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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
A Titan of a bygone industrial age
By Stephen Stewart
Glasgow and West of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Top of the Titan Crane
The panoramic views from the crane into West Dunbartonshire
Towering 150ft above one of Scotland's largest rivers, it once reverberated to the sound of armies of riveters.

They worked night and day on some of the world's most historic ships with names which would resonate through the ages - Lusitania, QE2, Repulse, Hood.

Now the Titan Crane, located at the former John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, has been restored and opened to the public as a visitor attraction.

The relic of Scotland's former industrial glory stands on a largely derelict site in West Dunbartonshire.

It is billed as the nation's "most unusual heritage visitor attraction" and is poised to be the jewel in the crown of the regeneration which is sweeping the area with the launch of a new Clydebank College campus nearby and the construction of private and social housing.

Casting aside my unease and paralysing vertigo, I ventured to the top of the 'A' listed giant cantilever crane.

Having checked that I had no spare coins or other loose objects which could fall from the top and injure passers-by, I ignored the butterflies in my stomach as we awaited the shuttle coach to take us to the foot of the crane.

I think it was a great idea to restore the crane and get the site back into use
Robert Taylor

The structure has been completely refurbished at a cost of 3m, with a new lift to take visitors up to the jib platform 150ft (46 metres) off the ground.

On arrival at the top we were greeted by one of the many informative tour guides.

I made the mistake of looking down as we exchanged pleasantries, only to realise that the floor was a metal grid which meant the unsuspecting visitor could see straight down to the ground.

I could see that the views were spectacular and seemed to go down well with the crowds.

Visitors ranged from the very young to the more senior daytripper. Several of the first people to make the tour were former shipyard workers and for some it was an emotional return.

Robert Taylor, 70, from Motherwell, once worked in the yards around the crane.

Complex machinery

He said: "It's good to come back and see what the place is like nowadays.

"The area used to be full of people working on the ships but for a long time it was left to fall into disrepair.

The Titan Crane
The structure has enjoyed a 3m makeover

"I think it was a great idea to restore the crane and get the site back into use. There is still plenty of scope to capitalise on what you have here.

"It's a very important historical site and it's a great tribute to our industrial past. I think people from around the world will come to see it."

At the top, visitors can have a look at the complex machinery of the Titan wheelhouse with the jib platform affording views along the Clyde and clear vistas of Clydebank, Renfrew and Glasgow.

Collective past

On a crystal clear August morning, the scene was breathtaking, not to mention the rather brisk winds whipping off the river.

The river was certainly far quieter than it would have been during the Titan's heyday.

Apart from the odd squawk of a seagull and the comings and goings of visitors in their high-visibility vests, the experience was a strangely tranquil yet poignant one.

It was more than a day out - it gave young and old a chance to interact and to find out more about their collective past - a consideration which is especially important in the west of Scotland as it seeks to reassert itself yet again on the world stage.

As the bus took us back to the purser's information office, it was hard not to feel moved as we drove past scores of sepia tinged, enlarged pictures of thousands of joiners, welders and cleaners who all worked here - in what was once one of the world's greatest shipyards.




SEE ALSO
Crane becomes visitor attraction
27 Jul 07 |  Glasgow and West
Clyde's 'Angel of the North' plan
05 Jan 05 |  Scotland

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