The banks of the River Clyde downstream from Glasgow were the setting for many ship-building yards in the late nineteenth century and during the first six decades of the twentieth. The Titan Crane is now a memorial to that industry, providing spectacular views of coastal scenery, as well as exhibitions illustrating the history of shipbuilding. The crane was part of a shipyard originally established in 1871 by James and George Thomson. It was taken over in 1899 by the Sheffield steelmaking company established by Sir John Brown (1816-96), was thereafter known as John Brown’s yard. It became the most celebrated ship-building establishment on the Clyde, constructing, amongst other vessels, the Lusitania, launched in 1906 and the Queen Mary, launched in 1934, as well as numerous battleships, and the Clyde’s first diesel-powered ship, the Lumen, completed in 1925. Ship-building on the Clyde declined in the 1960s, and John Brown’s yard produced its last ship in 1971, after which it was used for building and maintaining oil rigs. The yard was sold and its buildings were demolished in 2001-02. In 2004 part of the site including the crane was bought by Clydebank Rebuilt, an urban regeneration company. The crane was restored and opened to the public from 2007.
The crane is 46 m. high and could raise loads of up to 160 tonnes. It was used to lift exceptionally heavy items, engines, boilers and guns for warships, on to vessels in the course of construction. It was ordered from Sir William Arrol & Co of Dalmarnock in 1905 and delivered two years later, and was the first cantilever crane to be electrically powered. Fewer than 60 giant cantilever cranes were built in the world, of which less than twelve remain. Of the six on Clydeside, four are still standing.