THE LAST WORD IN “FLAT IRONS”: The 1,780-ton coasting collier “Mitcham,” the Wandsworth Gas Company’s new vessel, seen on the Thames at Wandsworth after negotiating the fifteen miles of river from the estuary. When she turns round at Wandsworth there is little room for other traffic to pass. The “Mitcham” has a squat funnel to save her lowering it at each bridge, and her collapsible masts are stepped down into the holds.
The Wandsworth Gas Company are adding several new ships to their fleet, and the “Mitcham” bears a close resemblance to the “Chessington,” details of which were given in “The Sphere” of June 29. She is equipped with sloping wing ballast-tanks, which ensure that the cargo automatically precipitates itself to within the range of the mechanical grabs during the discharging operations.
Source: The Sphere – Saturday 02 November 1946 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)
AN IMPORTANT ADDITION TO LONDON’S COLLIER FLEET : A diagrammatic drawing of the S.S. “Chessington,” the largest vessel to pass the Thames bridges. The “Chessington,” belonging to the Wandsworth and District Gas Company, is known as a “flat-iron,” and she is able to carry 2,700 tons of coal on each trip from the Durham coalfields. The ”Chessington” recently completed her maiden voyage, attracting much attention as she came upstream beyond the Pool and Westminster Bridge. She is nearly 260 ft. long, and as she passes under the bridges her funnel lowers in the usual manner and her masts telescope into the holds. The “Chessington” is equipped with sloping wing ballast tanks which ensure that the cargo automatically precipitates itself to within the range of the grabs during discharging operations. The general lay-out of the ship is of much improved pattern, and special attention has been paid to the officers’ and men’s quarters.
Drawing by S. E. Beck
Source: The Sphere – Saturday 29 June 1946 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)
How They Bring The Coal To London
The Colliers which Supply the Gas Works abd the Power Stations
The fuel crisis has thrown into high relief the role of the Thames up-river colliers, the “flat-irons” which supply the gasworks and the power stations with the vital fuel to keep the lights of London burning.
Some of these colliers come from South Wales, making the trip down the Bristol Channel, round Land’s End, through the Straits of Dover and into the Thames Estuary. The majority, however, come from Tyne and Humber ports, and it is upon these that attention has been focused during the recent fateful week.
From Tyne to Thames is no long voyage, but it is very much London’s lifeline and, thanks to the devoted work of the collier skippers and their cres, who through their way through the February gales and ice-floes, London power stations will once again able to build up their stocks. Many of those same men, it must be remembered, braved the perils of the same East Coast trip when they had more than weather to contend with – first the magnetic mine and then the E-boat constantly menacing the ships as they came south laden with their precious cargoes.
The largest of these ships are found in the Wandsworth and District Gas Company’s fleet, whose works are situated the farthest upstream. Their ships have to negotiate seventeen bridges before they can reach their discharging-point at Wandsworth. This Company has for long set the standard for the design of these of ships, and practically each their ships has been, when built, the largest in this trade. Now they have the first diesel driven “flat-iron” the Mitcham, which can carry a total of 2,700 tons of coal. This compares with 1250 tons for the pioneer ship Wandle of 1909 and 600 tons for the first screw collier, John Bowes, which in turn carried about twice as much as a collier brig.
Depth of water and amounts of head room under bridges are items of paramount importance in up river navigation, and it is essential for the ships to arrive at the wharf during the latter stages the flood-tide. After cargo has been discharged the passage down-river must be begun as soon as the flood-tide appears, for in this light condition the vessel is much higher out of the water.
Source: The Sphere – Saturday 08 March 1947 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)