The building of large steam locomotives and coaching stock for the export market by the Armstrong Whitworth Co (and many others) saw the need for a type of ship specially designed for the transport of these vehicles, with the ability to load and unload them quickly. The Norwegian shipping firm of A/S Christen Smiths Rederi recognised this need and placed an order with Armstrong Whitworth Co. for the Belnor, one of several built for the company to specifically cater for the transport of railway locomotives & carriages.
1926 March 19th: The motorship Beldis arrived at Port Adelaide from Armstrong Whitworth Co, Newcastle upon Tyne, bringing 14 huge new locomotives for the South Australian Railways. The boilers weigh 60 tons each, the undercarriages 57 tons, and the tenders 35 tons. The engines were stowed on deck and projected 5 feet over the vessels side. The ship unloaded the engines with its own special gear and men. Another shipment of engines on the motorship Belnor were expected a month hence.
1927 July 6th: departed Antwerp for Wellington carrying engines.
1928 April 18th: sailing between Barahana & London.
1930 January 11th: While loading a barge on the River Tyne, the Belnor heeled over alarmingly, and another barge was slung on the starboard side as a counter-balance.
1931 December 23rd: Three lightships of 140 tons, built by a Chester firm, left Liverpool recently in the Belnor. They will be stationed on three lonely places on the Burma coast, and for twelve months will do their duty without a single man aboard. The sun-valve device turns on the riding light and flashing main lights as soon as dusk falls; and when mist gathers starts the fog bell automatically. So sensitive is this valve that even a dense cloud passing over the lightship sets all the warning signals going.
1939 March: the establishment of John Summers & Sons wide strip mill at Shotton (content: 30% American, 70% British) saw the first cargo of components from Mesta Machine Company, Pittsburgh carried by the Belnor, departing Baltimore with 2,517 tons of machinery including the housings for the hot mill stands. Foul weather in the Atlantic put the vessel in distress on March 16th, an SOS was broadcast, some 400 miles east of Norfolk VA, the Italian liner Conte di Savoia altered course and approached the Belnor, but no further assistance was requested. However four pieces of machinery weighing 120 tons being lost overboard. Birkenhead was reached after a crossing time of twenty days. Replacements parts reached Liverpool on August 28th 1939.
1939 - 1945 World War II
The Belnor was at Cristobal on December 26th 1940, Bermuda (Jan 7th/8th) 1941 and Halifax (Jan 16th).
From Halifax the Belnor sailed on May 23rd to Sydney CB, arriving May 24th, then departing June 1st in convoy SC.33, reaching the Clyde on June 20th. After three weeks on the Clyde the Belnor departed on July 15th in convoy OB.346 to Freetown (Aug 3rd/6th), Lagos (Aug 13th/15th), Takoradi (Aug 17th/28th), Lagos (Aug 30th/Sep 4th), Freetown (Sep 12th/24th), then convoy SL.88 & HG 74, reaching the Clyde on October 17th. then followed a short trip to Workington (Oct 22nd) & Barrow (Oct 26th).
The Clyde was departed on November 18th in convoy OS.12 to Bathurst (Dec 10th/20th), Freetown (Dec 22nd/27th), Lagos (Jan 3rd/10th 1942), Takoradi (Jan 12th/18th), Luderitz Bay (Feb 2nd), Takoradi (Feb 13th/20th), Freetown (Feb 26th/Mar 4th), then convoy SL.102 to Workington (Mar 29th/Apr 2nd) and the Clyde on April 3rd.
After a month on the Clyde the Belnor departed on May 2nd in convoy OS.27 to Freetown (May 19th/28th), Takoradi (Jun 3rd/16th), Freetown (Jun 21st/25th), then convoy SL.114 to Workington reached July 17th. A week later a short trip was made between Workington and the Clyde.
Convoy OS.37 departed the Clyde on August 10th for Freetown (Aug 29th/Sep 7th), Takoradi (Sep 13th/25th), Freetown (Sep 30th/Oct 8th), Bathurst(Oct 10th/17th), then convoy SL.125 to Barrow (Nov 6th/12th) and arrived on the Clyde November 13th.
The Belnor remained on the Clyde until December 24th 1942, departing in KMS.6G to Gibraltar (Jan 5th/7th 1943), Freetown (Jan 16th/18th), Bathurst (Jan 21st/23rd), Freetown (Jan 25th/29th), Takoradi (Feb 3rd/11th), Freetown (Feb 16th/24th), then convoy SR.2/1 to Gibraltar (Mar 8th/16th) and convoy XK.3 to Ardrossan (Mar 27th) and the Clyde (Mar 30th).
On April 15th the Belnor sailed from the Clyde in convoy OS.46KM & KMS.13G for Gibraltar, arriving April 26th and departing on May 22nd in convoy MKS.13G & SL.129 arriving Liverpool June 1st.
After six weeks at Liverpool the Belnor reached the Clyde on July 18th then July 28th sailed in convoy KMS.22G to Gibraltar (Aug 10th/18th) and convoy KMS.23 to Malta (Aug 24th/30th), Bizerta (Sep 1st/18th), Bone (Sep 19th/Oct 9th), Bizerta (Oct 10th/18th), then convoy MKS.28 to Gibraltar (Oct 23rd/Nov 3rd), then convoy MKS.29G to the Clyde arriving November 18th 1943.
After almost three years working between ports in the United Kingdom and West Africa and the Mediterranean, 1944 saw the Belnor visit new horizons. After ten weeks of relative inactivity the Belnor departed the Clyde on February 5th 1944 in convoy OS.67KM & KMS.41G for Gibraltar (Feb 17th), Port Said (Feb 27th), Suez (Mar 1st), Aden (Mar 9th/11th), Bombay (Mar 28th/Apr 4th), Colombo (Apr 9th/20th), Trincomalee (Apr 22nd/27th) and Colombo (Apr 29th).
The Belnor sailed from Colombo on May 10th 1944 for Bombay (May 14th/28th), Bandar Abbas (Jun 3rd), Basra (Jun 6th), Khorram Shahr (Jun 10th), Basra (Jun 10th), Abadan (Jun 24th), Bandar Abbas (Jun 30th), Aden (Jul 14th/15th), Suez (Jul 23rd), Port Said (Aug 17th), now in convoy MKS.59 to Bone (Aug 25th/Sep 14th) and convoy MKS.61 to Algiers (Sep 15th/16th), Gibraltar (Sep 17th) and convoy SL.170MK to Falmouth (Sep 24th/25th), Southend (Sep 27th/28th), convoy FN.1494 to Immingham (Sep 29th/Oct 3rd) and Sunderland October 5th.
The Belnor remained at Sunderland until sailimng on November 30th 1944 for coastal ports Great Yarmouth (Dec 2nd/15th), Southend (Dec 17th), Great Yarmouth (Dec 17th), Southend (Dec 18th), Devonport (Dec 19th), Falmouth (Dec 23rd), Devonport (Dec 23rd), Falmouth (Dec 24th), Milford Haven (Dec 25th) and reaching the Clyde on December 26th 1944.
After three months on the Clyde the Belnor departed for the Far East on March 27th 1945 in convoy OS.119KM & KMS.93G passing Gibraltar (Apr 6th), Port Said (Apr 16th), Suez (Apr 20th), Aden (Apr 27th), Trincomalee (May 9th/13th), Cochin (May 17th/21st), Bombay (May 24th/Jun 9th), Madras (Jun 18th), Rangoon (Jun 23rd), Rangoon (Jul 2nd), Madras (Jul 10th/25th), Rangoon (Jul 29th/Aug 8th), Bombay (Aug 24th), Colombo (Sep 4th), Bombay, (Oct 4th), Colombo (Oct 9th/Nov 4th), Batavia (Nov 9th/26th) and Sourabaya on December 2nd 1945.
Undated postwar: Belnor used to ship War Department steam locomotives from Palestine to Birkenhead.
1953 June 1st: Port Pirie, the Belnor arrrived from United Kingdom with five Garratt locomotives for use in the haulage of concentrates on the narrow gauge railway from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. The vessel was berthed temporarily at Queen's Wharf, but moved to Baltic Wharf to discharge when a berth became vacant. In order to move larger tonnages of concentrates with increased efficiency, South Australian Railways Department placed an order in April 1951 with Beyer, Peacock & Co., Ltd., of Manchester, England, for 10 Garratt locomotives and the Belnor brought the first five completed.
Beside the locomotives and tenders the Belnor's cargo included ten railway distillate tankers for discharge at Port Augusta. Part of the cargo was carried on deck and a timber passageway was built overhead to connect the bridge section of the ship with the after deck.
After unloading the locomotives and wagons the ship proceeded to Curlew Point, where heavy alternators, made in England for the Northern Regional Power Station, were lifted out. There were about 300 pieces of plant, some weighing up to 60 tons. The Belnor was the first ship to berth at Curlew Point jetty. Gangs of waterside workers were taken from Port Augusta by motor bus.
Some lifts weighed up to 61 tons. The heaviest was a turbine stator in its water tight packing. The ship developed a list of nine degrees during unloading. A turbine cover with clearance of less than one inch on each side of the hatch had to be handled very carefully. It was not as heavy as many small pieces, but on account of its size its unloading tested the skill of the officers. When the ship was loaded in England, photographs were taken showing the location of each case of machinery or casting. This proved to be of great assistance to the Electricity Trust engineers as they were able to arrange the off-loading to meet their requirements. With the aid of small strong trucks and an overhead crane, mounted inside the framework of the buildng, the heavy castings were taken away and placed in their position in the structure.
1953 June 11th: departed for Port Augusta, then to Sydney.
1953 June 23rd: the Belnor was due at Sydney to load four locomotives and their tenders for delivery to Port Augusta. A spokesman for the Adelaide Steamship Company, agents for the Belnor, advised each locomotive weighed 83 tons, excluding its tender. The four locomotives, which were made by the Clyde Engineering Company in Sydney, were hauled to No. 22 Pyrmont wharf and lifted by special loading cranes and hoists direct from the wharf railway lines into the ship's hold.
1953 July 9th: arrived Pirie to load concentrates, departed July 17th having loaded 3,400 tons of concentrates.
1953 July 17th: Two Spanish stowaways, aged 23 & 24 respectively, discovered ten days out and who arrived in Pirie from Dunkirk on June 1st 1953 aboard the Belnor, were gaoled as prohibited immigrants. They were later returned to the Belnor, which was listed to sail for the United Kingdom. The Belnor unloaded locomotives in Pirie and discharged other cargo at Port Augusta. The ship loaded a return cargo of concentrates.
1953 October 23rd: (Advice) an advice was received yesterday that the Belnor was expected from United Kingdom about the middle of December with another five Garratt locomotives for use in haulage of concentrates on the narrow gauge railway between Broken Hill and Pirie. The vessel is also bringing cased machinery for this port. Two transformers are being brought out for the new power station at Port Augusta.
1953 December 16th: Advice was received yesterday that the Belnor would reach Pirie from Dunkirk tomorrow. Five Garratt locomotives for use on the narrow gauge railway line between Pirieand Broken Hill will be landed. A quantity of cased machinery also will be discharged.
Built: Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle, 1926
Page added March 5th 2016