As part of a television series called “We Built Titanic” the producers decided to recreate the hauling of Titanic’s anchor which required a team of Shire horses to accomplish the task. The original center anchor built by Noah Hingley & Sons in Netherton, weighed 15 tons, 16 cwt with a length of 18’ 3” and 10’ 6” in width. It was the heaviest center anchor in the world at the time. It required a team of 20 Clydesdale horses. The anchor was lowered onto a cart, the horses were connected. It traveled two miles from Hingley to Dudley where it would travel by rail to Fleetwood in Lancashire. As you can expect, it was quite a sight to see 20 horses pulling this massive anchor.
The recreation done recently was in reverse from Dudley to Netherton where the replica anchor (weighing 16 tons from the news reports) will be placed in a historic museum. However they did not get the footage they wanted. When the horses started to move, the anchor began slipping on the cart. And the cart had no brake which meant horses could be injured if the cart moved too fast. So tractor had to be hooked up which caused other problems, namely the horses had problems getting a firm grip on the road surface. In the end, the horses had to be removed and the tractor pulled the cart for most of the distance. The horses only moved the cart roughly half a mile before they were removed.
It is ironic that they moved the anchor without the benefit of a tractor yet 99 years later they could not replicate it. Perhaps the problem is memory. We simply have forgotten how to use horses as they did back then. Back then the anchor would have been fastened down on the cart to prevent it from moving while in transit. Perhaps they did so this time but not enough. Brakes would have been used on most carts hauling items. Slowing the horses is one thing but you need to slow the momentum of the cart as well or bad things would occur especially if you are carrying very heavy items like anchors. Rules of physics apply then as now and it looks like someone forgot to consider that. Good thing the tractor was available. That is ironic in itself since the tractor ended the use of horses on most farms after World War I.
Stourbridge News, Netherton To Welcome Home Titanic Anchor, 9 Aug 2010
Daily Mail, History Revisited As 20 Shire Horses Haul 16-Ton Titanic Anchor, 16 Aug 2010
Metro, Horses ‘Overheat In Titanic Stunt’, 17 Aug 2010
Horsetalk, Shire Horses And The Titanic Anchor’s Journey, 24 Aug 2010