an 18” howitzer and became the largest bore railway gun that Britain ever constructed.

All the coastal artillery installations and the railway guns required frequent barrel changes, and as a result there was a number of cranes continuously requisitioned for this purpose. The King's Cross crane was, as mentioned above, permanently requisitioned for use overseas and never returned, and the few photos which exist of barrel changes show that in addition to CS and R&R 45-tonners, at least one of the SR's 36-tonners was also used for a while.

It is known therefore that at the very least six cranes worked in support of the big guns in Kent, namely:-

LMS - RS1015/50, plus one unidentified
SR - 1560S, 1561S, plus either 1196S or 1197S
LNER - 941600

After the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 the coastal guns became redundant and were decommissioned, and the cranes were released.

Additional photos and further interesting information can be found here:- ... 797190590/ ... pic=5909.0 ... pic=5994.0

For those interested in the coastal guns, there is some interesting further reading to be found at :-

Whilst this of course relates only to the BL15-42 Mk1 guns (ie "Clem" and "Jane" at Wanstone Battery, not "Winnie" and "Pooh") all these batteries were serviced by the Martin Mill Military Railway and all these guns were serviced by rail-mounted cranes.

Of particular interest is the note to the effect that due to there being insufficient time to upgrade all the prewar capital ships which used this gun prior to the outbreak of the war, "super-charges" were introduced to charge the gun to the absolute maximum safe pressure. Although these were carried on many ships, the only guns ever actually to fire with super-charges were the Wanstone battery's Clem and Jane. Clearly the use of these charges would have a detrimental effect on tube life - look at the performance of "Bruce".

Author:  Neil Cameron [ 24 Jun 2011, 12:41 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Great replies, thank you. The rail gun operation is indeed worthy of a dedicated book.

The Elham Valley branch from Folkestone West to Canterbury had one of the older rail guns, Boche Buster in the pictures I have seen, (a generally interesting website too) ... -kent.html

When googling these I found a forum in which the man researching HMS Valiant, a tunnel based shore station from WW2 near Newhaven, East Sussex got sent a bundle of papers on the operation of these rail guns and dumped it as it was not relevant to his subject..........!!!!

Does / has the ex military 45t crane at Toddington work/ed?

Author:  Neil Cameron [ 26 Jun 2011, 16:45 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Substitute HMS Forward for HMS Valiant in my message above.

Author:  Chris Capewell [ 30 Jul 2011, 12:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Ransomes and Rapier Cranes at Shoeburyness

Army Local no. / Manuf. Works number /date
No. Name Capacity Wheels Notes

RR relieving bogie breakdown crane pattern.

63008 3/2866 RR 5937-49/43 45T 4-8-4RB b/d to S’. c.43-44.
'Effingham' -stated as beyond economic repair 71, scr. 71?

63013 3/3332 RR G2144/45 45T 4-8-4RB b/d to S’. c.44.
'Montgomery' scr. 85

630?? 3/???? RR 5937-49/43 45T 4-8-4RB b/d new to S’. c.44.
'Clive' departed S’. c.48 to ?Bicester?

RR ‘out of gauge’ breakdown style cranes:-

63014 3/2401 RR E 4385/37 35T 8W out of gauge new to S’. 4/38.
XP 305 'Frobisher' dieselised 75, sold or scr. 86?

63015 3/2402 RR E 4385/37 35T 8W out of gauge new to S’. 4/38.
XP 3?? 'Drake' sold or scr. 81?

63016 3/3073 RR G 8090/44 35T 8W out of gauge new to S’. c.44-5.
XP 3?? 'Sturdee' sold or scr. 71?

There were a number of other large cranes - including two CS 60 tonners on 15', but capable of moving between work sites on standard gauge. ( very gently! )

Author:  Phil Scott [ 26 Aug 2011, 18:48 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Chris Capewell wrote:
The military survivor of the 45 tonners is at Toddington.


The Toddington crane is 62006. It is currently stored in the yard at Toddington - and is only visible during yard tours at galas. As far as I am aware, it has not worked in preservation.

Author:  David Withers [ 26 Aug 2011, 22:56 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Phil, thanks for providing the army number of the Toddington crane. It is listed under the number WD214 on our website's Extant BDCs list.

I was able to view this crane at Toddington several years ago but, with it not being a gala day when I visited, it was very difficult to obtain permission to enter the compound and proceed to where it is kept!

Breakdown cranes are popular with the public even as static exhibits and I think it could be advantageous for this one to be more visibly placed.

Author:  Neil Cameron [ 28 Aug 2011, 20:08 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Chris Capewell wrote:
I have a file on about twenty various steam cranes used at Shoebury but as I am in Kamloops British Columbia at present I'm not able to access the information. I'll be in touch after 9th July.

The military survivor of the 45 tonners is at Toddington.


Many thanks for this Chris (belatedly), look forward to viewing on a planned visit during an open day.

Neil Cameron

Author:  Roger Cooke [ 27 Feb 2015, 15:31 ]
Post subject:  Re: Preserved Military Ransomes & Rapier 45t crane(s)

Whilst straying rather a long way from the topic of BDCs, I discovered today that the historical maps associated with Google Earth for the area round St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe have now been extended back as far as December 1940. There is aerial photography now available from 12/42 which is actually of enormous value to those with an interest in the Kent coastal guns, since it shows all of the batteries and all of the associated railways and engineering. Absolutely fascinating. The subsequent images are from 1962 which are similarly of interst since most of the batteries remained in place until about '57, so all the infrastructure is still in place.

Winnie and Pooh can both clearly be seen, together with thier decoy sites (the famous wooden guns upon which the Germans supposedly once dropped a wooden bomb), as can Clem and Jane, as well as the 13.2 batteries at Wanstone. Interestingly the site of Bruce, the North-facing experimental hypervelocity gun can also clearly be seen (and looks complete) event though it was not installed until 1943.

I haven't hunted round to see if Boche Buster, Gladiator, Piecemaker, and Sceneshifter are out of hiding, but it would be an interesting hunt for an occasion when I have more time.

To view these images you will need (if you haven't already done so) to download the Google Earth program (free) and then search for St Margaret's-at-Cliffe (or I suppose Dover), then zoom in to the area of interest, and use the histoical imagery timeline tools to travel back in time.

Well worth a few minutes if you have any interest this most intersting of eras.

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