Ainscough Crane Hire’s Wirral depot has played a central role in delivering the UK’s largest ever movement of historic canal vessels at the Canal & River Trust’s National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port, South Wirral.

Using a Terex AC350/6 the team lifted a number of historic narrow boats and barges, ranging in size from 33 to 72 feet in length, from the canal basin ready for storage and conservation. The boats date from the late 1800s to the 1950s, with the majority on the National Historic Ships Register, making this the UK’s largest ever movement of historic vessels. These boats are now old and fragile and have reached the end of their lives as operational and outdoor exhibits. The re-floating and move to a dry store starts a major conservation programme by the Canal & River Trust, the charity that runs the National Waterways Museum.

The work also included the moving of Mossdale the only remaining all-timber Mersey flat – a type of double-ended barge. Measuring almost 72ft by 14ft she sits in a giant metal cradle which was manoeuvred into the Boat Yard at the Museum so that she can be seen by visitors.

Other giants of the waterways, Scorpio and Speedwell, were pumped out, carefully lifted onto a lorry and taken to the museum’s new dry store ready for assessment and conservation plans to be decided.

Paul McCabe, Ainscough’s Depot Manager at Wirral said: “This was a delicate and careful operation which required patience and professionalism from our team. There is always pressure to deliver on lifts but with museum pieces, the pressure is greater.

“People are always interested in our work and a good crowd, including national and local media, gathered to witness the barges being lifted. It is always good feeling when we’ve delivered for our customers and in this case, our work plays a small part in the future generations’ understanding of our maritime history.”

The boats date back to the days of freight carrying on the nation’s waterways and include former horse drawn barges, narrowboats and an icebreaker. From Phoebe, a 1900s ‘white van’ of the waterways and rare example of a once common working boat to Aleida heroine of the Fenland Floods; and the massive chalk carrying barge to the iron plated ice breaker Marbury each boat is an important part of the country’s waterway heritage.

Speedwell in flight (4) v1