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Harland & Wolff Cranes - Samson and Goliath

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A prominent feature of the Belfast skyline is the Harland and Wolff cranes, Samson and Goliath.

Although not officially classed as wonders of the world, the two massive gantry cranes in Harland and Wolff, Belfast, which serve one of the world’s largest serviced Building Docks, are certainly masterpieces of engineering.

Between 1900 and 1930, Harland and Wolff was Belfast's biggest employer by a long way. Thousands of people worked in the ship yards and demand for ocean liners was huge. Although ships are still built in Harland and Wolff today, the number of ships and people actually employed is much less than in the heyday of the early 20th century.

The Harland and Wolff shipyard was founded in 1861 by Edward James Harland and Gustav Wilhelm Wolff. At its height, Harland and Wolff and the ship yard in Belfast became one of the biggest ship builders in the world. Harland and Wolff own one of the world's largest dry docks, which is in Belfast. They constructed over 70 ships for the White Star Line. The Titanic was the best known of these. The gantry cranes weren't around in those days though.

Since it was founded, Harland and Wolff has constructed over 1,700 vessels, having once had yards in Scotland and London as well as Belfast.

The cranes, known locally as Samson and Goliath, are of Krupp Ardelt design, modified to meet Harland and Wolff’s special requirements. The first, Goliath, was completed in July 1969 and was largely constructed by Harland and Wolff within the company, whilst the second, Samson, was provided by Krupps in its entirety and was completed in May 1974.

In most respects the cranes are identical but the second is some 10m higher than the first. Each has a span of 140m (460 ft) and a safe working load of 840 tonnes. Goliath, has a height from the rail tracks to the underside of the bridge girders of 70m (230 ft) and an overall height of 96m (316 ft). Samson, has an overall height of 106m (348 ft) with a height of 80m (263 ft) from the tracks to the underside of the bridge girders.