Birth of a ship at Readhead’s

Readhead's works and engine offices.
Readhead's works and engine offices.

Today John Bage continues his account of how ships used to be “born” at South Shields’ Readhead’s yard.

“The design office information would be passed to the steel drawing office where the first of many drawings would be started,” explains John.

“A model was made of the ship, showing the proposed plating arrangement.

“Also in the same office block you would find the buyers and the typists who would do all the inquiry and order paperwork for the purchasing of the ship’s equipment.

“The planning office was also located nearby, and they would organise how the build of the ship would proceed.”

John goers on to say that across the road, in slightly plusher office surroundings, would be the managing director, the yard accountant, the personnel manager and all of the secretaries and wages clerks who were necessary for the smooth running of the yard.

Wages were paid out in cash each Friday.

“Once the basic drawings were available, the lines of the ship would be set down in the mould loft which was a huge space, up in the roof of the main fabrication shed.

“The loftsmen would draw out on the specially prepared floor, full-size, the lines of the ship using the offsets supplied by the design office.

“Templates were produced by template makers, and these enabled the actual shapes of the ship’s plates to be obtained for manufacture by the platers.”

John reveals that the lines of the ship’s frames were often transferred to a scrieve board and taken to the frame turners who would use it to bend the frames to the correct shape.

Burners would then cut the plating to shape.

“These plates and frames would be fitted together by riveters and drillers, and in later years by welders. Plate seams needed to be sealed by the caulkers.

“The shipwrights were responsible for setting up the building block line and the launch ways as well as the actual launching of the ship itself.

“They were also responsible for the erection and alignment of the ship sections.

“The shipwright liner-off was responsible for setting-off the positions of many parts of the ship, including items of equipment, and taking into account the sheer and camber of the deck.

“To do this job he used detailed plans from the drawing office, a tape measure and a chalk-line.”

l There will be more from John later this week.