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The National Transport Trust has recognised the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton with a ‘Red Wheel’, commemorating the world’s oldest working model experiment tank as one of the UK’s most significant transport heritage sites.

The heritage plaque is part of the National Transport Trust’s Red Wheel Scheme which raises awareness of the most important sites of engineering and transport development across the UK.

The plaque was unveiled at the Museum by Mike Lunch, a Trustee of the National Transport Trust Council, Elliott Witherow Deputy Lieutenant for Dunbartonshire and David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum.

The Red Wheel at the Denny Tank is also the first in the UK to have an integral QR code taking visitors directly to further information on the National Transport Trust’s database.

Receiving the Red Wheel, David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, said:

We are thrilled to be recognised as one of the UK’s most significant transport heritage sites by the National Transport Trust’s Red Wheel Scheme.

“The Denny Tank, and the William Denny Shipyard which once stood on these grounds, has a rich and fascinating history. The Tank was originally built in 1882 to test ship hulls for resistance, accuracy and speed. It wasn’t long though before the world famous shipbuilder and innovator William Denny extended the Tank’s use to experiments on the components of submarines, yachts, barges and finally the ‘Denny Hovercraft’.

“It’s also amazing to think that whilst all the engineering advances were taking place at the William Denny Shipyard, homing pigeons were used for transferring speed trial results back to the Tank for analysis up until 1939!

“Visitors to the Museum can see the vast Denny Tank in action and discover more about what makes it one of the UK’s most important sites of engineering and transport development. It’s also a fascinating place to visit for a rich insight into Scotland’s shipbuilding and Dumbarton’s local heritage.”

The Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank 

The Denny Tank is the world’s oldest working model experiment tank. Built on the site of the William Denny shipyard (1844 – 1963) in 1882, it was used to test model hulls and determine with commercially acceptable accuracy the power required to achieve the contract speed.

Visitors can see the Tank in action as well as model propellers that it took a skilled technician a week to cast, fair and balance before testing.

The design of the Denny Tank was inspired by test tanks built by William Froude at Chelston near Torquay and smaller examples at Aberdeen and Troon. The Tank and apparatus cost £6,000 and the first model test ran on 21 February 1883.

Although the original tank measured 73 x 6.7 x 2.75 metres, a fire in 1924 gave the shipyard the opportunity to extend the deep-water section to 94.5 metres and move the suspension links further out to give a clear walkway.

Later developments included a wind tunnel added in 1975, electronification of the truck of the narrow-gauge railway suspended from the roof in 1908 and a computer mounted to drive the model at the required speeds and record all the data.

The Scottish Maritime Museum purchased the Denny Tank in 1984 and it became part of the Museum which has a second site in Irvine, Ayrshire.

@scotmaritime on social media
Issued on behalf of the Scottish Maritime Museum by
Joanna Harrison, Mobile: 07884 187404

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