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

  • 01 Feb 2015 17:51 | Deleted user

    During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

    Happy New Year and good steaming in 2015. Banjo will be 118 and I seem to be catching her up!  We always steam up on New Year's Day, usually on the water but, but this time a test run on the  work shop 'patio'. This was actually the third test run, and all went well. The feed pump welcomed the return to double engine speed, the vacuum pump relishing the four to one reduction. The smooth slow running of Beryl 2b prompted a unanimous vote to stop tinkering and install it! To day I completed the installation of the mounting frame, engineer's floor and the ash pan. A few licks of paint and we shall be ready for the big lifts when the 'gang' arrives on Friday.

    Beryl and Betsy on their trolleys
    Wait for lifting, Friday's follies,
    Onto frame secure and solid
    Pumps and pipes to link between
    Sharing water when we steam .
    On Saturday the gang are noshing
    At the Artichoke, no 'troshin'.
    Later on no doubt they'll hanker
    For a super Banjo banger.

    All is safely lifted in. Only snag was Mr. Mate's arrival, in an MX5, boys will be boys! Coffee break got a bit extended so the pipes will have to wait 'till Monday.

    Fifteen steaming associates gathered at the Artichoke for lunch on Saturday. I shouldn't really worry about engine noise, their noisy chatter would drown a big end!

    Most of the pipes and bits are fitted, and passed the 'should have cleaned the paint out of the threads before fitting' stage, but the 'clamping the glove under the collar' seems to linger a bit.

    Perfect weather for varnishing is as rare as a Venus hand shake, so said Antonio Stradivari (1644- 1737), or something similar. The main problem is the humidity, dust being a rare commodity in the car port this time of year. On Wednesday, 14th. It was cold, but as dry as a steamers throat. The boat had been rubbed down ready for some weeks, so a quick dust off and the job done by coffee break, and I needed it, if only to warm my hands.
    First to arrive on Friday was Mr. Mate, he operated the vacuum cleaner hose as I cleaned the tubes with the counter balanced electric drill. This ancient machine, bought for a pound at a jumble sale has a thee quarter stainless steel wire brush attached . The 103 copper tubes were soon cleaned, the six stay tubes being steel are blanked off. I hope the latter will at least out live the former!

    The other two 'boys' arrived in time to lift on board the 'bay window'. This assembly consists of the starboard bow quarter windows, 3 fixed, 2 opening, enabling access to engine room and galley for refit.

    When I fired up my trusty steed early this morning I was informed that the temperature was minus four Celsius, O-dear. I had meant to wrap the engine and boiler in blankets, some pipes were frozen. A gentle fire of sticks warmed them through with no harm done. A few more sticks and all ran well, and now wrapped up nice and cosy.

    I dropped a clanger yesterday (Friday 23rd.). The best way to find faults, I recon, is to get someone else to run the plant. Accordingly, the crew were detailed to simulate a steam up river to Norwich (on the drive). Steam was raised with sticks by George, Mike kept an eye on the water and John put the galley in order. I passed up all the odd bits of 'essential' equipment that had been secreted in the workshop. I soon had a small list of desirable tweeks, then a loud chorus of 'where's the clanger'? The ship's bell had lost it's dangly bit en route, but soon found, five bells rang and coffee served.

    Yesterday (Friday 30th) we had the third, post refit steam test on the drive, without problems. She is now wrapped up against the frost, awaiting relaunch as soon as the temperature rises above worry.

    Today, our No. two, George, is 80. A valued crew member, we had a surprise party for him. It may come as a surprise to some of you, that George is a SNOTY! I shall explain. When I first met George, as a young paper boy, and an ex RAF typist, I new he would make a good crew member and signed him on as Shore Staff/movable ballast. He soon proved his dedication to the job by pluging into the mud whilst quanting Banjo into moorings. He lost his favorite cap, and a bit of dignity but gained a lot of brownie points, and was promoted to Assistant Helmsman. Having had a boat of his own, he knew which way to turn the wheel and how gently. One day, around Polky's Mill, we slid gently on to the mud and no body noticed. We had a two hour lunch 'till the tide turned. His next station was stoker, a steam boat goes nowhere without a good fire. As one might expect, a Geordie knows a thing or two about steam coal. Judging the size of fire for the job in hand is not a simple task. George's specialty here is to steam us into dock just as the last ember goes out!

    In addition to his dedicated crewing, he has regularly contributed rice pudding, peaches and beer to our steamy lunches.

    In recognition of his devoted service, he is promoted to SNOTY 2015. That is, STEAM NUT OF THE YEAR.

  • 25 Sep 2014 19:45 | Deleted user
    The Canal & River Trust’s Appointments Committee, made up of three Trustees and three Council members, has carried out a review of the Trust’s governance with its proposals approved yesterday (24 September) at the meeting of the Trust’s Council.
    This is the first review of governance since the formation of the Trust – as required by its constitution when the Trust was formed in 2012.
    The core of the review has concerned the Trust Rules which define the size and make-up of Council.  This includes the constituencies invited to nominate or elect people to serve, terms of office, and election regulations.
    The changes to the Trust’s governance rules will come into effect from March 2016.  They include: 

    ·         Friends (people who give a regular donation to the Trust) will elect a member to sit on Council.  This is an additional seat on Council and will serve from March 2016 to 2020

    ·         Volunteers registered with the Trust will also elect a member to sit on Council.  This will replace the nominated seat currently held by WRG and the first term will serve from March 2016 to 2020

    ·         With the election of a volunteer representative in place of the nominated seat currently held by WRG, the IWA is being invited to nominate a representative to sit on Council as a reflection of its membership and historic role, and its practical support for local canal societies

    ·         An increase in the size of Council to 40 people (from 35) – allowing for further elected members to sit on Council when appropriate as part of the longer term ambition to increase the number of people elected rather than nominated.  These places on Council will be allocated by the Appointments Committee in future years.

    In addition to the changes to governance, the Appointments Committee have reported to Council that the chairs of West Midlands, Manchester & Pennine and Museums & Attractions partnerships have been reappointed.  There are interviews planned in October for the Chairs of North Wales & Borders and South Wales & Severn partnerships whose current chairs are unable to serve for second term due to other commitments.
    Lynne Berry, chair of the Appointments Committee, comments: “In the two years since the launch of the Trust, great strides have been made in establishing a fantastic new charity.  Part of making sure that we adapt and change in the right way is to review the rules and make-up of our governing Council and put forward proposals for Council to consider.

    “It’s great that we have a growing and prominent body of Friends and volunteers registered with the Trust who will now elect members to sit right at the top of the Trust.  I look forward to the exciting prospect of online elections in 2015 after which these elected groups will be set to join Council in March 2016. 
    “Inviting the IWA to take up the Council place currently allocated to WRG will provide a direct role for IWA in the governance of the Trust, so that its involvement does not depend upon its members standing for the elected boater places.”

    To find out more about the work of the canal and river trust visit their website.

  • 23 Jun 2014 16:16 | Deleted user
  • 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
    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.
  • 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:
  • 03 Nov 2013 17:43 | Deleted user

    In May, my husband and I set off for a rather unusual holiday - aboard the VIC 32, the last seagoing coal fired steam 'Clyde Puffer'. She was built in 1943 and has been well known for the last 30 years on the West Coast of Scotland.

    We were to arrive at Ardishaig to board the boat, and as we got off the coach, we had to walk a little way before we spotted her.  We were welcomed aboard and given a tour, and taken to our little cabin tucked up near the front of the boat (or should that be bow?) and warned that it does leak sometimes!  As it was a slightly damp day, we warmed ourselves by the huge woodburning stove in the galley, as the rest of the passengers arrived (12 in total). 

    Most of them had been before, and couldn't resist coming back, as Nic the skipper informed us.  We met Lyle the engineer, whom Kingsley was to spend many hours with, down in the engine room!  And then there was the cook and galley slave who provided us with the most delicious meals and homemade cake and bread all week. 

    We set off the following day to Tarbert, and braved the weather by standing on deck to look at the view, and see the billows of black smoke leaving a big trail behind us, wonderful!  At Tarbert, we stopped off next to a rather large pile of coal, and were told we had to shovel it all into the bunkers!  Off we got, picked up the shovels and wheelbarrows, and got to it!  Thankfully, we didn't have to the shovel the whole pile!

    Throughout the week we gradually meandered our way back to Glasgow, stopping at various places including Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, Greenock and visits to Holy and Gare Loch. 

    The scenery was beautiful (when you could see it through the clouds!) and was made all the more special by being on such a historic and interesting boat, powered by steam.

    Kingsley enjoyed chatting to Lyle and helping out in the engine room, and even stoking the boiler (which I also did once!). We soon found that the two entrances to the engine room were the warmest places to sit, so often you would see 1 or 2 of us sat at the top of the steps reading and enjoying the warmth from the boiler.  It was also a useful place to put the bread dough to rise!

    I enjoyed a bit of bird watching, and we also saw some porpoises one day.  Nic encouraged everyone to have a go up in the wheel house, needless to say my steering was a little bit wonky, but I got the hang of it in the end!  It did get a bit crowded in the wheelhouse at times, as it was a popular spot to shelter from the weather.

    One of the highlights of the week was visiting the Isle of Bute.  We wandered around Rothesey in the morning, and hired a tandem in the afternoon and cycled around the island, visiting the ruins of St. Blane's church.  We were urged by Nic to visit the old toilets just by the harbour, and I had to wait for the men to leave to have a nose at the highly decorated urinals!

    That evening we anchored off shore, and enjoyed listening to the waves lapping against the side of the boat as we drifted off to sleep.

    Nic was a character, to say the least, and had many interesting stories to tell, and kept us all entertained.  Whilst we were moored up at Greenock, we were able to have a tour under the Waverley, which was in the dry dock, being prepared for the summer season, before having a tour of the wheel house and the engine room.

    We also stopped off to visit the Titan Crane at Clydebank, not for those scared of heights, but great views from the top!  We finished up in Glasgow, with lots of memories, and keen to go again next year!

    You can find out more about VIC 32 and holidays aboard on their website.

  • 31 Oct 2013 15:12 | Deleted user

    The Medway Queen has moved to Avon Mouth, so she can be ready to leave Bristol where the hull has been rebuilt and be towed to Gillingham for her return to the River Medway as soon as the weather allows.

    You can find out more about the history of the Medway Queen and the work of the preservation society on their website. Photo's by Philip Clark.

  • 03 Aug 2013 10:07 | Deleted user
    Medway Queen - Bottle. Photo by Richard AbelsVisitors were welcomed to the Albion Dockyard in Hanover Place, Bristol from 12 noon and a short re-dedication ceremony commenced soon after 2pm with Project Manager Bob Stokes acting as Master of Ceremonies.

    After speeches by Councillor Faruk Choudhury (the Lord Mayor of Bristol), Marshall Vine (MQPS President), Brian Burton (MQPS Chairman) and David Abels of the Albion Dockyard the traditional bottle of champagne was cracked on the ship’s bow by Evelyn, Emelia, and Elizabeth, daughters of Andrew Summerell (MD Albion Dockyard Ltd.).

    A gathering of vessels of the Steam Boat Association waiting outside the dry dock then gave a rousing whistle salute which was followed by the National Anthem and a further prolonged whistle salute. The ceremonial party also included Sir William and Lady McAlpine, John and Noreen Chambers (MQPS Vice Presidents), Lucy Perry (representing the Heritage Lottery Fund), John Kempton   (MQPS Vice Chairman) and representatives from The Merchant Navy Association. The ceremony was witnessed by over 1000 visitors and guests.

    Medway Queen - SBA flotilla. Photo by Richard AbelsThe Albion Dockyard band performed beautifully from the fore deck of Medway Queen herself, both before and after the ceremony. The band previously played at nearly all the launches at the Albion Dockyard since 1942, when the yard was operated by Charles Hill and Sons until its merger with the Potterswood Band in 1966. It also performed at a ceremony marking the start of Medway Queen’s rebuild in 2009.

    The event proved a popular one. Besides society members who came on a weekend coach trip to Bristol from Gillingham in Kent, enthusiasts from all over the UK and many Bristol residents came to the yard to see the ship pass this milestone in her restoration. Before the ceremony they were able to admire this historic vessel in her pristine new coat of paint and discuss her history with members of the society.

    Medway Queen’s story includes seaside excursions, wartime minesweeping and the Dunkirk Evacuation as well as a rather different reputation as a nightclub on the Isle of Wight in the 1960s. Souvenirs, books and draw tickets were on sale and the inevitable collecting boxes were filled beyond expectation. Several new members were welcomed into the society.

    The ceremonial party and guests assembled on board and were given a tour of the ship by Andrew Summerell before the main event. Afterwards, members of the Medway Queen Preservation Society and the public were allowed on board to admire the work done so far and to appreciate how much remains to be done.Medway Queen- Capacity croud. Photo by Richard Abels

    The hull rebuild and the establishment of the society’s apprentice training workshops on Gillingham Pier have been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and funding from the European Regional Development Fund via the INTERREG IVA 2 Seas Programme. The ceremony marked the end of this major phase of the ship’s restoration and the beginning of the refit to working order.

    The timescale in which this refit can be achieved is entirely dependent on the success of the society’s fund raising and to that end grants, sponsorship and individual donations are all being sought. The priority areas are the upper aft saloon as a dining space and the engine room as a visitor attraction and the central part of any working vessel. A new boiler will be required for which the society does not yet have funding. Any offers of help in cash or in kind would be welcomed at the Medway Queen Project Office, Gillingham Pier, Gillingham. ME7 1RX.

    Medway Queen - Sluices Open. Photo by Richard Abels.The ship will not be leaving the dry dock immediately. There is more work to be done in preparation for the tow and then the tug has to be available and the weather outlook acceptable. When these conditions are all met the ship will be moved without further ceremony. Predicting exactly when this will happen is not possible but the details will be posted on as they become clear.  It is intended that the ship’s arrival in Gillingham will also be marked in a suitable way but notice for this will be very short. The fitting out phase will then commence in earnest.

    Further events celebrating the tow home include a Music Festival on 7th September and the society’s Gillingham Pier workshops will be open to society members and to the public on all 4 days of the Heritage Open Days weekend of 12-15 September.

    Details of both events will be posted on their website.

    All photo's by Richard Abels.
  • 20 Jul 2013 09:35 | Deleted user
    Silvie launch
    The first completed SYLVIE class launch, as featured in FUNNEL 157 pg.22 and 78, has now been successfully launched.

    Four others are under construction, one being professionally fitted out as a hull ready for plant to be fitted ( steam, electric or IC) and will be available very shortly.

    Further details and specifications for this hull are available from Richard Havard (see Funnel or members directory for contact details).

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