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Sunday, 17 May 2020


William (1812-1882) & Hannah Doxford with daughters c1840
Crane tank locos built by Hawthorn Leslie & RSH which were used at Doxford's shipyard at Pallion have recently featured on Tanfield Railway Facebook.

The Wear was navigable on the tide for several miles inland a few hundred years ago.   At Cox Green there were coal staiths, & in 1840 William Doxford set up a business building wooden ships.   As it grew, he moved the business in 1857 downriver to Pallion.   Here Doxfords was very successful as a major element of the world renowned Wear shipbuilding industry until the 1960s, when changes in shipping & foreign competition hit hard.    Shipbuilding on the Wear was politically eradicated in 1988.   Read Doxford's timeline on Grace's Guide.

The barque Manchester was the last sailing ship completed by Doxfords in 1892

From 1863 to 1961 William Doxford & Sons produced 863 vessels, which are listed & detailed on sunderlandships.com   There are several other online histories of Doxfords shipbuilders.

General cargo ship Victoria City under Alexandra Bridge after launch from Doxfords in late 1954, with paddler Lumley in attendance. The ship was delivered in early 1955 following fitting out. 
There are some excellent photos of the engine room of the Victoria City showing the Doxford engine on the ReardonSmithShips web.   Unfortunately the ship sank after collision with a liberty ship later in 1955, although all hands were saved.
(photo Stephen Swinhoe)

Doxford engines became a separate component of the business, the Doxford opposed piston marine diesel engine in its various sizes and forms being a stalwart of the business & shipping in general until the 1960s.

Machining a crankshaft journal at the North Sands engine works.   This is an example of the excellent photographic record of the works on the dieselduck web.
(photo AT Duncan)
One of the last 3 cylinder Doxford J engines preserved in Beamish Museum store
A prototype Doxford opposed piston single cylinder engine in use for training at South Shields Marine College.   This engine has now been removed for preservation at the Anson Engine Museum in Cheshire.

The above pages about Doxford engines from a training manual used by Nigel Wheeler, a Tanfield volunteer.   He writes "I remember working on the single cyl Doxford engine in the BP shop at South Shields Marine & Technical College in 1982.   Unlike ships at sea, to cool the water jacket an outside aquamiser was used.   Warm water was pumped outside the building into the unit and the water cooled by fresh air as it ran off all the slanted boards into a sump and then pumped back to the engine.   I never worked on Doxfords when I was at sea but believe they were used in the SD14 ships built by Austin and Pickersgill.   I think some of the last ships with 6cyl Doxford engines were for Bank Line during the mid to late 1970s.   Bank Line was started by Andrew Weir.   These were general cargo ships that came as container ships were taking off.   I don't think, like many old British shipping companies, they exist any more, but Andrew Weir does trade as AW ship management."

Tanfield's marine contingent of Steve, Bob & Nigel rerailing a bogie
These low bogies, some of which came from Doxfords ......
..... are very handy for heavy jobs around the railway
Bogies like this appear in photographs in the Doxford crane tanks feature on Tanfield Railway's Facebook page

Doxford's crane tank Hendon being shunted at Marley Hill in September 2017.

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