Saturday, 2 February 2013


Well what a day!  As Dawn works on a Saturday, except when were off boating of cause, it is the only day I get to have a little lie in as I usually stay in bed until Dawn leaves for work so I don’t get under her feet while she is getting ready.  Well today Dawn had a hospital appointment at 8.00am for a MRI scan to  find out what is wrong with her shoulder after slipping off Mike Askin’s boat Victoria at Alvecote last year.  This meant getting up at 6.30am and driving over to Rowley Hall, Stafford.  By 9.00am I was back at home loading a few things in the car and heading off down to Darley for a full days indulgence with the intention of pumping out the rain water and lighting the range to air the cabin.  When I got there  I unlocked and went in the back cabin to light the fire only to find that I had left the box of firelighters at home and that there was only one fire lighter, no paper and no kindling in the coal box.  I grabbed some sticks out of a bag in the hold that I had chopped last year only to find they were damp, but not put off I set a fire with them and the one fire lighter.  I lit the firelighter and the sticks smouldered away then finally went out so I temporarily gave up on that one.  Next I thought I would start the engine so I could switch the pump on. I pressed the button and --gerdunk---geeerrrrrrdunk ---gerrrrrrrrrrrrduuuuuuuuuunk.  The battery was flat.  This had me quite perplexed as when I left the boat a few weeks ago the battery was charged and I have a small solar panel that usually trickles a charge into the battery.  Not to be out beaten I got the starting handle out but after several failed attempts to hand start the Petter I gave up.  Right plan B.  I got back in the car and came home for the firelighters, the generator and the battery charger.  I dragged the generator out ready to put in the car when I thought I had better check that it would start as it has been stood for three years.  I screwed the lid off the petrol tank to be greeted by a dry tank, oh sh*t I thought and so went down the garden shed to get the petrol can.  After a quick trip up to our local garage, I returned armed with fuel which was quickly poured into the tank.  Choke on, generator on, and a few slow pulls on the starting cord to get everything moving, then I went for it and after about the fourth pull – yes your right—the starter cord snapped.  Back down the garden shed to retrieve my socket set and I set about removing the starting assemble, which came off quite easily as it’s only three bolts.  As I pulled the unit off the end of the engine, I felt a sudden whirring vibration in my hand as the return spring unwound, 2nd oh sh*t.  I’ll sort that in a minute, first I need to find some replacement cord after a rummage round the shed, I came across a length of 6mm  polypropylene cord, although too large I thought if I unravelled it I could use one of the three strands.  So that was what I did and after sitting on the cold concrete floor for 15 minutes I was winding the spring back up and re-fitting the starting unit.  Attempt number two followed a similar course of action with the cord snapping on about the fourth attempt.  Next, armed with a pen knife I went into the summer house and cut the starting cord off another broken generator.  Eventually after over an hour , I was loading the generator, the battery charger and the fire starters into the boot and was off.  When I got back to the moorings, Chris Shenton, who is on the next mooring, had arrived and after greetings he asked why I needed the generator and I explained my flat battery and my inability to hand crank the engine and knock the de-compressors down at the same time.  “Mines flat as well” “Don’t bother getting that out of your car, we’ll have a go between us” and so we both disappeared into the engine ‘ole but even with the two of us, we could not get up enough speed  and momentum to start her (3rd oh sh*t)  “Don’t worry Bloss, I go over Anglo Welsh and borrow a battery”  and so he did which resulted in the engine starting after only a couple of revolutions. Next we put the battery on his boat and that too sparked into life.  God bless ya Chris always there to help, cheers.  Next the range.  After taking all the blackened sticks and coal out of the fire box, I re-set the fire with some more fire lighters and after ten minutes it was roaring away and warming the back cabin up for even with several layers of clothing on, the wind was quite raw and the cold had started to bite.  Right, I thought, pump the rainwater out of the hold.  Climbed down into the hold to switch the bilge pump on and it was at this point that the 4th oh sh*t could be heard, as even though the pump was not running, the switch was in the on position.  When I went down Darley last time I had pumped the water out and when it was all out I had stopped the engine, locked up and gone home.  The battery was flat because I had left the pump on which had run dry and burnt it out! Oh sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, oh sh*t.  I disappeared into the warmth of the back cabin and set about polishing all the fixed brass, as I had removed all the loose brass last time I was down. After this I tatted in the warmth of the engine ‘ole filling the stern tube greaser and generally cleaning. By the time I had finished this it was getting on for 4.00pm and time to be heading off home as we were having the eldest granddaughter to stop tonight. So maybe a few more sh*ts there, so, as always, till next tme
Don’t bang ‘em about

Friday, 11 January 2013


Well I’m most disappointed, not one person had a go at my quiz, but as promised here are the answers.

1 The Groveland aqueduct carrying Brindley's old canal over the Netherton Tunnel Branch. Here a two channel stop lock was installed where boats were gauged for tolls, there used to be a toll office on the central island which, like all of them on the BCN, has been demolished.  What is interesting is the small building on the tunnel end of the island and the large pipes connecting it to the upper level.  This used to house a water turbine turned by letting water drop from the old to the new main line, generating electricity for the lighting system through the tunnel, some of the insulators are still in situ through the tunnel.

2 The Northern portal of the 2880 yard Harecastle Old tunnel built between 1770 and 1777 The tunnel suffered subsidence in the early 20th century and was closed after a partial collapse in 1914 Inspections of the disused tunnel continued until the 1960s, but since that time, there has been no attempt to investigate the interior of the tunnel at any significant distance from the portals.

3 BCN Head offices. The 1773 Paradise Street Branch split off the new main line at Old Turn Junction and headed through Broad Street Tunnel, turned left at what is now Gas Street Basin and under Bridge Street to wharves on a pair of long basins.  Known as Paradise Wharf, also called Old Wharf. The Birmingham Canal Company head office was finally built there, opposite the western end of Paradise Street.  These offices were demolished in 1913 and the canal in filled in 1931

4 Latchford canal . This old canal, called the Latchford Canal, went from Runcorn to Warrington. It was completely destroyed by the building of the Manchester Ship Canal in the 1890's. The chemical works shown has also now-disappeared (Wigg works), which made Sulphuric Acid by the lead chamber process.

5 Broad Street bridge Wolverhampton.  This bridge carried the Wolverhampton to Wednesfield Road over the Birmingham Canal, close to the point where the road goes beneath the London Midland Railway line, resulting in the road taking a very steep drop to go under the main railway bridge. While building the Wolverhampton Ring Road it was removed and replaced with a new, wider bridge. The old bridge was removed in the late 1970’s and rebuilt at the Black Country Living Museum.

6 Old Cardiff canal  The route of the canal was a very difficult journey. Merthyr is very much higher than Cardiff, and there are several very steep bits along the way. So that meant that there would have to be a number of locks to lower the level of the water where necessary.  In the one mile between Quakers Yard and Abercynon there were 16 locks, 11 of them in only a quarter of a mile.  By the time a boat reached Tongwynlais, it had passed through 41 locks.  But with all this to build, the canal was completed in 3 ½  years.  It was 25 miles long, had 50 locks and an aqueduct, and was later extended from the town wall in Cardiff down to the shore.
7 Tipton Junction.  The junction where the Dudley canal joins the Old Main line.  A stop lock was installed for gauging and toll purposes (Known locally as Batsons stop) and on the off side a lay bye and wharf, which at the time of the photo was operated by a coal merchant, now fenced in and owned by the oil Company (Batsons) In the 1960’s (photo about 1964) the lay bye was used by the Dudley Canal Tunnel Preservation Society to store their wooden Joey boats used for tripping through the Dudley tunnel to raise preservation funds.

8 Kidderminster lock and the  Old canal warehouse, Staffs & Worcester canal, Kidderminster The well-photographed church is beyond, but the point of interest here is the canalside warehouse which has long since been demolished.

9 Bloomfield exchange basins.  The Wednesbury Oak Loop, sometimes known as the Bradley Arm, is part of James Brindley's main line, but became a loop when Thomas Telford's improvements of the 1830s bypassed it by the construction of the Coseley Tunnel. The south-eastern end of the loop was closed and in parts built over, following the designation of the entire loop as "abandoned" in 1954. At Bloomfield Junction the canal split into several basin arms forming the Bloomfield Railway Exchange Basins.

10 Widnes, Runcorn.  Picture shows one of the last commercial boats to be built for British waterways these were of all welded construction.
11 Boatmans Mission Tipton In all, The Seaman’s & Boatman’s Friendly Society had five missions catering for both the Physical as well as the spiritual wellbeing of boat families on the  BCN.  And they put considerable effort into helping the boaters, who were often treated as outcasts in wider society.

12 Litherland canal bridge in Liverpool about 1910. Footbridge over the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Litherland, Liverpool, Merseyside, England. This Victorian iron foot bridge dates from the 1880s and is also used to carry gas, water and electricity services to the east side of the canal. The bridge is to be demolished in the near future. An attempt save the bridge by a local group was unsuccessful.

13 Aqueduct over GWR at Dudley Port. This blue brick aqueduct was replaced in the late 1960’s.  To the right of the canal bridge can be seen the pre cast concrete trough that was to be craned into position.  This was right next to where I was born and lived as a small child.

14 This is bridge number 208 on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, known as Junction Bridge, Shipley. Just beside it (left of the photo) the canal was linked to the Bradford Canal, a 3.5 mile spur that ran directly into the centre of Bradford. That was closed in 1922 and though there has been talk of reopening it, the plans have not progressed.

15 Factory bridge.  This original bridge carried the A403, Hurst Lane over the canal at Factory Junction.  It was removed and replaced by an unimaginative concrete span when the road was widened.

16 Junction of the W & E  and Bentley canal This branch turned off at what is now known as Wednesfield Junction and went under a cast iron roving bridge. There was a Toll Office before the first lock and the first bridge was New Cross bridge. There were 6 locks in the Wednesfield  section. The Toll Office or Lock House, BCN number 245, appeared to be a bungalow but had a lower storey built in to the bank. The first lock had ground paddles at both ends originally, but was modified at a later date with gate paddles at the lower end. Locks 2 and 3 followed, and lock 4 came after the brick and girder bridge with a lock house number 246. Well Lane bridge was next.

17 The Beehive Pub at Tipton Green Junction by the top of Tipton Green locks.  This was where the Tipton & Toll End Communication canal left the Old Main Line opposite coronation gardens

18 Runcorn locks looking west down the new locks towards the ship canal and Mersey estuary, the old locks lead off to the right

19 Tipton Gauging station.  Located at the side of Factory Three top lock and where boats went to be gauged.  By loading known weights into the boat and taking measurements of dry inches of side, The future cargoes of boats could be calculated by referring to these registers.

20 Hertfordshire, Rickmansworth, old photo of the canal and bridge.  A young boaters child can be seen riding the boat horse along the canal.

21 Tipton Green Locks.  The top two of the Tipton Green three locks.  This is exactly how I remember the BCN as I grew up.  As a child although still in water and everything still in place, I don’t ever recall ever seeing a boat using these locks.

22 ‘Sorry could not resist this one’ The Ohio canal  This canal tunnel is located across the Potomac river from PawPaw, West Virginia. It was cut through over 4,600 feet of mountain. Because of the winding river, it reduced the length of the total canal by over 3 miles.

23Tipton Green toll office and stop. I clearly remember this octagonal toll office at this stop and also remember it being dismantled and taken to the Black Country Museum for re building (though it never has and as there are none left in situ, it is an important piece of BCN history) If passing, you can still see the outline of the octagon in the ground.
Well there you go, hope you enjoyed my bit of fun so till next time,
Don't bang 'em about