In 1828, Cuthbert Ellison owned a Ballast Machine at Hebburn Quay.
Getting the ballast onto the ships would have been done manually, in the same way that Coal Trimmers, or teemers did it in living memory: That is, they shovelled it into tubs which were then wheeled along a short track and emptied into ships' holds via chutes. The teemers would then need to get into the cramped innards of the ships and level the stone, so that its weight was evenly balanced. This was seriously hard toil... just ask our good friend and regular, Alex Baker.
Getting the ballast off the ships would have been, yet again, seriously hard labour.
To empty the ballast from the ships, I assume that the workers would enter the cramped, poorly lit innards with large, heavy, Hessian sacks and fill them with ballast. If a crane was available, it could be used to lower a large rope net into the innards, which the workers would then fill with their ballast-filled sacks. This large, heavy, netful of ballast-filled sacks would then be lifted from the ship and set down on the quayside. Workers on the quayside would then remove the ballast-filled sacks from the rope net and transport them to the ballast heap on carts.
Imagine how much more physical it was in the days before the River Tyne was dredged. Rolleymen would leed empty coal tubs pulled by pit ponies, back up to the pit, while others would lead full wagons away from the pit, along the tracks down to the awaiting river keelmen at the Black Staith. These keelmen, constantly ferried the black heaps in their keelboats from the Tyne's bank to the hungry colliers waiting mid-river; and the colliers in turn shipped it to several dozen ports - mainly London and the rest of England.
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