Following the visit to the Titan Crane, the Titanic group headed for the Denny Experimental Tank at Dumbarton, part of the Scottish Maritime Museum.
The experimental tank was built by the Denny Brothers, the shipbuilding company famous for the Cutty Sark. The tank allowed the company to test hull designs before building the full size versions, giving them competitive advantage over other businesses. There’s even a direct connection with Titanic as the collapsible lifeboats were designed and tested at Dennys!
Museum staff explained how the tank worked, and demonstrated the towing equipment. The tank itself is 100m long and extremely deep. Emptying the tank took over a week! Pupils tried out the minitank which demonstrates how differently shaped hulls travel at slightly different speeds and are affected differently by waves.
Pupils learned how the paraffin wax hulls were created, before having a go at carving for themselves, although we had a bit of a weird moment when a certain nameless pupil compared the wax shavings to skin! You known who you are.
Heading upstairs, the group explored the drawing office, a wee treasure trove of tools used by the designers, equipment, including the graph paper making machine, and box after box of records, all beautifully handwritten. The 1887 advert for apprentices was quite someting, requiring applicants to sit exams for Maths, Theoretical Mechanics, Practical Plane and Solid Geometry and Mechanical Drawing.
We also learned some of the social history of the shipbuilders, including the fact that their wages were docked for spending too long in the toilet, or even for having too much tea! They had football teams and company events, and were a major part of life in Dumbarton. Their closure affected the town in the same way as the closure of Ravenscraig affected Motherwell.
Perhaps weirdest of all, we discovered that the company emblem was a blue elephant, which comes from Dumbarton’s coat of arms. Apparently, Dumbarton’s coat of arms features an elephant because Dumbarton Rock looks like an elephant. Apparently.