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Topical notes and archive about the SBA and the world of steamboats

  • 09 Jun 2014 17:43 | Deleted user

    The entries for the first ever Steam Outboard Motor Challenge are described below. This event was highly entertaining and warm thanks must go to Kingsley Robinson, whose idea it was, and to all who built entries and ran them at Beale Park. The Host Boat, providing steam from its kerosene-fired boiler, was Chimera II.

    David Avery was all set to change the face of steamboating as we know it. What he made was a neat arrangement of pipes and ball valves, the idea being to gain propulsion by means water ejection. Steam lifted the water from the lake ( in theory) and pushed it out of the ejector tubes to thrust the host boat at high speed across the water. Using a fair bit of Chimera II's kerosene to produce as much steam as possible, it emitted an interesting bubbly farting sound and projected the boat approximately 28mm.


    John Barnard
    's entry had a strong whiff of Briggs & Stratton about it and his conversion of a 4 stroke lawn mower engine was as elegant as it was effective. This nifty engine used the original engine valves simply with a much altered camshaft. Linked to a plywood paddle made of old bookshelves this creation pushed Chimera II manfully across the lake showering everything and everybody in a wild deluge. It was impressive and cost just £17 to build.


    John Winn had remorselessly confiscated a neat vertical single from the workshop of a friend in Didcot who shall remain nameless unless you read further. Mounted on a Seagull leg and gearbox it put up a fight initially by breaking its piston rod. John burned a candle until the wee hours back home in his workshop and the restored engine put up a very creditable run on the last day. A look at the pictures shows that Chimera II was ballasted for this run with some of the SBA's serious heavyweights (names like Rudall and Schofield stand as charged) and had some of that excess lard been shed, or used for lubrication, John is pretty sure his entry would have skimmed effortlessly across the lake and blown away all competition.


    John Schofield
    's creation was powered by another small vertical engine and this was the only entry with the potential to go backwards if desired. But to have gone forwards would have been an impressive advantage. Thus all the technical innovation was immaterial since drive to the wooden paddle was by bicycle sprocket and chain and the thing had no desire to hang on to its chain for any worthwhile length of time. A credit to the mighty workshop facilities that built Magic Dragon it was a frightening machine and an affront to the H&E executive, but it showed promised for a few microseconds before disintegrating entertainingly and lapsing into sullen non-cooperation.

    undefinedMike Robinson presented what was most certainly the most imposing and technically awesome entry. It was twin-beam atmospheric - i.e Newcomen - paddle engine. It was beautifully and extremely elegantly engineered, the massed expertise of Robinsons in Wales and Sheffield having been pressed into production of components, including exquisitely neat floats to enable it to be anchored to the transom board of the host boat and supported at its other end by the water itself.

    This monster had two runs, the first using direct condensing water injection into the cylinders resulting in hydraulic lock-up and a fearfully bent piston rod on one side. This was repaired and condensing water on the next run was squirted on the outside of the cylinders, with the help of skillfully wielded of plastic cups. It looked fantastic, was enormous fun, the audiences loved it, and we can report with some pride that it did make a revolution or two under its own power. To overhear the development team discussing technical moves had all the intensity of a F1 team discussing how they might extract a further 0.3 of a BHP out of a highly-stressed racing engine.

    On reflection to be able to get as much as 0.3 of a BHP out of Newcomen's 18th century mine pumping technology would have been impressive. This engine was though, as aforesaid, an awesome beast and we hope to see it again!


    Ian McAlpine
    , though, deserved to be declared the winner. There are not many forms of steam engine left untried or unmade by Ian and his four-cylinder cruciform engine had poppet valves and went like a rocket. He disdained mounting a steam engine on the remains of a superannuated Seagull, and made his own leg, bottom end gearbox and prop. He even polished his steampipes and arrived at Beale Park with this machine neatly affixed to a Zimmer walking frame which in some subtle way conveyed a message to the many SBA members present. No doubt some old person in the Didcot area had to spend the entire weekend unable to get up to go the loo, but they can be assured it was all worth it. The engine ran as impressively as it looked.

    Mark Rudall

  • 15 May 2014 21:16 | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    undefinedScottish and North Western Members enjoyed a memorable weekend cruise up the Falkirk Wheel and on the Union Canal to Linlithgow on the 2nd and 3rd of May.   A professional photographer, Nils Härtel, joined the trip and you can see his album of pictures here.
  • 09 May 2014 22:49 | Deleted user

    It is with great pleasure that I can announce that the new interactive Steamboat Register is now officially ‘live’. Some of the more sharp eyed of you have already noticed that we have been doing some advance beta testing and have already been having a go – thanks for the feedback. For the rest that have been waiting patiently (well most of you have been patient!) for this moment you can now hit the keyboard and update your boat details.

    The new system works in ‘real time’ (which means that things go live as soon as you press the keys on your keyboard); therefore no more waiting for updates to filter through the system - YOU are in immediate control. Please note that the username and password that you need to access the Register are NOT the same as your SBA website username/password – this is partly for technical reasons and partly for security reasons. There is an instructional video on the Index page of the new Register which should point you in the right direction.

    Those of you who have a boat that was already in the ‘old’ Register should have had its details migrated across to the new Register and so, as long as your email address is correct, you can get your username/password emailed to you by clicking on ‘Help, I own a steamboat in the register but don’t know my log in details’ on the login page.

    If you didn’t have your boat in the old Register you can easily create a new username/password from scratch on the same login page.

    If you have any problems please email me and I will assist you in getting ‘Registered’.

    This is the culmination of many man-hours of work behind the scenes over the last year or more and is a very great milestone in the Register’s history for which our immeasurable gratitude for making it all happen must be extended to our resident software guru: Kingsley Robinson.

    Happy Updating

    Kevin Slater CEng
    Register Curator

  • 04 May 2014 19:08 | Deleted user
    Members with historically significant boats will be fully aware of the consultation document to which responses are sought by early July. If you are not aware of this and your boat has somehow slipped through the net, please take a look at: http://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/pages/consultation-paper.html

  • 12 Apr 2014 13:28 | Deleted user
    The European Maritime Heritage (EMH) the European association for traditional ships in operation is holding its 8th Congress with the theme "MARITIME CULTURE ACROSS FRONTIERS". As befits its title, this event will be shared between the traditional port cities of Flensburg and Aabenraa, in the German-Danish border region, from 4-7 June 2014. 

    See the EMH website for more information and the registration form. (http://www.e-m-h.eu/congres2014.aspx)

  • 09 Mar 2014 09:28 | Deleted user
  • 25 Feb 2014 21:11 | Deleted user

    SBA Chairman, Mark Rudall attended the Third National User Forum of the
    Canal & River Trust on 25 February 2014 at 'The Bond', the canalside CRT premises in Fazeley, Birmingham.

    The Trust's CEO, Richard Parry opened with a broad overview of the year, inevitably highlighting the impact of winter weather damage to the waterways systems.

    Most badly hit with landslips and the need to rebuild sections of the cut were the Mon & Brec and Llangollen Canals. The river Severn saw an almost unprecedented 30' rise at Sharpness - only just short of a flow-back into the Gloucester-Berkeley Canal. There were around 400 tree falls and the total cleanup costs are estimated at ca £2m.

    Good financial picture was reported for 2013/14 with an unexpected additional £3/4m spent on maintenance - notably cutting back and controlling vegetation. The Trust is also on target to reach 50,000 volunteer days in 2014. This is a huge increase

    There are key talks with the HS2 team re the possibly hugely damaging effects of what is proposed for multiple crossings of the system by the new railway around the area of Fradley Junction.

    The CEO outlined progress and challenges and faced questions from this large user group. Some members, having faced challenges over, say, long term cruising and mooring regulations, have very distinctive axes to grind but this meeting provides the essential access they need to the most senior figures within the Trust so users' group days result inevitably in further detailed conversations.

    An operations update showed that £87.5m is being spent on our waterways in 2012/13, the amount to spend is slowly rising and 2016/17 should see around £100m available to the Trust.

    2013/14 'highlights' are Dutton Embankment, Sutton Weaver Bridge, Cooper bridge Weir... All three dealt with for £8m. Limehouse Lock and Slaithwaite reservoir were repaired for £1.5m. There was a lot of dredging (£4.5m). Rishton and Aylesbury emergency works cost £1m while the offside tree programme saw a spend of about £1.75m with ca 200km of canal being given attention by about 20 teams working all over the system.

    Major works for 2014/15 will see a spend of about £24.5m overall. The dredging side of this includes a 10 year commitment to spend £80m. Dredging - right at the top of the media agenda apart from anything else -  has to be the priority. The Manchester and Pennine waterways are in poor shape and will be a focus of attention this year. Also on the agenda are expensive programmes to handle civil engineering problems with Elton reservoir and Hampton Bank.

    £60m will be spent on Inspections, Planned preventative maintenance, High priority defect repair, vegetation management, Customer delivery service (e.g personnel, lock keepers and so on), growing volunteer contribution, Lock gate repair and replacement, driving efficiency and productivity forward. (To cite just one element of regular maintenance we were told that around 40% of canalside wash walls are in need of attention)

    A lengthy consultation re towpath visitor moorings has been in progress and is resulting in a rethink of the way accessible and responsible mooring should be regulated and enforced, hopefully with an emerging need for a lighter touch with the latter.

    The meeting, split into round table groups, was given 25 mins to discuss a series of questions linked to this... In my group it was highlighted that direct boating expenditure, indirect and 'induced' expenditure per day for a visitor mooring could be as much as £55 to a given local economy. We learned that 8km of new waterway will become available in London when former Olympic park (Queen Elizabeth Park) waterway is opened up. The CRT is seeking to provide moorings to encouraging boaters on that stretch. My discussion group highlighted the intractable tightrope walked by CRT between local authorities, home owners, permanent liveaboard canal cruisers etc.. There is a huge capacity problem with visitor moorings. It was felt that boaters would be prepared to pay a modest overnight charge for an 'enhanced' mooring facility (e.g one where power is laid on) which could be set up privately - such as, for example, the small marina set up by the erstwhile BW on the crowded Llangollen canal, where free moorings on the canalside were under unusually heavy  visitor pressure.
    A new consultation re towpath usage is about to go live. A new code or policy is needed.
    It is felt that there is a need for new principles and maybe a new 'Towpath Code' which may involve a new shared commitment or 'social contract', so being sought is:
    A guide to safe sharing of towpaths

    Exploration of what the CRT and others can do
    Inform partners and funders of our challenges and expectations.

    It is thought by CRT that the main things to focus on are:
    To consult and observe
    1. To make a better infrastructure... Including
    2. To develop better signage
    3. To encourage better behaviours by users
    to look at alternative routes to towpaths.

    The CRT stresses that towpaths are prioritised for the slowest users.. Thus in London they have introduced the 'share the space' campaign (thus for towpath cyclists "Share the space, drop your pace"). It was suggested that 10,000 riparian parish councils need to be engaged by CRT re use of towpaths: they need to know the local economic benefits of visiting and liveaboard boaters as well as the rules and guidelines under which boaters operate.

    Steamboaters may want to make their own contributions to these two CRT consultations visitor mooring policy and towpath usage) and should feel free to make their own submissions, which can be made via me if that would make life easier.

    An AOB section raised points re the way the users' forum is used. It certainly brings together people with common interest in waterway usage and keeps all of us abreast of the way our waterways are governed, maintained and funded.

                                                             Mark Rudall 26th February 2014
  • 17 Feb 2014 09:37 | Deleted user
    undefinedNational Historic Ships UK is a government funded, independent organisation which gives objective advice to UK governments and local authorities, funding bodies, and the historic ships sector on all matters relating to historic vessels in the UK.

    It is successor to the advisory committee on National Historic Ships, set up as a non-departmental advisory body in July 2006.  In turn, that organisation followed on from the National Historic Ships Committee, which emerged from a seminar held in 1991 to discuss the problems facing the preservation of historic ships and vessels in the UK and the evident neglect of this important part of our heritage.

    National Historic Ships UK carries a wide remit, looking not only at the immediate issues concerning historic vessels in the UK, but also addressing questions relating to the support infrastructure for historic ships, their potential for contributing in the wider economic, social and community context, and maintaining a watch list of vessels abroad with potential UK significance.

    More information can be found on their website: http://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/
  • 13 Feb 2014 18:58 | Deleted user
    In 2002 Alister Hodgson-Jones bought the Pussy Willow from Kester Shave and had the boat brought from its construction base to Northamptonshire, to be initially stored in a compound near Thrapston.

    The ensuing weeks saw the engine removed into the riverside workshop, fettled and tested with compressed air. Under these conditions, out of the boat, the engine ran satisfactorily. The boiler was the next to receive attention. Despite never having been fired up since being removed from the Glenrosa, the tubes were not in the best of condition and, although probably serviceable, were replaced in the Islip workshop. In addition, the crankshaft supplied with the boat was defective and a new one was machined from a large steel billet.

     To round off the story to date, some internal refurbishment took place but then, with business and family commitments creating increasing demands on the owner, tools were laid down and for more years than the owner likes to admit, the boat has remained forlorn and partially restored – AGAIN.

    Now, forward to Thursday 24th October 2013, Chilford Hall Vineyard and a chance meeting over a nice lunch and a glass of the local vino …. and a mutual interest in steam. Owner Alister Hodgson-Jones sees potential in new retiree, Philip Lawton, to kick start the project back into life. A second meeting, again over a nice lunch but in a restaurant closer to home, the new found friends lay the foundation to bring Pussy Willow to life.

    You can follow their progress on their blog: http://steamlaunchpw.wordpress.com
  • 12 Feb 2014 17:45 | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The electronic document packs are available on the 2014 AGM page in the members' section.  If you have not yet registered, please register and make your refreshment order here.  Refreshments cannot be ordered on the day.

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