As I write, the last remaining steam-coaster SS Robin should have just been airlifted by two 600-tonne cranes and placed on a pontoon where she will become a floating museum.
Keep Turning Left film-maker Dylan Winter has been filming the event, and I hope his record will be made public at some point. In the meantime, the clip linked above offers a sense of the preparations involved.
I glad I’m not in charge! The cranes involved are two of the heaviest in the UK; their job is to raise the newly-restored 300 tonne vessel off the quayside onto her permanent new home, which is currently at Lowestoft. (PS – I’ve just heard the good news that the SS Robin has landed – see Dylan’s speeded-up video account on Youtube here.)
From Lowestoft she will be taken to London to become new museum and learning centre for young people.
She was brought to Lowestoft in 2008 from London (I used to see her each morning on what was then my daily commute) to undergo essential conservation work and repairs to her historic riveted structure. For earlier posts on the SS Robin, click here and here. Also see the SS Robin project website here.
Built at Bow in 1890, the SS Robin is listed by the National Historic Fleet register and is regarded as one of the most important British-built ships in existence, for there were once thousands of similar steam coasters – they were the heavy goods vehicles of their day, and were immortalised in John Masefield’s poem Cargoes. I don’t know whether kids today study it, but it was certainly taught to my generation. If like me you can’t recall how it goes, here it is:
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
As I read this, I’m reminded that I saw the SS Robin’s smokestack in a boatyard not so many weeks ago.