The William Hazard branch of the Crandall family
settled in Newport, Rhode Island about 1840. They lived on Poplar
Street and William Hazard Crandall owned a shipyard in what was
later to be called Long Wharf. During this period, he constructed
his own marine railway using steam power, wrought iron chain and
crude iron rollers to haul vessels out for repairs. This was an
era of tremendous coastwise and transatlantic shipping since there
were few railroads and no roads of consequence. The coasting ships
were sailing vessels, some with steam power of very modest tonnage
and so well suited to the marine railway concept.
Fourteen years later, in 1854, W. H. Crandall and his son, Horace
Irving Crandall, were asked by the Boston Dry Dock Company to build
a dock of the marine railway type in East Boston for the unprecedented
capacity of 1000 tons based on the great success of their Newport
dock. So, about this period the ship repair yard in Newport was
sold to what became the Fall River Line as a terminus for passengers
going to New York.
The new railway, in what was to become the Atlantic works of the
Bethlehem Steel Company, was so successful that eventually three
more were built in capacities of 1500, 2000 and 2500 tons, and they
continued to be used until about 1970 when the lack of business
caused the yard to close. Additional marine railways were built
along Chelsea Creek about the turn of the century.
In 1862, H.I. Crandall was in Great Britain where he probably
went to purchase hauling chains and machinery since England was
a leading supplier to North America in metal products and machines.
Not long thereafter, he took his family to live in Dartmouth, Nova
Scotia, across from Halifax. It was in Dartmouth that his son, James
Lyle Crandall, grew up and eventually married Carrie Stuart from
St. John, New Brunswick. A great many marine railways were built
in Canada at this time, among them were installations in North Sydney
and Pictou in 1860, Dartmouth in 1862, and Lunenburg and Port Hawkesbury
in 1864. In the meantime, H.I. Crandall traveled all over the eastern
seaboard, to the West Coast, to South America, and even to the Philippines
where CRANDALL docks were constructed. He was joined by his son,
James Lyle, in 1888.
In 1890, at the age of 24, James Lyle built his first of four
railways at St. Pierre et Miquelon where he and his wife had honeymooned.
One year later, James Stuart Crandall was born in Dartmouth on Ocherloney
By the end of 1891 the family had moved to Boston where business
was carried on under the name of H.I. Crandall and Son in spaced
rented in the Atlantic Works Shipyard in East Boston.
Before this, railways well over 1000-ton capacity had been built
in Uruguay, Honolulu, Portland and Bath, Maine, and elsewhere by
H.I. Crandall, himself. By the year 1900, three docks of 2000 tons,
three of 2500 tons, two of 3000 tons and one 4000 tons had been
built using wrought iron chains, timber cradles and timber track
bearing on timber piles. Almost every East Coast Harbor of the U.S.
and Canada had one or more operating CRANDALL railway.
World War I was a period of enormous dry dock growth. After 1900,
James Lyle Crandall developed the CRANDALL sectional floating dry
docks constructed of timber, but stiffened by longitudinal Warren
trusses designed with pin-connected joints to permit self-docking
but also permitting the dock to be rigid once connected. This development
was applied to many new docks being built by the U.S. Shipping Board
and by the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks. It was then that James
Lyle became consultant to both of these U.S. government agencies.
Again, it is important to understand that sea transport was flourishing,
the automobile in its infancy and only the railroads were truly
a coastwise competitor. Also ships were for the most part less then
8000 tons light displacement with a great many less than 2000 tons.
With the war over, ship repair was in demand and so harbors like
Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Norfolk were busy
in Ship maintenance.
Then gradually as roads and automobiles developed, plus with the
increased use of heating oil instead of coal, medium tankers and
barges began their regular runs from the Texas ports up to New England
by the Intracoastal Waterway. This generated considerable ship repair
work in Norfolk and Jacksonville, such that demand for newer, larger
The basic success of the CRANDALL marine railway dry dock stemmed
from their simplicity of operation with minimum manpower, the use
of various types of releasing bilge blocks to permit speedy hull
cleaning and painting without multiple dockings, and an operation
taking about one hour at most, permitting one to take advantage
of tides. Each generation of the Crandalls contributed new ideas
for both design and construction taking advantage of new materials
of construction to cope with the always-present struggle to beat
the hostile elements of corrosion and marine borers, ice, wind,
current, electrolysis and neglect. So invention and innovation were
After graduating from the University of Maine in 1915, J. Stuart
Crandall joined his father and worked in the field building two
docks in Cuba. It was about this time that Stuart with his engineering
education conceived the idea of building railways with vertically
curved tracks to better cope with grounding vessel instability and
the need for horizontal transfer. After two years of military service
he returned home where he was occupied as engineering of design
until the bleak period of the Great Depression. Of course the Great
Depression after 1929 brought new dock construction to a new ebb
and very little could be done along the Atlantic seaboard.
It was then that J. Stuart, following his service in the Corps
of Engineers in France returned to Europe and succeeded after several
years of effort to sell the Belgians and the French on using CRANDALL
railway dry docks to dock the every growing fishing fleets at Ostend
and Boulogne. These docks, built in 1931 and 1932 respectively are
still in operation, having been almost totally rebuilt more than
Great strides in engineering and product development resulted
in adoption of structural steel versus timber framing, cast steel
chains on sprockets made of heat-treated alloys versus the old wrought
iron on mild steel. These post World War I improvements made it
possible to build marine railways up to 8000 tons and a few were
built using six or eight hauling chains. Similarly, there were important
developments in foundation engineering so that greater load concentration
capacities could be realized and machinery was being driven by electric
power instead of steam.
In 1935, James Lyle lost control of his Crandall Engineering Company
whh had been founded in 1917, and Stuart along with his University
of Maine classmates, Ray Lindgren and Vernon Hight left to form
the firm of CRANDALL DRY DOCK ENGINEERS, INC. which now carries
on the original tradition. Again, new docks in South America saved
the day. Most of the staff of the old company, among them George
Landrigan, James Garrett, Robie Harlow and others, joined the new
company forming a solid and experienced team of dock designers and
In 1939 Great Britain and Canada were at war with Germany with
the U.S. providing "lend lease" aid in the form of ships and war
supplies. East coast Canadian ports were the shipping points and
so a great demand was placed on Halifax and Montreal for both ship
repair and new ship construction. From 1939 to 1945, twenty-one
new CRANDALL docks were built in Maritime Canada alone, ranging
from 200 tons for RCAF crash boats to 1400 tons for Corvettes to
3000 tons for Tribal class destroyers to 5000 tons for freighters
After December 1941, the U.S. shipyards were in full swing and
this was an era when the U.S. Navy embarked on a huge floating dry
dock program for overseas ship repair in far off theatres of operation.
Therefore CRANDALL DRY DOCK ENGINEERS, due to their heavy commitment
in Canada had to limit their U.S. Navy activity to floating docks
in Curtis Bay, Norfolk, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and a number
of marine railways in New Orleans, Norfolk and Miami. During this
period James Lyle died in 1944 and the business was carried on under
the direction of Stuart and his skilled team while his son, Paul
S. Crandall, who had graduate from M.I.T. in 1942 was serving overseas
with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Returning from Europe in 1946, Paul Crandall joined the firm during
the active post-war reconstruction and was assigned as field engineer
to build in the Netherlands a special side haul railway for the
reconstruction of the French Rhine fleet.
Many existing docks required major rebuilding and restoration after
the severe use and frequent overloading of the war years. Also there
was activity overseas in the France, Belgium, the Persian Gulf and
Argentina It was in 1952 that the first all-steel welded floating
dry dock was designed and subsequently built in Buenos Aires, all
on the metric system using overseas materials and equipment. After
the sudden death of Stuart Crandall in 1953, world shipping began
to change radically due to the Suez crisis which induced Japan to
construct enormous tankers. Also it was a period when vessel enlargement
was being done frequently to increase the vessel capacity. These
developments made many dry docks, particularly basin docks, obsolete
and so ushered in an important growth in floating dry dock projects.
At the same time, the new heavy stern trawlers of Europe demanded
docks of greater capacity, hence the construction at Boulogne and
Zeebrugge of new CRANDALL railway dry docks. In the Pacific, too,
the fishing fleets needed new docks in Tahiti, Samoa, and Port Moresby.
Heavy trade with Japan and Alaska caused need for large docks on
the U.S. and Canadian West Coast with the result that we designed
the docks at Vancouver, British Columbia, and Portland, Oregon.
In 1960 following a disastrous instability accident of the 8000-ton
CRANDALL floating dry dock at Baltimore while attempting to lift
the new ship Morimac Penn, Paul Crandall was asked by the shipyard
president to train a new dockmaster. This two-week effort involved
study and research into the general practice of ship docking and
the naval architectural aspects of the combined ship and dock.
Many U.S. shipyards then requested similar training and in the
years following, seminars for dockmasters were held seventeen times
over a span of 26 years with total attendance of about 650, some
of whom traveled from as far away as Canada, Europe, Latin America
and the South Pacific in order to attend.
A "Dockmaster's Manual" was published from notes prepared for the
various seminars held in such diverse locations as Boston, Norfolk,
Mobile, Orlando, Savannah, Jacksonville, San Diego, Galveston, New
Orleans, Portland, Oregon, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The success and popularity of these ongoing seminars greatly increased
worldwide recognition of CRANDALL DRY DOCK ENGINEERS, not only for
design and construction of docks, but also as specialists in proper
operation, maintenance and safety of ship docking.
In 1960 Sun Shipbuilding in Chester, Pennsylvania, built the largest
East Coast floating dock using a completely new mooring concept
of flexible grippers with articulated joints capable of resisting
hurricane forces. Since that time over a dozen large docks have
used this CRANDALL invention which has been tested by actual hurricane
winds on more than one occasion. The firm was fortunate to be selected
to design several very large, welded steel floating docks for Litton-Pascagoula;
New Orleans; Port of Portland, Oregon; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Vancouver,
British Columbia; Alaska; and Newport News, Virginia, where transfer
from shore berths was incorporated in the design.
Several graduate engineers joined the firm to carry on the design
of new docks and rehabilitation of older docks using modern technology.
Crandall continues to be deeply involved in programs of damage stability
and capacity certification to meet the ever-growing demands of the
The company has undertaken from time to time a number of unusual
projects and has joined on occasion with other Boston firms to participate
in projects where Crandall expertise was required. Some of these
projects included the rebuilding of the original Charles River Dam
lock gate in wrought iron; the Washington, D.C. material handling
pier for Metcalf & Eddy; the White Fuel Terminal and Union Oil Terminal
with Haley & Aldrich, and the missile launch study for the U.S.
Navy in collaboration with Lockheed.
As an adjunct to marine railways, Crandall also designed ship launching
systems on curved ways for Atlantic Dry Dock in Jacksonville; Hyundai
in Korea; and others.
It is interesting to note that during the economic downturn of
the late 1980's for U.S. shipping, there continued to be a demand
for small, medium sized docks and Crandall's business involved new
marine railways in many cases. Crandall's adaptability for transfer
makes them attractive every in this modern era.
Crandall's adaptability for transfer makes them attractive especially
in this modern era. Our most recent project (2006) at Point
Hope Maritime features a circular transfer turntable
with spurs radiating out so that multiple ships can be worked on