Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding


The noisy thuds of shipyard riveting echoed through North Vancouver at all hours. The technology, which consisted of fastening steel plates together with metal pins or rivets, distinguished Canadian-made Victory ships from U.S. Liberty ships, which were largely welded. Because of the critical need for as many ships as possible in a short time, Canada’s shipbuilders stuck with the older technology to avoid the unaffordable delay of converting equipment and retraining workers. Each Victory ship hull required about 383,000 rivets to hold it together. Holes were predrilled in the steel plates, which were aligned with bolts and finally riveted together. The task was time-consuming and created heavier, and therefore slower, ships, but the technology was tried and true, simpler than welding, and led to more effective quality control. Welding was a relatively new technology, and some of the all-welded Liberty ships later split at the seams.

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This posed photo of a riveting team in action was taken for Burrard Dry Dock Company’s newsletter, the Wallace Shipbuilder.

The riveting team is shown on board a cargo vessel in Burrard Dry Docks’ north yard, attaching the main deck to the ship’s hull.

This photo was taken in 1943. The publication of heroic-style promotional photographs was designed to build citizen morale.

Opposite the riveter, the holder-on kneels to keep the rivet in place, while the reamer (responsible for ensuring the alignment of the holes) looks on.

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