|The Surrey Commercial|
Docks in the 1920s.
Click to enlarge
This post looks at the the Beaver class cargo ships owned by the enormous Canadian Pacific company, which was as well known for its passenger cruisers and its trains as it was for its cargo ships. The Beaver class ships that visited the Surrey Commercial Docks specialized in transporting perishables between Canada and Europe, and were an excellent example of strategic planning for the difficult trans-Atlantic crossing, where variable conditions made it difficult to keep to timetables.
|A Beaver class cargo ship, with the "goal post masts"|
clearly on display. These were used for loading
and unloading cargo, independently of dockside
There were five regular ships on the route based at the Surrey Commercial Docks: Beaverford, Beaverhill, Beaverburn, Beaverdale and Beaverbrea, with other ships also operating on the route, including Beaverfir, Beavercove and Beaverdale. The latter Beaver ships also used the Royal Docks in London. The beaver theme derives from the company's logo which, from 1886 onwards, consisted of a crest topped with the image of a beaver, a Canadian national symbol and the ideal of a dedicated hard worker. The exact form of the logo changed many times but the crest topped with the beaver were usually incorporated.
|Beaverford. From Bower's "London Ship types"|
The hull, which is 495 feet long by 61 feet 6 inches, with a load draught of 27 feet, wad designed after careful tank experiments to obtain the utmost seaworthiness and to maintain its speed in a seaway, and with its cut-away stem and cruiser stern achieved these objects most satisfactorily, while it is most sightly to the sailor's eye and has nothing of the sardine-tine lines which are usually associated with a purely cargo ship."
Each of the ships was kitted out with cargo handling machinery to enable swift offloading of the cargo into lighters, so that there was no need to wait around for dock-side machinery to be free or to off-load cargo by hand.
The traditional forecastle with all its discomfort is abandoned and officers and men are all accommodated in the bridge deck superstructure amidships, having small cabins which ma be compared with the first class accommodation of many ships only a few years ago. Some of the old timers, it is true, complain that these cabins admit too much fresh air and that it is no longer possible to stop all ventilation with an old pair of trousers, as it used to be in the forecastle, but generally speaking the amenities are fully appreciated by the better type of seamen for who they were designed.
|The Canadian Cold Store, 1944|
In Greenland Dock the Canadian Cold Store was established in the early 1900s to accommodate dairy products and other perishables imported from Canada and its use continued until the war. The warehouse was bombed and burned out during the Blitz in 1940. The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) archive photograph, left, shows it with flames pouring out of it's roof and windows.
Tragically, all of the Beaver ships were lost during the Second World War. Beaverdale, for example, was torpedoed in the North Atlantic during April 1941, with the loss of twenty one lives.
By the 1950s half of the world's ocean going ships were powered by diesel, and steam ships were replaced almost entirely by the mid 1960s. Many steam ships were re-engineered so that they could run on diesel, in much the same way that over a century previously sailing ships had been re-engineered so that they could run on steam power.
for a lot of the information in this post.
My previous Visitor Ships posts:
Visitor Ships 1: The Cunard A-Class Liners at Greenland Dock
Visitor Ships 2: A snapshot of ships present in the Surrey Commercial Docks in the late 1950s
Visitor Ships 3: The sailing Onkers at Surrey Commercial Docks