Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Marking Out the Plates

The steel plates used to build World War II merchant ships were cut from predetermined patterns, much like fabric for a dress is cut from a pattern. In the Burrard Dry Dock Company’s mould loft, where hull designs were scored into the floor, slats of wood were laid out and shaped into templates. These were then taken to the prefabrication shop seen here, where they were laid onto welded sheets of steel and traced with a soapstone pencil. The sheets were then taken away to be cut out with an acetylene torch and to have holes drilled for the rivets. On the left in this photo, raw steel plates are being welded together; on the right, wooden templates are being laid out. Other wood templates are stacked against the walls for reuse; the same standardized design meant that all the ships’ hulls were essentially the same.

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WHAT
In the prefabrication shop, steel plates were marked up before being cut and assembled into bulkheads, floors and deckhouses. Here, workers lay out a welded deck panel on skids.

WHERE
The welding prefabrication shop was located at Burrard Dry Dock’s north yard, opposite Pier 7.

WHEN
This photo was taken in 1944. Zoom in on the cart-like Unionmelt welding machine, located on the second plate on the left side of the photo.

WHO
Shipyard welders used the newly invented Unionmelt welding machine. This significantly cut production time, as plates could now be joined at a rate of two feet per minute.

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