WALK beneath the Finnieston Crane today and it’s difficult not to marvel at its sheer size. It stands 175ft tall, with a 152ft jib. Its capacity – it was erected in 1931 especially to load huge locomotives – was 175 tonnes.

Over the decades the cantilever crane witnessed the boom years and the gradual decline of some of the city’s docks, to say nothing of Glasgow’s once-famous locomotive manufacturers.

The landscape in the vicinity of the crane has steadily since been transformed: new roads, such as the Clydeside Expressway have been opened. Hotels, office buildings, bridges, apartments, the Glasgow Science Centre, the Glasgow Tower and the SECC campus have all sprung up even as older buildings have vanished.

The A-listed crane has become a landmark in its own right. “No longer working, it has become an artwork,” says Professor Robert Crawford in his book, On Glasgow and Edinburgh. “Glaswegians view it with pride, nostalgia, and a sense of the need to move on.” As he points out, the last locomotive the crane hoisted was sculptor George Wyllie’s straw locomotive, back in 1987.

In 1968 the New Glasgow Society established a working party to discuss the idea for a new tourist hub for Glasgow, based on its river. Under the plan, the crane would have been used as a viewpoint tower. More recently, there was talk of a restaurant being established at the top of the crane.

Danny MacAskill, the street trials rider, has been filmed on his bike at the top of the crane. In April 2019 it was climbed by campaigners from Extinction Rebellion Scotland.

Seven years ago an art project, Silent Echoes – Finnieston Crane, by Bill Fontana, involved live sounds and images from the crane being transmitted via satellite to the city’s Gallery of Modern Art.

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