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Canal Archive: Bridging the Years

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European Machines

Perhaps the most impressive machine used on the Manchester Ship Canal was the German land excavator, or the 'German', as it was known by the navvies. This huge machine was produced by a German firm called Lubecker Maschinenbau-Gesellschaft of Lubeck.

Three of these machines were used on the Ship Canal, each weighing about seventy tons. Large buckets scooped soil up and out of the cutting below, into waiting railway wagons. With the German machines these wagons passed through the middle of the excavator, which made it more stable than other designs.

One of the three German land excavators was landed in sections at Ince, and was then constructed on Frodsham Score.
It proved no easy task when it was necessary to move one of the excavators to another part of the site. An engineering journal at the time stated 'such an operation practically (meant) the re-erection of a complex machine', a drain on time and men.

The other type of excavator of European origin was that produced by Messrs J Boulet & Co. of Paris. It was commonly referred to as the 'Frenchman' or 'Frenchy'. Four of these were used on the Ship Canal, each needing a engine driver and a stoker, as well as a team of up to forty men for when the machine required moving.
The French machines loaded their wagons at the rear. This design brought its own problems as they were liable to tilt forwards into the cutting if not on firm ground.

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This is page 6 of Digging the Big Ditch.
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A German land excavator at work

A German land excavator at work
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A German land excavator under construction

A German land excavator under construction
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A French land excavator at work

A French land excavator at work
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