By Ian Onions, Political Editor
BRISTOL‘s dockside cranes – an iconic reminder of the days when the city was a bustling port – will be moving under their own power for the first time in 35 years today.
After four years of being marooned at one end of Princes Wharf, the four 115ft-high cranes will “walk” back to their usual positions on the quayside.
This latest milestone in their history is due to thousands of hours of hard work by volunteers who have been restoring them.
There has also been a £50,000 grant from the Friends of Bristol’s Museums, Galleries and Archives, some of which has been used to reinstate the quayside power supply.
The cranes are the last survivors of more than 30 which were used in the docks during its heyday.
Two of the cranes have been restored to their former glory while the third is almost finished and work has just started on the fourth.
Visitors to the museum will be able to climb up to the cabs and see them in action on regular occasions.
Each one has had their control gear stripped out, cleaned and repaired and the wiring has been checked and replaced where necessary to meet health and safety regulations.
Many of the cab window frames have been replaced and in one case, the whole of the front of the cab was rebuilt.
Each of the three fully-working cranes have had a new rope fitted, thanks to work by crane riggers from the Bristol Port Company.
“Their place on the harbourside outside M Shed are a physical reminder of how important a role our historic docks have played in the city’s economic development.
“Thanks must go to the Friends and volunteers who have made a significant contribution to bringing the cranes back to life.”
Andy King, Bristol City Council‘s curator of Industrial and Maritime History, said: “It’s marvellous to see the cranes moving again – they’re a stunning sight as they glide almost silently along their tracks.
“Bristol is proud of its industrial heritage and it’s right and fitting that every effort has been made to restore these beautiful industrial structures which were once the heartbeat of Bristol’s thriving port.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has worked so hard and given up their time so freely to bring the cranes back to life. I know the cranes will be a star attraction for visitors to M Shed.”
Mary Bailey, chairman of the Friends, said: “Half of our donation was vital in getting the power supply re-connected to the cranes so that they can once again operate safely.
“The other half was spent on fitting out the workshop used by the volunteers to work on the cranes and other dockside exhibits.
“We are delighted that our funds have been instrumental in ensuring that the museum’s working exhibits can continue to operate and give visitors a flavour of Bristol’s industrial history in action. It makes all the hard work involved in raising funds worthwhile.”